Luck is such a misunderstood concept. First of all, I think there are words in any language that are ‘under-defined’. What that means is that there are words that mean too many things to too many people.
I think luck is one of those words.
It’s a word I wish didn’t exist. It’s not helpful – not to anyone. There is no benefit to thinking about anything in life from the frame of “lucky vs. unlucky.”
You see this a lot when someone does well in their life – health, business, money, dating, etc.
Absolutely worthless statements that do not help us learn how to think and approach the world in a way that helps us succeed.
“Luck” is nothing but an event that happened that we all think was exceptionally good. Most humans like money, so when we see someone win the lottery, we call him lucky.
I think there are a few types of situations that people call lucky:
- Even-ish probability events that someone happens to win a lot of (winning 10 coinflips in a row)
- Extremely improbable events that someone happens to win once (winning the lottery)
- Extremely improbably bad events that someone happens to escape (being struck by lightning and living)
- Ambiguous probability events that someone happens to achieve (selling a business)
The first is just simple probability. Over the long term, winning a 50/50 coinflip 10 times in a row happens 0.098% of the time. It’ll just happen sometimes – the person isn’t lucky because they happened to do it once. No matter what they call, if they flip coins long enough they will get a streak of 10 in along the way.
The second is what most people would consider to be “pure luck”. If you’re playing $1 lotto tickets in California, the odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 175,223,510. That means that you can expect to recoup pretty much $0 of that $1 (assuming there are no other prizes). Basically, you’re lighting the money on fire.
But then you win. Well, someone HAS to win at some point and it just happened to be you. Are you lucky, or are you fortunate that the almost impossibly low probability of winning happened to fall on you? I’d argue you’re fortunate, not lucky.
The third is the reverse of the second, so not much needs to be said here.
The fourth is a tricky one. This is typically the one that gets the most heated debate going on. You’ll hear stories about successful entrepreneurs that sold their businesses, or actors that made it big and how “lucky” they were. How many people “just like them” failed and couldn’t make it happen, despite working just as hard.
Certainly, there are things out of your control.
You could be hit by a car.
But then, were you watching out or were you looking at your phone?
You could have your identity stolen and have all of your assets taken from you.
But then, did you have proper security measures in place?
Joking aside, there are definitely things that you simply cannot fully prepare for or avoid.
But…let’s look at the successful entrepreneur. Is he REALLY the same as all of the people who tried and failed?
- Maybe it’s his 19th business, all of the others being mediocre or complete failures
- Maybe he has improved incrementally at every business related skillset with each business
- Maybe he has geographical, social, physical, or other advantages that other people did not
- Maybe he spent more time in smarter ways working on higher leverage activities
- Maybe he learned MORE from each failure than other people
- Maybe he sought out mentors for every area that he was weak and traded a skill that they were weak in
- Maybe he sacrificed things that other people were not willing to sacrifice to achieve his dream
There are so many small actions that change the course of lives, and extremely successful people have a laser focus on the things that they truly want. Then they filter the world through the lens of accomplishing those goals.
I used to skateboard a lot. When I drove around I no longer saw buildings, cars, sidewalks, curbs. I saw areas to practice flatground, various gaps to hit, creative lines to skate. The world was actually different to my brain.
The argument I’m making here is that it’s folly to call something luck when there are likely SO many things that we’re NOT doing to achieve what we want in every single day of our lives. Even if there are things we can never change, we can take tiny course corrections every single day to give ourselves a better shot at being one of “the fortunate ones”.