Good comment/question by Jeff on "Luck Doesn't Exist" -
I’ve thought about this a good bit as well, and I think you and I have quite a few similar thoughts on this topic (and others based on your reply above about “Everything is my responsibility”).
I’m not sure I want to enter the fray here, because as you and others have tracked down, there are semantic blurs regarding “Luck”. One has to distinguish between the Magical Thinking version of luck and the other. I’d wager that those siding with the Magical Thinking version don’t really have a clear understanding of the factual world of mathematical probability.
More semantic blurring is evident when one considers the common casual usage of “lucky” without literally believing in the Magical Thinking definition. It is often used (you could argue incorrectly) as a simple expression of appreciation for one’s situation.
Returning to the responsibility/accountability thing for a minute — be careful It’s easy to start thinking one is in complete control. How were you supposed to be prepared for the drunk woman who drove her car into your bedroom at 3AM and severed your arm with her bumper?
Something to consider: Contrast “lucky” with the word “fortunate”. Do you feel the same toward “fortunate”?
I agree on the probability and semantics points - well said.
To answer the other two questions, there are definitely forces outside your control. I think maximize everything within your control, and then things will happen. At that point, though, there's no real tragedy if things go wrong. If you've done everything you possibly can to maximize your chances of doing what you want with your life, it's no tragedy if freak circumstances conspire against you. So I'll answer - yes, there are forces outside of your control. But practically speaking, they don't really matter. Almost everyone is neglecting something they could be doing better to refine their situation, and that's what should be focused on. What's outside of your control is outside of your control.
Fortunate suffers the same problem as luck - the word actually descends from the Roman goddess Fortuna -http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fortuna - the goddess of luck.
What other word is there? "Blessed" is one I use sometimes, but again suggests an outside force and isn't so good. Fortunate isn't so good, nor lucky. I think maybe the best way of talking about is highlighting that you, individually, feel grateful for the people that came before you. So I'll say, "I'm grateful my ancestors worked their ass off to get the world to where it is now, and the past scientists and mathematicians and builders and inventors and traders and explorers all did what they did."
That shows that our material circumstances descend directly from the hard work of humans that came before us. It's appropriate to be grateful for that. But again, I do reject luck as a meaningful concept. Unfortunately, there's no great word in English for "gratitude and acknowledgement of things that came before us" - lucky/fortunate/blessed is as close as you can get, and none of those are quite right. Yes, things are outside of our control sometimes. It's appropriate to be grateful to the people who came before us and built the world. But that doesn't mean we're lucky - it's all cause and effect, and probability.
That's basically what I ended up with as well, Sebastien : "I am grateful... etc". I wish I could remember and share the specifics of the context from when I was thinking about this a few months ago.
(thinking more about all of this)
I'm inclined to believe (based on the people I have known in life) that people use "lucky" or "fortunate" harmlessly only because it fits what they want to casually express and not because they truly believe in an ethereal positive nudge that was granted to them in a situation. Most definitely there are some who do believe in good/bad luck (Magical Thinking, as a friend of mine aptly titles it), but I think they're the minority your thought correction message applies most to.
When emotion is attached to the result of probability (when living creatures are involved most likely), we need some way to express that the result was in our favor because there is a good outcome and less good outcome. Not "in our favor" by some mystical means (which would be "chance favored me!"), just in our favor -- we benefited from the result.
If you lay down 3 perfect sets of cards totally 21 in blackjack, in 3 dealt hands, there has to be a common way to express that as it relates to the positive outcome affecting the player, no? What does one say in a situation like that?
Enjoying the mind exercise,
Jeff (who ended up here from your article + link in Hacker Monthly, BTW. LUCKY YOU! Haha)
I love this digging around with word definitions: trying to understand how each person will understand and internalize the same word or phrase is always a growing experience.
If you don't mind me chiming in with this, I believe in luck... and yet I full-heartedly agree with all of the conclusions that you draw in your original "Luck Doesn’t Exist" article. I would normally just dismiss this as a difference in definitions, but I think you are trying to go somewhere different with "luck doesn't exist", and I am not entirely sure if I agree.
Specifically what I disagree with is the notion that if luck doesn't exist, then we collectively will have near total control. This is dangerous specifically because it does not permit one the freedom to disengage or let go when necessary. Words like "lucky", "fortunate", or "blessed" exist in our vocabulary because they allow us to stop rationalizing and move on. Personally, I like "divine" for these situations.
In my vocabulary "divinity" is literally everything that I don't know or understand; daily life for me then is somewhat of a fight against "the gods", which helps bring some romanticism to an otherwise mundane existence. My favorite analogy of this is that divinity is the ground that I walk upon. I believe that there is something beneath the dirt that I will shift my weight to with my next step; I could be wrong. If there is some structural deficiency with the path that I choose, then I could fall to my death in a trapping pit or get stuck in quicksand.
In this situation I have two options: I can either dig up the ground and check that it is safe to walk on, which would then raise the question of what is beneath the next layer... or I can just take the risk and walk on. I unknowingly take risks everyday, some of which are more significant than others that I have already taken much concern to avoid. I make mistakes everyday, some of which a success would have led to amazing opportunities. I live with failure; I accept failure; I seek only the occasional success. There is a bit of logic again in choosing betting strategies, but also luck, always luck: "god does not play dice, but I do."
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.
This post is part of my attempt to be better.
WAIT! This post is not going to be what you think it is. My attempt at daily meditation is inspired by what James Altucher once wrote about keeping the different parts of your existence in balance. Altucher writes about the balance of physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional selves in the broadest terms. His suggestion was to to spend time each day expressing what things you were grateful for. Well, that's fine and dandy for him, with all his spare time, living his life. But I was really wrong and after realizing that I gave it a chance.
And it works. It really does work. I spend a few minutes - usually at night while in bed - reflecting on how fortunate my existence is. In terms of the world, I am a member of the one percent and if you are reading this you are too and that makes me damn lucky.
This week the first winter storm rolled through the great lakes region and while it was cold and the wind was bold it wasn't a debilitating storm like we sometimes get. I only had to spend a brief time outside but it made me think that 40 years ago things were a lot different. Houses didn't have insulation like they do now. Generators weren't there as a safety mechanism. Furnaces were a lot less efficient.
I also have a car that runs well, a safe school for my kids, a wife I love. I have a computer and internet access which brings an immeasurable amount of joy to my daily life.