The question bothered me, but I didn’t know why. I was halfway through one of my job applications when it asked to me to rate how lucky I thought I was on a scale from zero to ten. I’m sure they had a good reason for asking it, but answering it felt strange.
So, I crossed out lucky, replaced it by writing successful above it, and wrote we make our own luck in the margin. Don’t get me wrong, I knew I was blessed and fortunate, but lucky?
The question bothered me because while some are luckier than others, we sometimes give entirely too much power to being lucky. In a lot of cases, I think luck is the combination of hard work, forming relationships, and improving probabilities.
When I was younger, I was abnormally good at the crane game on the Jersey Shore boardwalk and friends were quick to say how lucky I was. I never corrected them- not because I believed I was lucky, but because it was easier than admitting the excessive amount of time (and money) I’d spent playing cranes previously.
The truth was that I would practice on the “play until you win” cranes throughout the year and when it came time to play during the summer on the boardwalk, I was ready. While a silly example, I think we often choose to assume that someone is luckier in their career or some aspect of life instead of recognizing the work and dedication that went into his or her success.
(I made this months ago, but it didn’t make the final cut. I still love it, so I’m putting it here.)
This past weekend, my friends sent me a picture of themselves on a Southwest plane with an open seat between them. “You’re soooooo lucky,” I wrote back. But, luck had very little to do with the fact that they didn’t end up with an occupied middle seat.
As my friends told me, the truth was that they struck up a conversation with the flight attendant and as she stood and talked to them, she blocked the entry to their row. They didn’t happen to get lucky, they benefited from a relationship they were forming. Who you know, but even more so, who you form meaningful relationships with is important.
(We all owe Kara Halsey and Chris Lisowski for one of the best travel hacks I’ve ever heard).
We used to have raffles as a fundraiser for sports in high school. We’d go to a dinner, buy tickets, and place them in a closed box next to the prize we hoped to win. I NEVER won, but my friend had much different luck. The prizes she won wouldn’t have been my first choice, but it was definitely better than not winning anything.
The truth was that she would scout out the prizes that the least amount of people put tickets on. While I was putting tickets on the big screen TV (along with everyone else), she was looking for where she would have the best probability of winning. She always won and I never did. There was still an aspect of luck, but she greatly improved her chances by her strategy.
You shouldn’t pursue things you don’t want to improve you chance of success. But, I do believe that through hard work, relationships, and some strategy you can always improve your probability of success even if there is luck involved.
Are you sure it’s just luck?