This is a story of Luck. And a story of getting lucky. More reliably.
When we want to wish someone well we may say ‘good luck’. Mostly it is a well-worn greeting, often a throw-away comment if we’re honest – something we say in the absence of anything better or more personal to say. Let me, right now, wish for you good luck, and my wish comes from my heart, with intention.
So how do you feel? Do you believe my wish will change anything? Do I, or you, have any agency over your luck, your fortune? Maybe I owe you an explanation, a story perhaps, the story of luck…
An expression I hear frequently is about good luck and bad luck: ‘that person is so lucky…. He is unlucky in…. (money, love, business, parenting….)’ and so on.
First of all let me propose that luck is a human construct. Much like fortune, destiny, birth right, lot in life… Human constructs typically originate in our minds from some usefulness or purpose, but that is not the same as the same construct remaining useful or always being useful.
As a coach and a leader I have a different observation to share, a challenge even, because I do not think it will sit comfortably as I say it to you: the purpose of luck as a human word and idea, is to remove the link between cause and effect, between my actions and me taking control or responsibility for the results or impact of such actions, or choices, including inaction. We need luck or destiny or faith when we don’t want to take full responsibility for our talents, gifts and the ability to choose in any given moment. Or when we do not want to accept that we really have no control or agency over something. It gives us a way out. It can help us with hope, which can be important, but there is a cost. And over a lifetime of this way of thinking, the cost can be very high. This article was originally designed as a speech for graduating high school scholars, whom I stood before as they faced much of their lives ahead of them.
It is said that sometimes bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people, and so on… but the truth is probably more like…. Things happen to people…. Not everything is in our control….
As you consider that you are about to enter the rest of your life, are you ok with your future being defined by your luck? Luck, every time you complete a task or try something new…. When I was studying at University, during one of my mid-term examinations, the examination was interrupted as a lecturer came up to me and whispered into my ear, asking me to step outside. Outside he told me my father had just died suddenly, and that I should fly immediately to deal with this. Was this bad luck? Most people would probably agree. He went on to wish me good luck. Was luck really in play?
So, was this bad luck? It most certainly stopped my examination, and my studies in their tracks, abruptly. I felt devastated. It was a horrible experience, and tough, as the whole family leaned on me. Bad luck? Or was this my father passing suddenly, when his body stopped functioning, after some small, ignored warning signs, and this time happened to coincide with me sitting the Marketing 1 examination at the Graduate School of Business, 1500km away?
What about the impact? Well, he was obviously gone, my mother’s soul mate became a memory, resulting in loss and grief, and a much stronger, more resilient person after, or as a result of, this process. And me? This experience gave me perspective, woke me up from my assumptions, beliefs, comfort zones and so on. I asked good questions, particularly of my self, and what truly mattered to me. I finished the MBA. I never did use much of the studied content in my businesses or life, but what I learned through my ‘bad luck’ may have set me up for a fulfilling and rewarding life. So was this good luck then?
You see, if I had believed and hung on to all the well-meaning words around ‘that is so unlucky’, ‘you unlucky person’, and ‘I wish you good luck’ I may well have trapped myself. I say trapped, because I would then be waiting for or relying on my luck turning…. Maybe…. Hopefully…. One day….
A decade later, as a professional coach, I completed a mastery course on…. Death! Not exactly an attractive title :-). But here is the learning from the whole course: death is change. No more, no less. For anything to change, something has to stop, cease, die or disappear, so that something new can emerge. Was that what happened to me, to us?
More importantly, what was my role in my experience? Was my role to witness and accept reality, and move forward from there, taking full control over my choices, and making one at a time?
And this is where I think the story becomes interesting. First of all my father’s sudden passing was neither good nor bad, and I can not see what luck had to do with it, or how the idea of luck is even useful. It happened, the way it happened, at the time it happened. It was a change. A change for my mother, for our family, for me, and many others. That’s it.
If you buy a lottery ticket today, there are real, unequivocal odds for and against you winning. Simple. If you don’t win today, and you buy another ticket in the same lottery tomorrow, the dynamic is exactly the same. This is pure mathematics, not luck. Unless the lottery is rigged in some way :-). School, studies, work, life are the same. No different. No matter what you tell yourself, what you believe or want, or want to believe, or what others tell you. This seems to be a natural law. Not always a direct, straight line or short-term relationship between the choice and its impact, but in the long-term…
The moment you choose to study something, and then you choose to practice or apply your knowledge, you set in motion a sequence of events, of changes, all of which have an impact. Sometimes small, sometimes bigger. Cause and effect – Newton may have been onto something after all.
Is there an implication that you have no control? Life will unfold as it will? No, not at all, and this is what I invite you to take with you today. Test it out for yourself, don’t just believe me – that would be unwise.
So here is another truth: every moment of every day you are alive, you face choices. No-one but you can make any of these choices. Each choice impacts what happens next – for you, and everyone and everything around you. You will experience the consequences for the rest of your life, and others may experience them longer than that. The consequences are not always big, or may take a while to manifest, but they are always there. This is your source of power. It is also there to keep you humble and real, because no-one else made the choice, but you. You are fully accountable for making your choice, and living with the consequences – all of them, whether you thought about them at the time, or not. It might, therefore, be wise to think about your choices, with care.
At this stage you may be feeling ‘shit, do I really want this kind of responsibility? Would it not be easier to blame good luck or bad luck on what happens in my life?’ Can you see how easily we can fall into the traps of blame, irresponsibility, feeling sorry for ourselves, procrastination and escaping into virtual realities, hoping we get lucky….
In real life, the truth is there is no reset button. This may be why parents like me warned our children that virtual experiences such as games, social media relationships and movies may be fun and distracting and easy, but they do not teach them anything real, and actually dumb them down from learning that in real life every action has an impact and consequence, and no choice can be undone, ever.
One of my sons once told me how playing car racing or war games sharpened his reflexes, and surely this is a life skill. He was certainly being creative and thoughtful. Quick reflexes are a life skill, no doubt. But they never work in isolation in real life. Quick reflexes, not embedded in training and wisdom, look more like over-reactiveness or impulsiveness. I have been both a race car driver and have held the trigger of a rifle on another human being in a real war situation, so I think I have a little real experience. Let me tell you that shooting opposing soldiers or baddies in a computer game or movie does not even bear the slightest resemblance to pulling the trigger of a high velocity rifle, releasing a solid metal bullet designed to inflict maximum carnage, the bullet ripping into and through nerves, life sustaining blood vessels and vital organs, unleashing excruciating pain, horror, anger, resulting perhaps in permanent confinement to a wheelchair or a feeding tube and peeing and soiling themselves every day, …. or a little child never seeing her father again, ever…, and a family having lost their father, husband, brother, son, their income, their ability to put food on the table, facing gut-wrenching grief, feeling hunger and starvation, forever impacted and affected by loss…. But the reflex itself, the reflex to pull the trigger, can be quick…
Choice – cause – effect.
If anything, the experience of the virtual war game without consequence and with the reset button is MORE likely to lead to a poor choice. Great reflex, in a vacuum of reality, intelligence and wisdom….
So, consider carefully what choices you make. Every choice you make has a consequence, no exceptions. That is real life. Just because you do not see, feel entitled to or turn away from the consequence does not undo them, or the fact that you made the choice. Just because the consequence is not immediate, does not stop it from being inevitable. Choose intentionally, where you focus your attention, your effort in anything you do, who you hang out with, who you sleep with or commit to, how you commit, when to try harder, when to relax, when to leave….
What is next for you in your life, your career, your community? Well, that is, at least to some significant extent, up to your next choice.
If your choices are that important, how do you make good, wise choices, and through these, how do you create the future you and others will enjoy in the fullness of time? Lets explore some ideas – think of this as the start of a guiding sheet, your ‘life crib sheet’ … and then lets add more…
- Understand the power of your mind. So often the way you think becomes your reality. As simple as that! If you think you need luck, your disempower yourself. If you think you have choice, you empower yourself. Irrespective, consequences will follow without fail. Call it a natural law if you like.
- Become aware of what is real. In real life the relationship between you and everyone and everything around you is simple: Every waking moment of every day you have choices, every moment and choice is new, a chance to start afresh (how liberating is that!!!). You might consider what your choices are, and make the choice purposefully to create favourable, sustainable consequences, for yourself, others and our environment. Perhaps do this every morning, with the day ahead.
- Luck is a mind trap. Luck is a convenient story, an excuse for not considering our choices and taking responsibility for making them with care. When you choose to depend on luck, you choose the hard, powerless and often unrewarding life path
- A clever person once said ‘you make your own luck’. She was spot on. But a bit light on detail. Luck follows your choices. It is up to you what choices you make. Mostly it appears as though ‘good’ luck seems to follow people who make ‘good’ choices, irrespective of where they start from …
- When faced with choice, slow down to think, gather information and formulate options, think carefully about the impact of your choices – keep your thoughts real
- We can learn from wise, resourceful, fulfilled and content people, especially older ones – they have something in common: they have learned to understand that they have choices, they consider them carefully, they make their choices and act on them. And they’re not scared of making a new, different choice, if the consequences are not favourable – this is called learning from mistakes
- This last part is important. Live your choices, take action. Knowledge does not get you far in real life, but conviction and skills do. Skills come from having a go, taking action, learning from failure, either trying again or making a new choice. Anything virtual does not build any real skill, until put into practice.
- Start each day excited, knowing that it will bring new choices. Look for them so you are aware, consider them, make them and commit fully to them
What would you like to add? Please share in the chat….
Instead of saying to you ‘good luck’, I am going to leave you with ‘may you make great choices’