You might think it strange to be writing about luck or privilege with all the news about the Coronavirus or COVID-19 in the airways this week. But as luck would have it, I was offered a free book on the topic that had me asking myself, “Is it luck if you don’t catch an illness?” Likewise, are you unlucky if you do? Does love, wealth and happiness depend on luck? And if luck is indeed involved, is there anything we can do to increase it for ourselves? After finishing the book and listening to a couple of podcasts on the topic, I’ve come to the conclusion that yes, what we typically call luck is involved, but so is privilege. And perhaps best of all, there are steps we can take to increase our luck no matter where we find ourselves on the privilege-scale today.
I have a confession; I have always considered myself to be lucky. Not only have I consistently won a number of things in my lifetime in random contests—like a television, money, an event to see Oprah in person—I also consider my life incredibly fortunate. Yet if I look more closely, much of my luck can be defined as a privilege not offered to everyone else. I was born healthy, white, in the U.S. in the mid-50s, to Protestant, middle-class working parents who remained married for their entire lives. Those facts alone put me in a demographic with privilege that is easily taken for granted. While I certainly wasn’t on the top rung of the ladder, my life started and progressed normally without trauma or major set-back. Accept it or not, compared to many, my life is privileged.
On the other hand, because I wasn’t born to educated, advantaged or wealthy parents, I’ve pretty much had to work for practically everything I’ve accomplished. Thom too. Neither of us came from great privilege, but we acknowledge that the majority of events in our life have been incredibly lucky. And that brings me back to luck and what we can do to increase our chances that it stays active and prevalent in our lives.
The book I read is titled, Conscious Luck—Eight Secrets to Intentionally Change Your Fortune by Gay Hendricks and Carol Kline. As a longtime fan of the positive and practical work of Gay Henricks and his wife Katie, I was curious about his latest project. Yet, while I didn’t find his eight secrets to be particularly “secret,” they were great reminders of what I typically write about here on SMART Living 365. What he and his co-author do effectively point out is that we can strongly influence the “luck factor” in our lives with the right intention and practice—and that’s what they call “conscious luck.
Hendricks starts with the obvious: Commit To Be A VLP—Very Lucky Person. In other words, if you think you are lucky, that does help you in more ways that you can know. On the flipside, you hinder yourself with the belief that you are unlucky. Not only do you “get to make it up” when it comes to luck, you also get to decide if that applies to everything in your life or not—meaning it can affect one area, like love—and not another area, like health. Ultimately, we are the authors of the story of our life, so we can decide if we tell one that is lucky, or not.
The next “secret” is If you aren’t feeling as lucky as you want, you have likely created a barrier somewhere in your mental programming that keeps you from realizing it. Most of these barriers have roots in an unexamined belief systems or habits we consistently hold on to that limit us. Recognizing them and working to change them is the key.
Thirdly, it is important to recognize and let go of any shame that we harbor in our bodies or psyche that keeps us from realizing we deserve to be lucky. Like with all the secrets, the authors offer advice on ways they believe are helpful to learn to accept and rework those beliefs.
This secret is the suggestion that in order to experience luck we need “luck-worthy goals.” While the authors avoid judging what anyone might deem “worthy” of luck, they do make three suggestions:
- Pick goals that are deeply meaningful to you.
- Make sure they are something you love doing and “light you up.”
- Ensure they are beneficial to both you and other people at the same time.
Next the authors suggest that we boldly pursue action in the direction of our goals. Not only do they recommend we get out of our comfort-zone on a regular basis, they urge us to also make a habit of giving and being generous with everyone we meet. In addition, they advocate that we constantly be on the lookout for possibilities and then say “Yes!” to those possibilities when they show up. The more open and creative we are, the more luck will “find” us and the more opportunities we will encounter.
Find your lucky tribe. Yes, let’s never forget that the people we regularly hang out with can affect every part of our lives—including our luck.
Want to be luckier? The authors believe it is important to listen to your internal GPS. In other words listen to your inner voice, your gut, your intuition or whatever it is that helps you make lucky decisions.
Practice gratitude for everything in your life. Actually the authors believe this to be the most important secret and say that, “feeling lucky and feeling grateful are closely related.” And not surprisingly, they also add, “feeling lucky is more important than being lucky.” If that is true, and I personally agree it is, then it’s critical to remember that how we feel is mostly in our control—no matter what we are going through at any time in our lives.
Obviously there is a great deal more in the book than just the secrets—including suggestions, stories and support for each of them. They also finish up by reminding everyone that being lucky doesn’t mean that we won’t face tough challenges or that we can just “positive-think” every experience that comes along. However, according to the authors it is possible for all of us to create a pattern of conscious luck with intention and practice. And that alone will make a difference in how we feel about the experience.
But what about privilege? How much of the secrets apply to everyone around the world—especially those that might be disadvantaged from the very beginning of their lives? While the authors ignore the fact that a good portion of the world today starts life on a lower rung of the luck-ladder, I can’t help but recognize that is true. All the things that I mentioned earlier obviously started me out from an easier position than many of my sisters and brothers around the world.
So what does the coronavirus have to do with luck? In spite of the fact that a number of exceedingly large public events have been cancelled where I live (The BNP Paribas Tennis Tournament and The Coachella Music Festival) I believe that I am largely insulated from it. I’m healthy to begin with, I work at home, I have plenty of toilet paper and it’s easy for me to take recommended precautions. However, I am also aware that some people have children in school, must go to a job to pay their bills (regardless of whether they get sick or not), and have crappy health insurance. When we talk about my luck, and their luck, it’s not difficult to see the difference.
Does this mean that a person is “lucky” if they don’t get sick—and unlucky if they do? Maybe yes, maybe no. Obviously there are a number of things each of us can do to avoid contamination and improve our chances. And that is how luck works. Plus, holding an optimistic attitude while taking those precautions will surely make the entire experience more pleasant (rather than living with constant fear or worry). But clearly, it’s easier to stay a VLP (Very Lucky Person) if we recognize the privileges that many of us often take for granted.
I also think it is important to remember that even if we ourselves are lucky (or privileged) we are not in this alone. If the Coronavirus Pandemic is teaching us anything, it shows how everyone in the world is connected. None of us creates our luck or (or unluckiness) entirely alone. We need and largely depend on each other. And if others are suffering around us and we do nothing, then I’m not certain we can call that luck at all. Surely, “conscious luck” includes recognizing our connections to others?
Of course, as life will have it, no matter how lucky or privileged some of us are there will still be those among us who come down with some version of this illness or some other life-threatening experience. Even when we don’t want to admit it, we can’t control every circumstance. However, I firmly believe we always, always have the ability to control our perspective, our response and our actions from this point forward. So while I sincerely hope we all remain in good health along with an abundance of peace of mind, let us consider that it would also be SMART to become more consciously lucky whenever we can.
Hi Kathy, Wow, an event to see Oprah in person? You are lucky! I also believe the eight secrets have been part of the philosophy on how you live your life. I agree with your saying “we are the authors of the story of our life.” The word “action” is also a common denominator for “lucky” people.
It is interesting to read the other comments and perspectives. I usually align to the phrase you quoted from Oprah “luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” I also believe this virus is throwing many curve balls at us, and we are only at the beginning of this pandemic. An interesting and thought-provoking post, as always. You and Thom stay healthy and we will stay connected.
Patricia Doyle says
As I read this I thought about serendipity and synchronicity. Are those “luck”? Or is it being aware of your intentions/goal and being open to seeing the signs? I would never have called myself lucky.. I don’t think I’ve ever won anything! However, I would never have said I am unlucky, either. Privileged, yes. Worked hard, yes. Made smart choices in life, yes. Look at things with a positive attitude, yes. Have intentional goals, yes. Hanging with positive people, yes. Practicing gratitude, yes. Hmm… maybe I’m just living like a lucky person without the VLP designation!
Dr Sock says
The concept of luck is tricky. People can mean quite different things when they talk about luck or being lucky. Growing up, I had some relatives who were quite superstitious. They would become genuinely distressed by certain unlucky actions or symbols (having a black cat cross your path; opening an umbrella in the house), and believed in lucky objects ( a lucky rabbit’s foot) or unlucky objects (a scowling mask) or numbers (13).
So because of this, I am quite suspicious of attempts to make oneself become “lucky.” Having a background in sciences, I know that many things occur by random chance, and that chance outcomes have nothing to do with luck, or with personal traits, or with superstitious attempts to control random chance.
That said, I am grateful every day for my good life and for having had many opportunities.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Jude! Thanks for introducing the idea that “luck” is difficult to define and that it’s likely we all have differing thoughts about it. I didn’t mean it in the “superstitious” way but I’m guessing (as you mention) that some people do. And I can see where that would make you suspicious of anything that hints at the idea. But like Mona mentioned in her comment, I think many of us think of it as Oprah suggests, “luck is when preparation meets opportunity..” But as for science fully endorsing that things appear to only happen by random chance, I think the interesting research done by “Random Event Generators” prove that our intentions can influence events to a degree. That is the point I believe that the authors of this book were making and I tend to agree with that. Have you ever looked into that? Fascinating. http://noosphere.princeton.edu/ ~Kathy
Mona McGinnis says
Oprah has said that luck is when preparation meets opportunity. I like that definition. Like Liesbet, lucky has been used to describe my retirement situation. Luck or good management? Like Wayne Gretzky has been quoted as saying – you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. I don’t see the effort and years invested in study and work that contributed to my retirement situation as particularly “lucky” only in the context of some innate ability and work opportunities. A neighbor recently won a $5M lottery. Now that’s lucky. I think being born into privilege is lucky.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Mona! Yes, I’ve heard that definition from Oprah before and also agree. And I also agree that luck seems to be a combination of good management and good fortune. Plus, I think most of us tend to think of luck in terms of something extraordinary rather than something that flows out of our choices and decisions. But even with that, I don’t think we can discount the fact that our “starting place” is often more advantageous than others. Of course I don’t think we need to feel guilty about that–but I do feel that we might want to remember it, especially if something comes along to challenge our luck. Agree? ~Kathy
Nancy Dobbins says
I definitely come from a background of privilege. But, to my parents’ credit, they made sure we worked hard and didn’t indulge us, so it is that work ethic I took into adulthood and it has served me well.
I do think we “make our own luck” a great deal of the time and I do consider myself fortunate – not only for my upbringing but also for the opportunities I have created through hard work and thoughtful decisions.
However, life can throw you curves. No matter how I try, I cannot put a positive spin on COVID 19 potentially cancelling my son’s wedding. As it’s only in a few weeks I cannot see how we possibly pull it off. Nothing this young couple did or didn’t do created the situation they are faced with.
I’m trying hard to control my attitude towards this situation…
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Nancy! Oh so sorry about the delay of your son’s wedding. I agree that no matter how proactive we are with circumstances, changes can and do happen all the time. I’m certainly not crazy about adjusting my hard-earned plans but I think it is getting a bit easier as I age because it is that paradox of living–some things we can control, and other things we have to flow with. I’m thinking the virus is one of those. We made plans over 6 months ago to go to Spain/Portugal in May and we honestly have no idea whether we will be going or not. No point in making myself crazy with worry OR with frustration–especially when I remember so many other people have it FAR worse than I do. I REALLY think it helps me at least, to focus on how fortunate I am in spite of the circumstance and how difficult this is making life for so many other people. Hence, this blog post. I hope you find the peace that you need to flow with the experience. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this! ~Kathy
It looks like practicing “conscious luck” and being a positive thinker are pretty much the same. And, I agree with you that those “secrets” aren’t really secrets.
I’ve always had a problem with the word “lucky” being liberally used by people, especially when referring to me. So, I have given this topic a lot of thought in the past. Yes, we are fortunate with where we were born and how we grew up. Most of the rest on our life’s path has to do with choices.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Liesbet! I agree that on the surface there appears to be many similarities between positive thinking and conscious luck. But having read several books by Hendricks I believe his approach is more of a change of consciousness (mind) not just “trying to tell yourself something positive” and all will be well. It’s a mindset…not just a hoped for possibility. And while I agree with you that most of our futures are determined by our choices, I think those of us who are more “privileged” have far more choices than some others. That doesn’t mean they are without hope, but only that their choices are often limited and they have more to overcome before they reach the same level as the rest of them. To me it is just a good reminder to be grateful what I do have and to offer my help to others, if and when I can. Thanks as always for your thoughts on this. ~Kathy
Janis @ retirementallychallenged says
We grew up with very similar privileges, something I’m very grateful for. I also consider myself pretty lucky. Although I’ve worked hard for my successes, I also acknowledge that my privilege and good luck played a very large part. Just this morning, I said to my husband that we were lucky and privileged with regards to this virus: even though we are in the “older” category, we are both pretty healthy AND since we are retired, we can stay close to home and minimize our exposure.
I think this current health threat will expose the huge gap between the haves and have nots (lucky/unlucky, high privileged/low privileged) in this country. We will show our humanity in how we address it.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Janis! I agree, you and your husband, like us, are fortunate for sure. I also agree that this health threat is already revealing that HUGE gap between the haves and have nots. Wouldn’t it be awesome if this leads to something good and positive for ALL people. As you say, it will show our humanity in how we address it. ~Kathy
The Widow Badass says
Great post, Kathy!
I feel I have always felt lucky and I think that is because of practicing gratitude. Even when something bad happens, I can look back and think how lucky I was that this thing happened because look at what it taught me.
I wish I could say it’s a special skill that I cultivated, but it is the way I was made. I really feel for people whose natural inclination is to see the cup as half empty. I wish I could help them. But mostly I think I just annoy them when I try to point out the bright side. Hah!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Deb! I agree. Before I even started the book I figured that gratitude HAD to be a part of it. After all, how can we feel fortunate and/or lucky unless we stop and recognize how we have been blessed? And yes, it sounds like you and me both, annoy the hell out of some people with our optimism. But I’m guessing we wouldn’t have it any other way would we?? ~Kathy
The Widow Badass says
Gary F. Lange says
“I firmly believe we always, always have the ability to control our perspective, our response and our attitude” and feelings as you write. Gratitude and attitude are crucial.
Hopefully, “luck” title will attract some that wouldn’t otherwise pick up this book and so that is good. I work with problem gamblers, so I never would encourage looking for “lucky outcomes”. Be well!
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Gary! Oops! For those who have a gambling addiction I’m sure the idea of “lucky” or unlucky isn’t the best way to frame it. But like it or not, those words and the ideas behind them are pretty prevalent in our world. And thank you for your excellent, but brief synopsis when you said, “gratitude and attitude are crucial.” Stay fortunate! ~Kathy
Nancy Coiner says
Privilege seems to me one form of good luck, though all good luck (including privilege) can be squandered. (Think about all those lottery winners who have a great year or two and then go broke!) I feel both privileged — in the same ways you were — and lucky. Most days I feel grateful for both the privilege and the luck. Some days I even try to extend the luck and privilege to other people.
But this week I’m mourning the loss of a big, fun trip to England and my fun spring classes. I feel sad and frustrated. So what are lucky, privileged people supposed to do when we feel those things? Perhaps it’s a “the less said the better” situation, but….
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Nancy! I sympathize with your having to cancel your trip for sure. We have one starting in Mid-May and while we haven’t cancelled, we are aware that it might be necessary. I don’t think any of us can accurately predict how this thing is going to go. That’s why I keep reminding myself that I do have it far, far better than a huge number of people who will be affected in far worse ways. The good news? We can reschedule our trips–not everyone will have the opportunity to “reschedule” the fallout of what might happen. I listened to a podcast today that reminded me that one of the best ways to take my mind off disappointment OR panic is to reach out and help others. After all, we are all in this together. ~Kathy
Donna Connolly says
Hi, Kathy – These are such great tips and reminders. Each time I read one, I thought “that’s my favourite one”. I do love the focus on positive self-belief, generosity and gratitude. Sounds like a winning combination to me. Thank you for sharing this with us.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Donna! Like I said in the post I thought it a bit strange to write about “luck” to begin with this week but nothing stuck out in my mind. It definitely helped me to remember that there are things we can do and things that we must accept. But regardless of which, we can always do our best to be generous and kind to ourselves and others. I’m not at all surprised you liked that focus cuz I tend to think you are like that yourself! ~Kathy
Kathy, I think ‘lucky’ is putting yourself in a bad situation and coming out unscathed, while ‘unlucky’ is doing everything right and getting slammed anyway. A friend of ours just got off a cruise ship in Miami and will be sight-seeing up the West coast of Florida for about a week. He has asked us to join him for a couple of days. Part of my brain is saying ‘don’t take unnecessary chances,’ while the other side is saying, ‘go for it.’
I have always believed that success in life has a lot to do with information and choices. Having access to information has much to do with privilege, but applying it is entirely choice. Not all who are privileged are successful and vice-versa. Is it luck that we had a teacher who believed in us, or a mentor who guided with wisdom? Is it luck that we found a person to share life with who mirrors our character and values?
Today I have to make a decision about visiting an old friend. As Dirty Harry so eloquently stated, ” I know what you are thinking, did he fire six shots or only five…. so what’s it gonna be? Do you feel lucky, punk?
Thank you for another very thoughtful, informative post.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Susanne. I think it is difficult these days to make certain decisions because there is a great deal of misinformation. But I tend to lean toward scientists and the CDC for what they report. While I’m a diehard optimistic I am still staying cautious and doing whatever I can to limit my exposure until more is know. And I COMPLETELY agree that having the right information and choices is a big dividing line between lucky and unlucky right now. Thanks especially for that Dirty Harry quote, too. Keeping a sense of humor is ALWAYS a good thing. ~Kathy