Notes & Quotes: Lucky Me by Rich Paul

The following are my favorite quotes from Rich Paul's Lucky Me: A Memoir of Changing the Odds.

  1. Smart gamblers know how to manage the risks, move with intention and integrity, control what they control--and in the end, they have the heart to let the dice fall where they may.
  2. Crack was so powerful it decimated my mother's love and expedited my adolescence. I had to grow from a cub to a young wolf right away.
  3. From my post behind the counter, I observed that selling lots of food, beer, and cigarettes was just the surface level of my father's success. The bedrock of the business was the way he treated all the people he interacted with and their exchange of respect, no matter their station in life or status. A lot of people in the neighborhood called him "The Godfather."
  4. I define a hustler as someone who is never complacent, always thinking two steps ahead of everyone else. Someone who can manage the transitions. If things turn upside down, a hustler adapts to being upside down without missing a step. They never get stuck in a situation, and always understand what move to make in order to accomplish their goals.
  5. As time went on, I realized that Dad did everything consciously. Nothing was accidental, impulsive, or emotional. He always moved with intention. He was a gambler who left nothing to chance.
  6. It was a weird juxtaposition of being broke and, in my mind, thinking I was wealthy because I had fly clothes. That happens in the ghetto because we're cut off from the wider world, so we think we've reached the top when we're barely above water.
  7. Attention to detail defines my life. When you practice doing little things the right way, it helps the big things fall into place.
  8. Having a disciplined and thoughtful approach to your work day in and day out, especially when the work is difficult and risky, will determine your level of success.
  9. Don't let anybody fool you into thinking Black neighborhoods are jacked up because we're irresponsible or criminally inclined or too lazy to work. We were systematically confined to certain areas that were then drained of wealth, jobs, and resources. In a lot of places, we still are.
  10. My policy is: Don't feed the ego. The relationship I have with my guys is simple. You can call me anytime, I can call you anytime, and we can talk about whatever. But when you call me and it's a real situation, I will always give you what you need: the honest truth.
  11. As much as you can try to help a drug user, as much as you think you can save them, addiction can be stronger than love.
  12. This is one of the ways that Black people have survived in America. When the dangers unleashed by the system threaten to spin through our lives like a tornado, we do things a certain way--consciously, purposefully--to avoid being swept away. Ain't no stumbling your way through life. Black folks don't have enough margin of error for that. Most of us have no margin of error at all.
  13. One reason a lot of people aren't successful is they're trying to control everything but what they can control. Putting energy into what somebody else said, spending all day on Instagram worried about what somebody else has, where they are, what they're doing, who they're doing it with. You don't control any of that, and meanwhile your life is as messy as they come. If you put that energy into what you control, it creates a better outcome.
  14. "The hell you looking all crusty for?" Dad said. "This don't even look like you." "Aww, Mr. Paul, I'm just going through something right now," Duck said. "I don't care what you're going through. You always got to keep yourself presentable, because you never know when an opportunity will arrive. Now go clean yourself up."
  15. You're not going to make me react to anything. If I could control myself when some kid called my mother a crack fiend, then I have no problem dealing with slander from haters and competitors trying to bring me down in business. And the best way to deal with it is to stay calm and think for a moment, so you have the distance to consider whether the slander is a real threat or should just be ignored. If you decide it is a threat: Counterattack on your own terms, in your own way, in your own time. Never respond on someone else's terms and timetable. Never react with your own first reflex in a moment of rage or embarrassment.
  16. When you see your mother walk away holding tighter to some bills than she ever held on to you, it's hard to trust anyone after that.
  17. When I'm winning, I have to bear down. That's the discipline I brought to it. If I beat you out of twenty-five hundred and you ain't got but a hundred left, bearing down to get that last hundred is a must. That's the difference between a gambler and a hustler.
  18. I was affiliated with 117th and 125th, but when they had beef with other blocks and neighborhoods, I was carved out of the disputes because I treated everyone with respect. My principles didn't change based on where you were from, so I stayed solid across the town.
  19. I always had an affinity for people who did things in a certain way, who moved with precision, integrity, and confidence. That was Jay[Z].
  20. I wasn't going to leave the streets, but I was going to be as smart as I could be on them, so I strategized and observed. I thought about who to stay away from and who I could trust. I always try to see beyond the surface, to discern the character of people, judge their reliability. I honed that skill as much as I could because it was the only thing that could separate me from everyone else in the game, no matter how street-smart they were. I needed to be smarter. I wasn't going to quit, so I had to maximize my wits and intuition to survive. And just like Dad said, I needed to know where to draw the line.
  21. The only business transactions that came even close to the level of business I'm at today were illegal--and working with them was a fast track to jail or the morgue. Working in high-stakes business like that as a kid prepared me to work with some of the people I encounter in legal business today, who will metaphorically cut your throat in a second. The other difference: On the block, you knew when the danger was coming. In the business world, it's harder to see who's trying to kill you.
  22. I'm pretty sure there were several times that something hostile was coming my way on different blocks and some guys would intervene like, "Nah, Rich is my people." I could feel that energy as I moved around. A few guys probably didn't like me because of the things I had, but I didn't have any real enemies because I treated everyone with respect. It was almost like I was one of those young athletes who the hood protects because he has a future. If something was about to jump off, guys would say, "Yo, leave Rich alone. Go on, Kid, get up outta here."
  23. For me, street life had become about gamesmanship and chasing the thrill of high-stakes competition. Winning felt addictive. But the thrill of victory could quickly be followed by an Uzi in your face. I started to wonder if that kind of winning was winning at all.
  24. The time between Dad's death and his burial was a blur. Two thousand people showed up for the funeral at Greater Friendship. That's when the full impact and magnitude of his life hit me. Two thousand people, not for a politician or an athlete, but for a corner store owner who tried to help everyone he could.
  25. The agent playbook says the more credentials you have, the better position you're in. I knew how much disrespect there was amongst agents and executives in the NBA for someone with my background, but I saw a huge opportunity in the fact that nobody else had my experiences. Experiences are just as important as credentials and whatever money you might have been born into. My experiences placed me in a great position to help others. This is what they don't teach in the traditional institutions, whether that's college or sports agencies--that academic training means nothing if you can't use it to distinguish yourself from your competition.
  26. "Out the trunk" is a mentality that still fuels me to this day, and it comes from more than just selling jerseys. It's about chasing down every little opportunity, putting in extra effort, and doing whatever it takes to improve your position.
  27. Let me say something about the concept of the underworld: It's very real, in an almost literal sense. My everyday activities took place in a world that most people never see. You and I might both be having a breakfast sandwich in a restaurant, but I'm there for a reason that has nothing to do with food. As you're eating, all you see is a young man enjoying his sandwich. You may notice that on the other side of the diner is another guy eating a sandwich. You may or may not notice that moments after I get up to go to the bathroom, he gets up and goes to the bathroom. You definitely don't see that in that bathroom, a transaction takes place. Both of us come out, finish our sandwiches, and leave. That's the underworld, invisible and right in front of your face.
  28. The Black American experience resonates with so many people, so many lives. In an elevated way, the story of our struggles is the basic essence of the human struggle. Every person on this planet needs love, dignity, and purpose.
  29. You can't rely on luck to make it. Rely on yourself, your effort, your talent, and the knowledge that the journey itself provides what you need to succeed.
Rich Paul's Rules:
  • Take Care of Your People.
  • Other People Are Your Business.
  • Leave Nothing to Chance.
  • Iron Your Clothes.
  • Discipline Your Approach.
  • Build an Ecosystem of Empathy.
  • Study Your Craft.
  • Move with Intention; Be Ready to Improvise.
  • Understand the Whole Show.
  • Focus Is Everything.
  • Never Submit to Your Surroundings.
  • Don't Sleep In.
  • Choose the Best of Everything.
  • Find Your Purpose.
  • Neutralize Your Anger.
  • Learn the Art of Bearing Down and Letting Up.
  • Cheating Will Get You Killed.
  • Transitions Require Decisions.
  • Your Worst Experience Can Be Your Best Credential.
  • Hang On Until You're Dealt a Winning Hand.
  • Be a Star in Your Role.
  • Have Faith--You're Built for More than You Can See.