An old friend wished me good luck in a new venture. It was nice, because she wants me to succeed, and maybe we need that little bit of fortune for things to work.

This friend is a self-admitted and publicly proven fitness junkie. Here she is.

She’s generous and dedicated, and for all the excellence she portrays, she also seems unafraid to look the fool. She’s as willing to make fun of herself as she is to exude awesomeness – a very empowering place to be.

I had to ask myself, because I can be a dick that way, “Did luck sculpt your six-pack, perk up your glutes, pump your endorphins, inject your adrenaline, or in any way give you the power to be the powerhouse of a total person that you are today?”

Obviously not. All of that comes from her choices, her desires, her risks, her relationships, her courage, her sacrifices, her principles.

So, then, WTF, exactly, is luck?
Luck is how we interpret an event in the past. That is, there’s no such thing. It’s a moving holographic target in that it isn’t really there, but we project it on to the screen of our worldview. This will be useful in a minute.

On the flipside, what isn’t luck? It’s not what builds your success any more than bad luck ruins it. You can’t wait for luck because it only happens in the past, remember? It isn’t a happy (or sad) coincidence, however big or small. You made choices and then you acted or reacted in a moment that created consequences, good or bad. You then had to either learn from those things to find a new way to success or keep trying to learn through more apparent failure.

Oh—and I’m not talking about the sarcastic “Good luck”, the one that is immediately followed by “with that”. That’s an assumption about the future outcome of a current choice.

Is all this very cynical? If luck doesn’t exist, does that mean it isn’t useful? Nope. You can still use luck for happiness and well-being.

HTF do you use luck?
While there’s no permanent essence of luck, it is still a concept and is therefore of value to us. The one thing it can help us do is feel gratitude[1].

Gratitude. There’s a lot of commentary on gratitude and its impacts on our health and success[2] (just Google it). If we can interpret an event as having somehow taught, strengthened, or helped us, if we can feel thanks for it, and if that thanks can motivate us to strive further, cultivate positive relationships, or hold us up through tough times, then luck becomes a powerful ally.

Almost as powerful as my fitness junkie friend.

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[1] In some commentary, researchers differentiate between those that:

  • don’t feel gratitude if they interpret good events as fortunate (or lucky) and
  • do feel gratitude when they interpret good events as part of a connected whole

[2] This take is not meant to ignore, preach to, or judge people with chemical makeups or who are in situations (or both) that prevent them from feeling gratitude. Many people have chronic depression-related mental illnesses and come from and live in extreme circumstances that require access to resources they don’t and may never have. If the content of this article applies to you, take from it what’s useful.

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