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I want to talk to you about a fellow named Casey Wagner. Casey is a guy from a little town called, St. Jo, Texas. Some time back, Casey was hit by lighting, twice in one weekend!! In case you are wondering, Casey lived. What are the chances of that happening? What are the odds?? Well, for those of you who like math, the odds of that happening are about 1 in 750,000. That’s a real long shot!

Odds are defined as “the probability that something is so, will occur, or is more likely to occur than something else.” I’ve recently been thinking about the odds, and how they impact our lives, and how they impact history. When I say “odds,” let me tell you what I’m talking about. I want to take you back to the year 1944. In November of that year, the 1st Marine Division was assaulting an island in the Pacific Ocean called Pelilu. A few facts:

  • Almost 11,000 Japanese troops, including units from the never-defeated Manchurian Imperial Guards, guarded that tiny island—it was only six square miles;
  • The anticipated four-day battled turned into one that lasted more than two months: Bloody nose ridge; the point; the airfield all became famous places that Marines fought;
  • The casualties for that battle were the highest for U.S. military personnel of any battle in the Pacific War;
  • The 1st Marine Division lost 1/3 of its entire personnel—killed or wounded.

One Marine who survived Pelilu was 1st Marine Regiment commander, Chesty Puller. By the end of his career, General Puller became one of the most highly decorated Marines in history. In fact, by the time he fought at Pelilu, he already had been awarded THREE Navy Crosses, among other citations for bravery. Puller lead his regiment carried at times on a stretcher, because he was already wounded.  Puller had recently lost his brother on another Pacific Island, Guam. Puller’s First Marine Regiment lost over 50% of its men on Pelilu, killed or wounded. Over 1700 men.  Many years later, I also proudly served in the First Marine Regiment. But, back in November 1944, what were the odds that I would have survived Pelilu??

That’s what I mean when I use the word “odds.” Perhaps examples more closer to home will illustrate my point. More than 50% of marriages end in divorce. Only 26% of those who apply get accepted to law school. Only 20% of small business that are started make it in the United States. You’ve less than 1% chance of becoming a millionaire. I could keep going, but you get the point.

So what are the odds or chances that a guy from Atlanta, Texas would become a Marine, a lawyer, the Attorney of the Year in Texas, or be involved in some of the most important litigation in the United States? Pretty slim I would guess. But, I think you get my point. Many times in life we wrongly focus on the odds. Instead, perhaps we should focus on the task at hand. That’s not to say ignore the odds, but instead have the faith in what you are doing, and focus on how you are going to do it, and then let the chips fall where they may. One can only imagine that if those Marines at Pelilu had studies the odds, most would have refused to leave the landing craft. Or, if all the great business people we love and admire today had focused on the odds we would not have the products and services today we all enjoy and have gotten used to. Or, if couples focused on the odds, perhaps they wouldn’t commit to that one person and attempt that journey of marriage that can be rewarding and fulfilling. It’s the task that is important, not the odds of achieving it. 

I personally am glad I didn’t focus on the odds. Because I focused instead on the task at hand, I have one of the best jobs a person can have, and enjoy doing it daily.

Tony Buzbee is a distinguished attorney in Houston, Texas. He has been involved in some of the most high profile cases in the United States and has earned a reputation for winning. Check out more of his law blogs or follow him on Twitter!