On Luck


The inspiration for this writing came from my conversation with my wife, Sandra, last week. We talked about whether people are really good (ie. outliers) or they are just lucky. We came to the conclusion that greatness cannot be achieved solely by having intelligence and/or hard work without luck. Hopefully this essay will enlighten us to think about how truly lucky we are.

What are the components of luck? They range from accidents of birth and genetics, to chance meetings and fortuitous choices, and even to perhaps random but certainly unforeseeable events that cause decisions to turn out right. If you were successful for instance, you're born to the right parents and at the right time. Somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. If you've got a business - you didn't built that. Somebody else made that happen. And to take things into perspective, if I was born in the 40's or 50's, would I have found my passion? Certainly my life story would be different than now. The bottom line is simple: it's great to be in the vanguard of a new development. Talent and hard work are essential, but there's nothing like getting there early and being pushed by the powerful trends in demographics and taste that follow.

I know how lucky I've been. I find it incredibly uplifting and optimistic regarding the future and to know and appreciate my life's fortune. Rather than detract from my satisfaction over the things I've achieved - because of having to admit it wasn't all my own doing - this realization makes me feel fortunate to have been born when and where I was and to have benefitted from the developments that came along. I'm grateful of my good luck.

And what about the other things I may have brought to my life: passion for teaching, love of writing, insight, and a talent in sport? Isn't having these things also a form of luck? Intelligent and innately talented people didn't do anything to earn their gifts. No one can take credit for them as "something I did" or "something that was within my control." These things, too, are luck, and something for which we should give thanks rather than take credit.