Do you feel lucky….?

Curious Rascal
4 min readMar 1, 2024

‘In the celebration or appreciation of human creativity, particularly in science or the practical arts, an uncomfortable puzzle is presented by the role of accident and chance. It is easy to sing the praises of ingenuity or perseverance; cleverness will always have its champions; sheer talent or great breadth and vision will evoke admiration. But the moment we acknowledge the role of chance of luck — we seem to diminish the creative act and the particular humanity that we attach to it’.

Robert Friedel

I love the word serendipity. It rolls off the tongue beautifully. It is a word which signals the world is ticking along as it should, made up of all things nice with sugar and spice. It mostly accords with my framework of being — inputs deliver certain outputs. However I was nudged into contemplating the truth of the word as I pondered my life. Have I created my own good fortune or is luck something that has happened to me?

I think of myself as a lucky person. It’s not that bad things haven’t happened to me but in the round — where I am today, what my life is, of those who surround me — lady luck has been by my side. I feel lucky my parents emigrated to the UK; I feel lucky they understood the power of determination and teaching; I feel lucky I wasn’t married off to an uneducated villager as some in my extended family have been; I feel lucky I discovered a industry that suited my day to day aspirations; I feel lucky to have met a brilliant man who loves me; I feel lucky my cost centres can still stand me. I feel lucky….I feel lucky.

I accept it is rather whimsical discussing luck but curiously it draws out strong reactions. I’m cognisant a person’s outlook on luck and whether it is in their control or not will mostly be determined by the success or lack of it in their life (however you choose to define success). But for all of us, whether it is active luck we have nurtured and acted on or the beneficiary of ‘randomness’, luck or lack of it is a key ingredient in the status of our life and lived events. For some, the term luck demeans their efforts to achieve. Their belief is our happiness, position and success in life has been due to those inputs we encourage in our children…hard work, strength of character, education, fraternising….the more we strive, the luckier we become — to be rewarded now or at some point in the future. For others it is an inexplicable force; chance. Something coincidental we have no control over. Luck happens to us and there isn’t anything we can do about it.

I read a phrase, ‘luck swallows everything’ (Galen Strawson) from an article in The Guardian by Oliver Burkeman. What if everything about us was accidental and incidental. Not only the outcomes of our life but our intelligence, looks, resolve, our parents…What does that imply about privilege, perceived advantages of the chosen and how society thinks about evening up the status quo and opportunities for the haves and the have nots. Because if it is purely random then should society choose to intervene? Because there would seem to be little logical basis on which to do so. Luck in this world for any one of us could shift in either direction at any time altering the scales of success. Perhaps the inequalities we see at the societal level around us are just…arbitrary; an agglomeration of the haphazard chances and choices of the individual?

It would be quite a conundrum.

This view of the world somehow feels defeatist; in this sphere there is no point to striving. But then you’d expect me to state that given how I started this post. I don’t believe the world and what happens in it is always arbitrary. We do have influence and some control — perhaps not on wider events but at least for ourselves. I am convinced possessing certain traits — perseverance and the desire to learn for example, make a difference to your future path. Research also suggests the manner in which you think about luck impacts self-perception and guides your behaviour. If you feel lucky — you take chances, grasp opportunities. These people tend to be optimists, broader in their outlook of the world and more resilient. Being lucky can be self-fulfilling.

But I am — probably like many, selective in how I choose to apply this perspective. When I became seriously ill many years ago, I couldn’t fathom why it had happened to me. This lack of comprehension led to deep unhappiness. There were no answers from the Doctors and so I chose my own narrative rather than accept my illness had been of my own doing — in my control. To this day although completely irrational, I choose to believe I was sprinkled with star dust. That I had become susceptible in a moment of pure chance.

And so I move through life prone to believing my success has been in my control delivered by cultivated serendipity and any mis-haps or bad choices have not.

But perhaps the contradictory perceptions of luck are not wrong and luck (both good and bad) is a Schrodinger’s cat. It can be nurtured and random at the same time. That conceivably to live a successful life we need to believe and live both aspects of it — endeavour to the best of our ability but accept every now and then the sprinkles of star dust that help or hinder our way….

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Curious Rascal

I'm keen to understand more of the world, people, history, science, making sense of the random because it helps me in life and improves my thinking.