Monday, November 1, 2010

What Is "Luck"?

"You have had a lot of luck in your life so far." Said my dad during a recent visit to Dumbfuckville. It got me wondering. What is luck? I am a somewhat vocal skeptic in all things religious, yet even the hardest core Atheist, still believes in, or will mention luck. So what is it?

I would like to think my life has turned out the way it has because of cold rational decisions that I have made. But that is not true. For absolute certain, my life is what it is because of the choices I have made. This is the universal truth. What is not true about my above statement is that not all of my decisions have been cold and rational. Is luck when you make an emotional choice, or an irrational one, and it turns out well for you?

One such emotional choice was who I chose to spend the rest of my life with. When we met, we were both young. She was barely 21 years old, I had just turned 25. About 13 months after that we were engaged, and 8 months after that were married. This was a decision I made with my heart, not my head. The woman I met could barely speak English, she had been born in to a culture alien from my own, and we had drastic personality differences. After 9 years 11 months, the woman I married is not the woman that I currently live with. The woman I married was shy, had no self confidence, and was perpetually worried about everything. I realized that she had drastically changed from the woman I married in her second year as a medical student. She entered an essay contest in Neurology. The favorite to win this contest was a young man who entered medical school after getting a PhD in Neurology. When she brought me her paper to proof read, just like she did when her papers were little more than "See Jane run.", I couldn't understand a word of it. The language was advanced, the terminology was, for me, indecipherable. She went on to win the contest. A woman who could not read a newspaper not 5 years previous beat a PhD in his own field, in HIS native language.
My beaming aside, this choice of wife was undoubtedly a good one. It was the most important decision in my life. Was it "lucky"?

A close friend made a very similar choice to mine about the same time as I did. His choice was not a foreigner, but he made his choice with his heart, not his head. Just as I did. He divorced a few years later. His net worth was halved, his children were ripped from him, and he was saddled with half of the debt that she primarily ran up. He now has to forfeit a large percentage of his income to this woman, in the name of child support. Was this simply "unlucky"?

In my career, I have been just the opposite. I have made cold hard choices, sometimes accepting lower pay for the opportunity to lean skills. I left the field of study my degree is in to participate in what I knew was the next revolution in business. I have stayed at a company knowing that my compensation was beneath my market value, because I knew it was safe. Was this "luck"?

I have friends that have been just as calculating, just as careful, and have come up being laid off time and time again. Is he simply "unlucky"?

What is "luck"? Is luck when you make a choice with some element of risk and it pays off for you? Is something more lucky when you make a choice based on your emotions and not the facts? In fighting there is a saying that there are no lucky punches. You threw the punch it landed, no luck involved. Yet, we have all seen where men are getting beat from pillar to post, let one wild unaimed bomb in desperation, land it and win the fight.

I believe this: Luck does not exist. It, like religion, is a construct of man. It is nothing more than man attempting to put a name to something that he can not control. It is also a coping mechanism for those who have made poor choices to feel better about themselves for failing (I am not a failure, they are just lucky.)
Believing in luck, in my opinion is the same as believing in hope. Hope kills pilots. So does luck. Isn't it strange that those who work hard, make good choices based on the facts, and make more calculating choices than emotional ones seem to be "luckier" than the rest of us? The simple fact is that fortune, "luck", smiles on the prepared.

I admit that I have made choices that have not been based on rational fact. Like when I bought a car that I could not afford, but it was so damn pretty! More often than not, those choices were "unlucky."

However, no matter how rational your choices are, there are certain situations that do not break your way. Unforeseen issues that cause great hardship, or great joy. These things are just what they are. You had no control over them, accept that. What you do have control over is how you react to the issue, and amplify your joy, or mitigate the disaster. Spend less time worrying about luck, and never EVER put your life in luck's hands.

No comments: