The king raised his hand and the guards stopped. “Could you really do such a thing? ”There is a story about an ancient con man that served a king as the court magician. For some reason, he fell out of favor with the monarch. The king ordered his head to be chopped off, and the guards stepped forward to frog-march him from the throne room. As they grabbed him, he called out, “Wait, your highness! What if I could teach your cat to sing and dance?”

“Absolutely,” said the magician. “And with a dancing, singing cat, you would become the richest, most famous king in the whole world!”

“This is true,” said the king, daydreaming while petting the cat on his lap. “How long would it take?”

“One year,” said the magician.

“Very well!” the King pronounced. “I will give you one year, locked in the tower with Fluffy. If on this day, twelve months from now, Fluffy cannot entertain the court, then your head will be on a stick outside the walls as a warning to others not to lie to me.”

Fluffy was handed to the magician, and they were marched to the tower. As they climbed the stairs, one of the guards, who was friendly to the magician, asked him if he was crazy. “Do you really think you can pull this off?”

“Probably not,” shrugged the magician. “But a lot can happen in a year. The king might die. The cat might die. I might die—or escape. And who knows, the cat just might learn to sing and dance. We’ll have to see what happens.”

Buying yourself time buys you possibilities. The worst-case scenario is probably not inevitable. Stay calm, keep your eyes open, and keep your head on a swivel. Prepare yourself to take advantage of opportunities. People who follow this strategy are often called “lucky.”

© Greg Smith, 2013

Greg is the founder and chief creative officer of Black Lake Studio ( He is also a writer and speaker, working in a variety of non-fiction and fiction genres, and frequently collaborates with other authors. You can read and learn more at his site, (
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