I was unable to find out where the above quote (strictly speaking “When a door closes, a window may open”) comes from, but some sources refer to it as a Biblical verse. Its meaning, as far as I understand, is that opportunities may arise even in the middle of a crisis.
A similar concept underlies the myth that the Chinese “word” for crisis (危機) is the same as the one for opportunity (機會). This affirmation may not be strictly accurate but, as Mark Twain once said: “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story”.
Anyway, I genuinely agree with the concept even if it superficially sounds like a self-help book advice. For me, the truth behind it comes from the fact that both crises and opportunities are daughters of luck. I’m convinced that luck plays a significant role in life and business. That is only later that someone’s talent or attitudes determine how successful their decisions are because you can easily waste your large or small dose of fortune.
You may wonder what does with Bill Gates—featured at the start of this post—has to do with all the above, apart from the cheap pun in the title. Well, it’s because of his highly visible attitude towards philanthropy. I recently learned that Gates is following the path of Chuck Feeney, founder of Duty-Free, who just fulfilled his wish of anonymously giving away all his massive fortune to charity while still alive (he is 89).
In my opinion, both Gates and Feeney share a deep understanding of the close link between luck and success and the marginal role of talent (thousands of talented people never succeed), so they felt compelled to share their “undeserved” luck. Like them, at Vortex, we decided to redistribute our luck too: besides some minor charity donations, we started sharing benefits with all the employees—not just the “lucky” company owners.
To me, of the three ideals of the French Revolution—“Liberté”, “Égalité” and “Fraternité”—the most important is the third: if you want to move towards equality without restricting freedom, you have to find a way to redistribute luck. One possible and feasible way is through philanthropy: allowing good fortune to strike; then, being aware of its arbitrariness and, finally, having the will to redistribute it, just as a matter of fairness.