I was chatting with a coworker today and she noted that I must be looking forward to having some time off this summer. My job allows me a couple of mostly-free-of-work months over those warm days. She said at first that I was lucky, then said, “No you’re not lucky. You made it happen.” That got me thinking.
I think we tend to attribute far too little of our success or fortune to luck. I think back on the key moments in my life and there were some lucky moments. If I didn’t have a particular teacher or supervisor or friend I might have taken the path I took. I had not seen the newspaper on the right day or if a housemate hadn’t taken a class on the right date, I might not have found this way in life. Luck had a lot to do with it.
Sure, hard work matters. In fact, it is what one does with the lucky moments that makes the difference. Get lucky and land a good job? That matters a lot less if you are a slacker, or if the people with whom you work hate you. You need to make it happen, as my coworker said. To clarify, hard work matters a lot, but luck matters too.
Think of the big ones. How about where you were born? That kind of makes a difference in the opportunities one has. How about other members of your family? Whether one has abusive parents or the most loving on the block makes a difference, and that has nothing to do with hard work. Yes, with some struggle one can overcome these tricks of fortune, but that is my point. It takes more work for one born into more challenging circumstances.
One can be successful if one is mostly lucky and one can be successful if one works terribly hard. I believe it is when one takes full advantage of the circumstances that simply happen to him or her that one can be most successful. Sure, chalk it up to hard work. I just don’t buy it. Everybody gets lucky, whether he or she acknowledges it or not.
Here’s Thomas Jefferson: I’m a great believer in luck, and I find that the harder I work, the more I have of it.
I’m with that.