Do we make our own good luck or does good luck make us? Though hardly the philosophical question of the ages, it is arguably a legitimate query and one that I suspect has been the basis of conversation many people have engaged in at least once in their lifetime. I am not ashamed to admit that on occasion, I have singled out bad luck as the culprit for the number of the setbacks encountered in my 58 years on this planet. And, I suspect I am not alone when it comes to associating disappointing results with a lack of good luck.
For me, the blame game started early. As a young boy, I can clearly recall being upset finding out that my best friend and his family were headed to the Pocono Mountains for a camping vacation. As usual, there was no summer vacation planned for the Reynolds family, to which I whined to my Mom with a noticeable degree of irritation, “How come we’re not that lucky?”
Fortunately for me, my luck did change the following year as my parents surprised us with a trip to Disneyland, California! In my mind, this fortunate turn of events had everything to do with good luck. Lost on me of course was the fact my Dad worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week to earn the money to take us. His work ethic alone scored us that trip. If luck was involved it was only as a byproduct of my Dad’s tireless and determined efforts.
American poet and leader of the Transcendentalist Movement, Ralph Waldo Emerson, opined with his trademark eloquence, “Good luck is another name for tenacity of purpose.” This quote personifies with great accuracy the example of the Reynolds Clan’s Disney retreat. My Dad’s “tenacity of purpose” was the actual catalyst that caused our familial luck to change, not a sudden realignment of the stars and certainly not my shrill lament. Good luck was made, not bestowed.
William James, 19th Century psychologist, and leader of the philosophical movement of Pragmatism made an even more profound observation when he stated: “The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude.” This is a statement that speaks to the true crux of the question.
I have noticed over the years that a change of mindset is many times the only tonic necessary to usher in positivity into one’s life. Adversity can become good fortune with an adjustment of attitude; by removing peripheral blinders that cause tunnel-vision, one is capable of turning a negative into a positive. Good luck is earned; it is not an entitlement.
One of America’s first great sages, co-author of the “Declaration of Independence” and 3rd President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, noted “I am a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” This has been guiding mantra for most of my adult life.
Far from being the brightest in any classroom during my youth (I was a tad intellectually lazy in my formative years), never rising above the Mendoza Line in any sports activity as a kid (though I did letter in wrestling); looking back, an underachiever whilst in the springtime of my adolescence. Fortunately, for me though, I had an epiphany of sorts my senior year in high school, and began to apply myself.
Although too late to secure a GPA anywhere near what was required to get into college – not really much of a setback since I lacked the cash to foot the bill anyway – my awakening to the importance of applying oneself to academic endeavors did pay dividends and a few years after graduating from high school, as I was able to take, and pass with quite a respectable score, the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test.
A friend of mine at the time who did not score so well said I was lucky. Looking back now, through a 37 year old lens, I can admit with total assuredness, it was way more arduous work and effort than cracking fortune that set the conditions for my success. This has been the case for most of my life and if you are being honest with yourself, I suspect the same is true for most, if not, all of you.
Don’t short your accomplishments and life’s successes. Good luck did not pave the way for your accomplishment anymore that bad luck constrained your ability to secure great achievement. For the most part, you alone are the architect of your position in life.
While true, circumstances can conspire to undermine the best intentions, most any hurdle or setback is surmountable when the right amount of “tenacity of purpose” is applied. For in the esteemed words of one of America’s Greatest Founders, Benjamin Franklin, “Diligence is the mother of good luck.”
Remember, you alone possess the power to create your own good luck. In a statement that is as true today as when it was proclaimed 2,000 years ago by Roman philosopher, Lucius Annaeus Seneca: “Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.”
And, always remember, “Life does not end at the Half Century mark. It actually BEGINS at the Second Fifty.”
This blog entry is dedicated to my Dad, George Reynolds, Jr., who instilled in me the qualities of tenacity of purpose and diligence of effort. The hardest working person I have ever known, his example paved the way for my life’s achievement. Regardless of the setback, I have never given up; only because I have never seen him give up.