“I say luck is when an opportunity comes along and you’re prepared for it.” ~ Denzel Washington
Maybe I am alone in this, but for a long time, I had a very bad relationship with the word “lucky” and the idea of luck in general, unless it was associated with something like winning the lottery.
My dislike for the notion of luck and the word lucky itself came from the fact that it threatened the only thing I could hold on to at the time: hard work. It was all I had for a long time. I had subzero self-confidence and self-esteem, no concept of self-love and self-care, and my internal engine was working as hard as it possibly could on anything I did. Outworking others for me was not about being better than others or achieving more, it was about having a chance to be at least good enough and not disappointing my parents. And it worked, I was a high functioning self-doubter and nobody knew about it until I started telling the truth about it to myself and to others. It took a long time and a lot of work to get to this truth, strip it naked and start building a new narrative. One that fits the facts of who I am and how life works: I am both a hard-worker and a lucky girl.
I get reminded of that journey when I hear artists who get their big break being called “lucky” or “overnight sensations” when the truth is that they have been working at their craft for years and had to work side jobs to make ends meet while keeping their dream alive. They have had to make sacrifices and tough choices. In some cases, those big breaks happen when they are in their 30s or 40s, or even later, even though they started in the industry in their 20s or maybe even as kids. The age thing is also often a blessing because by the time fame and/or success hits they have more tools, more experience and more maturity to handle it and everything that comes with it. Nothing about their sudden success is an accident and calling them lucky feels like a slight. In reality, that particular break might have been a lucky one, like auditioning for one role and being cast for another one and stealing the show by giving a performance few expected or having a chance encounter with a well-known producer who has been hearing about them for a while and getting in the studio together and ending up with a hit nobody saw coming. There is an element of luck in these two hypothetical stories I just cited as examples but that luck is just the tip of the iceberg and without the hard work, perseverance, talent of the artist, luck would not have created that magic. In my own life, if I look at instances where I have been called “lucky”, I certainly was to a certain extent, but it was everything else I had done up to that point that created the backdrop for those lucky moments to even occur. I did not create that luck but I invited it with my thoughts and actions. Sometimes, it took days, sometimes it took years, and I know that some of the things I am working toward now and some of the things I have recently spoken into existence will cause others to call me “lucky” in the future. The difference between the old, insecure, self-esteem-less me, and the current me is that not only do I acknowledge the role of luck in my life but I welcome it with open arms and I want more of it.
Here is the most recent example. This year, I celebrated my birthday with a special trip following my New England Patriots: 3 games in 3 weeks in 3 cities: Boston, Chicago and Buffalo. Folks who found out about my plan used the word “lucky” quite a bit. “You are lucky to travel like that!”, “You are so lucky to go to 3 games. And 3 great games at that!” “You are so lucky to have such great seats!” To be clear, absolutely nobody called me lucky to go to Buffalo itself, just like nobody said I was lucky to have to come back between game 2 and 3 to get my weekly back injections. I guess luck is only associated with things that are seen as being cool, fun and positive. I get it when it comes to the shots, but Buffalo?! Come on, folks! Can this city get some love? No? Ok;) Boston and Chicago on the other hand, are pretty popular and the word “lucky” came back often in reference to these two destinations. Even though there was no outside intervention directly involved in the making of that trip, even though I had to pay for all these experiences and even though the trip did not simply fall on my lap out of the blue, I did truly felt lucky. I thought about all the things I had gone through in order to get healthy enough to even contemplate enduring the physical strain from travelling and attending long football games. 2-3 years ago, my reality was much different and walking to the bathroom, from my couch, with or without the help of my cane felt like a journey. I thought about being able to afford it financially. I thought about allowing myself to take the time to do it. I thought about making it work with my treatments, with the help of my doctor. Back when I was working a full-time job and a part-time job, and studying online, I was happy as could be because I enjoyed every bit of it but I also never took the time to make it across the border, even for a weekend, to go see my Patriots play in person, even though it had been a dream of mine since high-school, back when I still lived on the other side of the ocean. I kept pushing it back, waiting for the right time. The right time doesn’t just happen, I learned, you have to make it happen. The trip was carefully planned and that was my doing, but the circumstances that made it possible in the first place have been years in the making, and although I have been the leading character in that story, a metaphorical supporting cast had a hand in the process. If I peel back the layers, I can go all the way back to my childhood and my parents teaching my brother and me resilience with their words and their actions. So, yes, I consider myself very lucky to have gone on that trip and to have had the unforgettable experiences I have had throughout.
There is this saying in sports that goes “better lucky than good” and it can feel like a shady statement to make about a wide receiver who catches a pass that was deflected by a defender’s helmet or a shooting guard drilling a three-pointer at the buzzer from very deep with the help of the board without having called “bank” first, and as a youngster that is probably the way I would have taken something like that, had it had been directed at me. I would have objected to the negation of my hard work and skills. Not today, however, because I have since learned that the two are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, they often go hand in hand, and when you are good at something, when you have the required skills, when you prepare well, when you pay attention to detail, when you grind day in and day out, you have also more opportunities to get lucky. And, once you understand that, you no longer feel insulted or cheapened by the idea that you could be lucky because you are so secure in your abilities and the work you have put into your craft – whatever that craft might be – that nothing can threaten that.
You got lucky. You’re damn, right, I got lucky! I sent Luck a limo to make sure she got there on time! And I will keep giving her the VIP treatment to make sure she keeps showing up in my life.