Monday, November 16, 2009

Lucky Me.

How many discussions have I had about luck versus skill? Though rhetorical, that question was intended to get you thinking about the relationship between the two attributes. If you could actually answer it, I'd be seriously creeped out right now. In any case, I hope you've had a little chance to form a slapdash opinion on luck and skill. Does luck exist? Is good-fortune due entirely to skill? Is it a mix of the two?

Let's take a look at luck for a moment. Could it be that the definition of luck is actually different for different people? Sure, there are events that one can influence with their actions, but what about things like the flip of a coin or roll of the dice? Please travel with me as I leave this world of logic and transcend momentarily into a cosmic fog of voodoo and mysticism.

Seriously? You were really going to follow me there? Well in that case, what I'm actually going to say should seem pretty mild. What if luck is a manifestation of karma? What if we truly do make our own luck, just with our daily choices? I had the great privileged of knowing one of the unluckiest guys from my highschool. He once had a truck fall on him while he was just sitting at a stoplight. It was really good for me to see the way the world treated him, especially because he treated the world the same way. Whenever there was a decision to be made, he didn't. Instead, he let karma determine his fate. Without having put any positive energy out into the universe, all he collected was stagnation and disorganization. That bad luck spilled over into just about everything he touched from his work life to his family life. Frustrated and discontent, he never attempted to change the direction that his life was going. He only sat in his misery and complained about his raw deal.

I saw an interview several months ago where some distinguished host was talking to an author who believed that luck was the defining factor in anyone's success. I wish I could remember where I saw it, or knew any other details, but if I come across it I'll add a comment below. In any case, the television host became irate. He was insulted by the prospect that there could be some aspect of his life that he had not *earned* through his hard work and risk. He emphasized over and over again how he had gotten where he was because of the risks that he took and that luck had nothing to do with it. You could see just how cranky this idea made him if I actually had a video link here.

I would like to propose that luck is actually a necessary portion of risk, or else a risk wouldn't be a risk at all. If you know before hand that something is going to turn out in your favor, that's not a risk, it's just an option. Risk has the inherent problem that the outcome could go either way. There are things we can do in advance to make situations less risky, but if you're going to proudly display your willingness to take risks, you cannot deny your dependence on luck.

Ah, but once I take a risk, can't I help push the outcome into my favor? Why yes, yes you can, and that's called making your own luck. Certainly if you're up for a job and you take the risk to apply for it, you can encourage the employer to consider you more seriously by properly preparing your materials and sending follow up emails. What you don't know, is what kinds of luck other people have on their side. Perhaps another applicant went to the same high school as the hiring manager. Perhaps another has the same rare maiden name as his mother.

There's no doubt that if you flip a coin 50 times it will have a fairly uniform outcome of heads vs. tails, but who knows when you're flipping a coin for something very important JUST ONCE if maybe karma has a hand in choosing how it falls.


Nathaniel said...

I don't think that there is an independent force determining luck such as "karma." I do, however, think it is possible for a person to be lucky. This process is quite simple. Imagine that one hundred people flip a coin fifty times and get paid five dollars every time it comes up heads. A couple of them will probably get lucky and win more than the average amount of $125 dollars. The same principle applies to chance situations in life - there will always be outliers. Why? No reason. I think that we look for forces like karma because they are comforting.

Another way a person achieves "good luck" is by disregarding success and failure ratios altogether. In applying for jobs, failure is not actually harmful. If one applies for more jobs than the average person, one might have lower success rates but still find better jobs due to sheer volume.

I guess I disagree with the karma thing, but I enjoyed reading it.

Kiki said...

I should probably preface all of my blogs to say that these articles are for entertainment value only, lol. I do very little research when composing these things and they mostly just spill from my heart into the text area. Sometimes they're true feelings and other times just an exploration of what could be, so a grain of salt is definitely in order. Thanks for your comment!

Nathaniel said...

I figured as much. Did a truck really fall on that one guy?

Kiki said...

Yes, yes it did.

David said...

I enjoyed reading this post. I think most of things in life has to do with luck but maybe sometimes, it can be phrased with an approximated synonym like "circumstance", "coincidence" or "chance".

For example, the fact that I have received free health care and education throughout my entire life is not what I would consider luck but rather the circumstance of me being born in Denmark.