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.