First thing I gotta say is - wow, I appreciate all the people coming and visiting, commenting, sending an email. I've gotten 718 visits since I installed Google Analytics a few days ago, average time on site 2:36. That's over 31 hours of people's lives they're coming to share ideas with me, read what I write. Wow, that's so humbling. It might even be higher than that with people reading on RSS or instapaper. So, very big thanks to the people that are reading, commenting, and letting their friends know about the site. It's quite an honor to take off so fast.
A very pleasant surprise for me has been (1) I'm getting some pretty insightful comments already, and (2) no stupid/rude/idiotic comments. Is the internet evolving or do I just have an awesome crowd here? Both, maybe?
We talked back and forth about cause and effect a little bit, and then he made this comment most recently:
I see your point. You look at generations/human race and consider a new born as a ring in a long chain. So when people say bad luck, you say “There’s no bad luck, just previous actions that lead to present situation”. And that’s fine. Like a political analysis of the People of the World.
But, looking at every new child as a not connected new point in the flux of life, he is not responsible for his good or bad starting point. He has luck or bad luck, because he, as a human being, is just one in a multitude. No past or future connections just made by him.
So, two different visions. But considering your very individualistic and free way of seeing things of life, is it not a bit strange you look at this matter with the glasses of “we all belongs to a long chain?”. Won’t it, in some ways, make the people question less the current order?
I like it because it asks an important question - if luck doesn't exist, should we be fatalistic and just accept things? Question the current order less? Here's my thoughts:
First I want to say – this has been a fantastic, high level discussion, so I really appreciate that we get to have this. Thank you for commenting, this is quite cool. My take:
> he is not responsible for his good or bad starting point
I’ve got a belief, a value, a way of living. Everything is my responsibility. I got mugged by a psycho criminal? I should’ve been trained in martial arts. Some idiot crashes their car into me? I should’ve been paying more attention and had faster reflexes. My bank suspends my only credit card in a foreign country? I should’ve had a backup card, enough cash, and notified them beforehand that I was traveling. It’s hailing outside? I should’ve moved somewhere warm if I didn’t want to deal with that.
This isn’t for abstract thinking reasons. This is because it makes me always take responsibility for what’s happening in my life, even if it’s not my fault per se. Everything is my responsibility. I was born without the opportunities that would’ve been nice? Well, suck it up and build those opportunities for myself and my children. Someone did. We evolved from being apes – we crawled out of jungles, forests, and caves with nothing. All civilization is the result of building the world. I can do that. You could do that. Anyone could do that. It just takes trying, really. I don’t think it’s even all that complicated.
> is just one in a multitude
I reject that stance. I’m not one in a multitude. I am. I will. No one can say I’m part of a multitude without me joining voluntarily – you can threaten me, and I might submit out of a mix of cowardice or pragmatism. But no moral authority can be asserted over me – not by a vote, not by the head of a religion, not by a dictator, not by the mandate of heaven. You’re not one in a multitude unless you want to be. You can become one in a multitude if you want – that’s your choice – but you can never ascribe someone else as part of a multitude without their choice. Threaten them for trying to break free? Yes, certainly, that’s common. It might work, even. But now we’re into questions of war and combat and violence – this is straying for the base philosophy. I am. I will. Individually. Not “We are”. I am. Not “We will”. I will.
> But considering your very individualistic and free way of seeing things of life, is it not a bit strange you look at this matter with the glasses of “we all belongs to a long chain?”
For all that that I just said, I am a believer in individualism, but I am also a believer in voluntary interdependence. I’ll absolutely join with others for a common purpose. If a man takes a post in law enforcement or a military by choice, he swears oaths and becomes part of the group – interdependent on his fellowmen. But the key is – it’s voluntary. I say that I see a bond with my ancestors and my future descendants, but this is by choice. If a man were to say, “I will have no descendants” – this may be a sad thing to me, but who am I to tell him this is a mistake? It is his choice. We choose who we become interdependent with. Voluntary interdependence is good. (Though, don’t mistake a 51% vote as voluntary – this is a common misconception)
> Won’t it, in some ways, make the people question less the current order?
Good question, this is a good question. I don’t like fatalism either. Actually, now that I realize it, I only answered half of your previous question: “is it not a bit strange you look at this matter with the glasses of “we all belongs to a long chain?”
The fact is, the chain exists, like it or not. That’s how you came to exist – a chain of cause and effect. Gravity exists. The weather exists. Like it or not, y’know? So saying, “I’m where I am as a direct result of cause and effect” isn’t giving myself over to fate or fatalism or anything, it’s just acknowledging reality as it unfolded behind us in the past.
Is that luck? Again, I think not. You make your own luck, more or less. To the extent it’s not true that you create your own life, it’s insignificant, trivial. Honestly, I believe that – if you’re taken to the grave early because the dice landed in a fluke way for you, there’s no tragedy there. You do what you can, some of us go before we want to.
Does this make sense? If you a flip a coin and it lands against you – were you unlucky? I don’t think so. I think that’s normal. I think that’s life.
This isn’t just a high level, theoretical, academic thing – I see this general sentiment in successful people. I am responsible for all of my life, there are no accidents, everything is cause and effect, I can improve my outcomes by taking the best actions possible, it’s no tragedy if I do all the best actions I can and things don’t work out as I hoped. And then – start with individualism. No one can take that from you. They can threaten you, beat you, whip you, chain you, insult you, mock you – but they can’t break you inside unless you let them. Once freed from other people’s would-be control, you are able to volunteer yourself to the causes you believe in and become interdependent with those – though I’d recommend respecting people who don’t want to join in. No luck! I really think this way. Most successful people I run this by do too. And most people who feel this way before they’re successful become successful too.
Thanks for the good discussion Alessandro, and thanks to everyone who chooses to spend some time with me. I feel a tremendous responsibility to deliver to you - I started this site just for myself and people who wanted to keep track of what I'm up to, but people are legitimately spending some of their lives here - I'm grateful and humbled by that. I'll aim to deliver.
Edit: Alessandro made another interesting reply in the comments here, worth checking out.
You've had a couple older posts about luck, and I find this quote to be a pretty good take on it, "Luck is probability taken personally". If you haven't heard that before I think you'll like it. Best of luck.
Sebastian, I agree with your central point here. I think that the word luck is used to inaccurately represent many situations that are better framed as just the natural course of nature. I am with you that I don't think it is productive to talk about luck when it comes to the circumstances of your birth, or a long-shot-but-ultimately-good investment paying off, or the fact that you got mugged last night. That is just the course of nature. Inventing a special force that removes your responsibility can only be destructive.
I was speaking with my friend Christian about this today. I was a bit distraught, because I hated to see a word with so much history become obsolete. So we endeavored to "save luck". And I believe we struck upon a definition that works and adds value to a strategic mans thoughts.
Luck is NOT when you are dealt a good hand of cards. Luck is when you play a hand of cards poorly, and win the hand anyways. There are some interesting implications here.
One of the more interesting differences between the two interpretations is that it actually flips the sign. Being dealt a good hand of cards is a good thing. Playing a poor hand of cards and still winning is a bad thing. You might win that hand, but you learn the wrong lesson. Strategically, this is a negative. This sign flip explains why strategic people notoriously hate luck. They should. By this definition, luck is a bad thing. Luck is the noise in your experimental data.
So, the strategic man will look at his successes and say, critically, was I lucky? He will actively strive to eliminate luck from his results. The strategic man will never take an action and hope that "luck" carries him.
Conversely, the strategic man has no problem with having bad luck. Bad luck is inevitable and a part of taking risk. Bad luck implies you act correctly, but because of the inherent risk, things don't work out for you. This way, I can say to you, Seb, I've been having a real string of bad luck. I haven't seen an Ace in three weeks. And statistically, that will happen. I'm not sure there's another word that I can use to communicate to you that, despite my best practices, things are just not panning out. Now, as my advisor, you might say, well, lets look at this bad luck and see if your failure is a legitimate failure. Maybe I'm playing with cheaters, in which case it wouldn't be bad luck. But the case of statistical anomaly still remains, and sucks to go through despite the knowledge that you are acting properly.
The trap here is that this all assumes you have correctly analyzed all the costs, benefits, and risks involved, which almost noone does. So they end up blaming luck, because they can't understand the true reason things work out the way they do.
So yes, take full responsibility for your actions. Analyse your behaviors, and choose the ones that lead to the best result. And hope you don't get lucky.
First of all, your starting point, the lenses through which you see the world:
"I’ve got a belief, a value, a way of living. Everything is my responsibility."
Then one of your example of no-bad-luck:
"I got mugged by a psycho criminal? I should’ve been trained in martial arts."
Ok so it's not bad luck, just you not prepared enough for a fight. That's fine. It's a point of view I can agree with.
But after that you say:
"I was born without the opportunities that would’ve been nice? Well, suck it up and build those opportunities for myself and my children"
Ok, you can build then. But: in this case, you can't say I should have done something. Instead you say I will do something.
That's the definition of luck and will. Luck is what you can't improve because you were not even born. Will is something you can use to shape the present and the future.
Then you said:
"If you a flip a coin and it lands against you – were you unlucky? I don’t think so. I think that’s normal. I think that’s life."
So the fact is: for you luck doesn't exist, in the sense that you can do your best: probably you will be influenced by your heritage, but that's not luck, that's life.
So you re-frame luck. Luck is not outside life, but is inside life. And if life hurts you more, this is not bad luck , it's the way Life is: the Nature of Life.
Well I'm not sure I can agree with you on this. I understand your point, but as life for humans is more than nature, in the sense that it is plasmed by social rules, strange beliefs, complicated historical construction (like countries, govern, states, companies, laws, etc) and economical structures (free market, comunism, capitalism, globalisation), I think that the variables have become so many and so different from one's life to the other and so much entrenched with previous generations, that one may need 3 lifetime just to start modifying the balance of the power accumulated, in some hands, for so long. And, in doing so, modifying the starting conditions of the new born.
That said, " I am responsible for all of my life, there are no accidents, everything is cause and effect, I can improve my outcomes by taking the best actions possible, it’s no tragedy if I do all the best actions I can and things don’t work out as I hoped". : I think is a quite effective way of pushing reality in you direction.
By the way, I think great people are great for a lot of reason, not just their will.
There's a lot of meat here...I think I've to read and think about it for a while before answering. By the way, great insight on how your mind work.
I think we are taking a walk on the philosophy/ethic side of the road. Where things are quite tough to manage and explain.
But I think there is openness here and will to compare and learn not just win. So, I will go on with the ride.
I hear people talk about luck a lot. Straightup - luck doesn't exist.
If you believe in luck, then you believe either: (1) some people consistently defy probability, or, (2) some things aren't a result of cause and effect.
Life is a series of probability. Every day, there's a chance that a given set of things will happen. If you want to have a successful life, expose yourself to as much high-upside low-downside probability as you can. Any given thing you do might not work out, but if you expose yourself to high-upside low-downside, good things will happen. Read books, reach out to people, try to get projects working, keep trying to write and build things, keep learning new skills, keep treating people well.
If you want to fail at life, expose yourself to high-downside no-upside probability. This is short term gain at long term expense type stuff. Cigarettes. Unsecured debt for consumption. Most TV.
You'll keep getting "lucky" if you keep exposing yourself to things with upside and limited downside. If you get an amazing job or contract that you had a 1 in 1,000 chance of getting, were you lucky? No, especially not if you applied and pitched 1,000 other places. If you say, "Ok, I'm going to keep trying to get what I want until I do" you'll get it, as long as it's a positive sum game you're playing.
Ok. I know I put this same picture up a couple days ago - but there's a reason. Someone STOLE my chain last night. I am incapable of taking another picture with the chain now. Here's how the caper went down :
A friend of mine was having a birthday party. Because it was important to me that his party be cool, I lugged over my huge subwoofer, a projector, my laptop, and all the cables and stuff. I also spent a good part of my day downloading music videos. I even skipped a nap to set it up. And it should be said that I hate doing any sort of manual labor, but I carried that subwoofer up the stairs to the party. Ok, so I didn't heal any sick children or anything, but the point is that I made a genuine effort to contribute to this party.
Incidentally, I also wore my chain, hat, and other interesting accoutrements. Of course, throughout the night, many people wanted to try on the chain. Why not? Everyone's got a little gangsta in them, and it's healthy to express that.