Tuesday, June 12, 2012


We constantly hear phrases that are designed to be encouraging. Phrases that tell us that all we have to do is "dream", "believe", or "try, try, try", or "never give up." These phrases are meant to convey the certainty that, with unflagging effort, rigourous training, an iron will, and unshakeable faith , all things are possible. These bromides are particularly evident at the quadrennial sports orgy known as the Olympics. We are bombarded with these words constantly, and are told to believe in miracles which, miraculously, come true.


More often than not, success is determined by a combination of the above mentionned things plus one vitally important, yet never spoken attribute: luck.

Ask an athlete, a successful business person, an accomplished and revered artist, even a respected politician, and they will tell you that, indeed, hard work, an iron will, immense confidence and perseverence all played a roll in their success. But they will be just as quick to point out that they were "lucky" to break free of the crowd and rise to the pinacle of their field.

Why do we not acknowledge luck? Why do we put so much stock in "dreams" etc? What is the problem in admitting that, if one does not attain the ultimate success in a field, one is merely unlucky?

Because you can't sell luck.

Luck is capricious. It does not follow any logical, predictable rules. It touches those it favours and disdains those it reviles. There is no way of knowing if luck will favour one in their efforts until the event is over. And, when it is over, we fawn over the victorious and extoll their superior virtues, talents and skills. Why ? Because we can measure them, and quantify them, and use them to sell things. The others who competed and lost are just as determined, often just as skilled, and have dreams just as large. But they lost, so, therefore, there must be something flawed in their approach. Best not to pay attention to the losers, because what they did was obviously wrong, and not worthy of respect or even adulation. Second place is merely the first loser, and noone ever got a contract promoting something with a silver or bronze medal. Fourth place? Forget it !!

Maybe it was just not their time. Maybe the fortune fell to the winner on that particular time, just because it did. Tomorrow? Who knows? It will probably favour another.

But we can't sell that. It's just too ephemeral. Too wishy-washy. Too random. We need certainty and we crave predicability. And those whose job it is to sell things make sure we put all our faith in those certain things. Luck? Who needs it, when you have a plan, when you have a goal, when you have a dream?

Me? I'd rather be lucky than good any day, any time, in any thing I do. If I succeed and people want to blow it off as just "dumb luck", I'm fine with that. Napoleon Bonaparte, one of the world's greatest strategists, when told of the skills and talents of an up and coming officer in the French army, is alleged to have said, "Yes, yes, I know of his skills. But, tell me .... is he lucky?"

So, when we begin our orgy of sports known as the Olympics, let's not get on too much of a bandwagon on how great the winners are. All the athletes are great. Let's instead celebrate the winners' luck, and wish for that kind of luck in our own lives.

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