The Damon Runyon Principle

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Damon Runyon was a newspaperman and a heck of a writer. As a newspaperman he covered any sport you could bet on and big news stories including FDR’s inauguration.

Runyon wrote stories about the slightly shady but quite glamorous world of New York after dark. His characters all seemed to have memorable names like “Dave the Dude,””Harry the Horse,” and “Good Time Charley.” Two of his stories were turned into the musical Guys and Dolls.

You don’t have to run out and read his work. Just memorize one quote and use it as a guide for how to do your job. Here’s the quote.

“The race may not always be to the swift, nor the victory to the strong, but that’s how you bet.”

That’s the conclusion of a horseplayer who’s watched the horse that was going to win him money fall and break a leg after leading by six lengths. It’s the view of a boxing writer who knows that the best fighter didn’t win the match. It’s also the conclusion of a gambler who just learned that a rich uncle left him enough to pay his debts.

If you’re a boss, the lesson is that you’ll come out OK in the long run if you play the odds. That’s important.

Sometimes you’ll do everything right and have things turn out wrong. Not every team member will respond to good management techniques. Not every project will come in on time and under budget, no matter how well you manage.

Other times you’ll get lucky and win with a weak hand. A big order from a new customer will come over the transom just before the end of the month. The lout that you were dreading firing will quit.

Boss’s Bottom Line

Play the odds. Do things right. It won’t always work, but that’s OK. It will work enough.

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