Things I want to punch in the face: Luck

December 14, 2011 · 58 comments

Look, I hate black licorice, hipsters, and smelly people, but nothing, I MEAN NOTHING, gets under my skin more than someone calling me lucky. I hate, hate, hate it. For realsies!

Here are the types of things people say that really irk me…

Person #1: “Oh you are so lucky you can make money blogging.”

If you type “Luck” in to Google this is what you get: “Success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.” Do you see now why I hate when people call me lucky? It’s like they are writing off the fact that I have written five articles a week, every week, for 2.5 years. I work my butt off to try to make this blog not suck. Yes, I make money on the side, but only because I am constantly networking with other bloggers, advertisers, and learning about ways to make money blogging. Trust me, if someone was like “Hey Ninja, we don’t know anything about you, but we would like to give you $10,000 for no reason.” Then I would have no problem calling myself lucky. Unfortunately that hasn’t happened yet.

Person #2: “You are so lucky you got a good job out of college.”

I am lucky that I graduated college prior to the economy going down the toilet, no denying that. But do you want to know the real reason I got a great job out college? It’s really quite simple. I applied for a great job. If you don’t apply for your dream job, you have a 100% chance of not getting it. If you are only applying to jobs you actually want, it only takes one offer to change your life! I didn’t have connections. No one handed me my job.

Person #3: “You’re lucky you’re married”

Lucky to be married? No. Blessed? Definitely! You see, I’m old school. I didn’t date Girl Ninja, I courted her. From the minute I started having feelings for her, I did everything I could to win her heart. It took me six months to convince her to date me. Another eighteen to convince her to love me. And four years to convince her to marry me. My marriage definitely isn’t about luck. It’s about authentic, intentional love.

Calling someone lucky, that actually isn’t, is like telling that same person “You don’t deserve the happiness you have, because you haven’t earned it.”

Before you all accuse me of being ungrateful or arrogant, let me clarify something. I’m not saying that everyone who works hard will be successful, but simply that most successful people are typically hard workers. Does that make sense? I know that I’m blessed to have the things I have and I don’t take them for granted, but I refuse to attribute my success to random chance. You say I’m lucky, I say you are insulting me.

Am I the only person that hates being called lucky? What is a better choice of word? Fortunate? Blessed?

p.s. No denying certain aspects of my life were lucky (like being raised by financially stable parents or being born in the US). I’m not stupid. I know those things were completely out of my control.

 

{ 58 comments }

1 nebuchudnessar

I know what you mean, it isn’t luck, unless you fall into things. i.e. you are lucky you win the lottery or you didn’t get hit by a bus

2 Kristin

I like the saying, “You make your own luck.” All the examples you gave, Ninja, were you recognizing an opportunity, making a conscious decision to act upon it, and realizing gains from that action. Everyone’s circumstances and life path are different, of course, but it is what we freely choose to do with what we are given that mark our successes or failures, and most importantly, how we judge ourselves and our happiness by them. But one has to be open to whatever opportunities that might cross your path if one is to take advantage of them. I concede that you might be lucky to have found someone that you were such a good match with by this point in your life; that certainly doesn’t happen to everyone. But it’s not luck that created your relationship – that was conscious decision, and I’m sure, hard work.

3 Melissa

I totally agree! I’ve had this conversation a few times recently, and while I don’t necessarily believe that hard work equals a specific kind of success (but varying definitions of success), most things are definitely based on effort, or lack thereof, not luck.

I recently left my job to pursue other things. While I was kind of psyching myself up to do it, people would tell me,”But you’re so lucky to have a job at all!” But…I’m good at my job. How is that luck? Maybe (and I stress, maybe) it was luck to get it in the first place, as a four-week contract (it did just kind of fall into my lap; I didn’t apply), but it’s certainly hard work that led to be keeping the job for two years, before I left of my own accord. After I left, I knew I wanted to take some time off to regroup before I went back into the working world as a freelancer. I still haven’t actively sought out any work (beyond just letting friends know that I was leaving) and I’ve already got four different companies offering me contract, freelance work. You could call this luck, too, since it just fell in my lap. Though I’d call it having spent years making friends, working hard and developing a reputation as someone good at her job and nice to work with, so when people heard I was available, they immediately thought to bring me on board.

There are a few people who graduated from school the same year that I did (which, granted, was during the recession) who still don’t have jobs in our field, but, to be honest, it’s because they’re not very good, or not that hard working. It just is. I’ve been fortunate, for sure, but when people talk about how “lucky” I am, it’s like they’re saying all my hard work just doesn’t matter.

4 Tasmanian Minimalist

I love this post. I love it for it’s sentiment and I also love the pictures too. I hear you with the whole lucky shindig- same here, people say ” ooh you always fall on your feet ” but really the truth is, I get up off my bum and go seeking that which I want to attract ! You keep on keeping on, you are doing an amazing job !

5 Bexxx

Fortunate is just a fancy way of saying “lucky” and blessed is just a Christian version.

According to your logic, you’re not lucky if you win the lottery – you played and if you never play, then you can never win. So many people apply for those government jobs and so many psych majors don’t even get call backs that you are lucky because you’ve beat the odds.

Additionally, you were lucky to find someone to whom you connected and wanted to court and who was able to reciprocate that love. I think we all know people who courted girls only to have their hearts shattered, despite their hard work and persistence.

There’s little bits of luck or “blessings” every where and they contribute to our everyday success. If you accept this, then you have one less thing to become unreasonably annoyed by.

6 C

Thank you for this!

7 Travis

Very well said, Bexxx!

8 Dave

A lot of times people attribute something to luck when it’s really preparation meeting opportunity.

9 Jason Cabler (@DrCabler)

It usually takes many years and much effort to become an overnight success. When people say you’re lucky because you make money from your blog, its because they have no understanding of what it takes to be successful.

Yes, the things that are out of your control can be attributed to “luck”, or the blessings of God, but those you do have influence over are due to hard work and intention,

10 Emily Hunter

The more I read your posts, the more I just have to smile about them. I’ve been angry about the whole ‘luck’ thing for quite a while now – for the same reasons that you’re talking about it. I look at those who are really really rich (like millions and millions) and see how people feel that they’re *entitled* to the rich people’s money because they were ‘lucky’ and didn’t deserve it. Hard, bust your ass work is what gets anyone anywhere – thank you.

11 Mel

I couldn’t agree more. I get angry when people tell me I’m lucky, when I’ve created opportunities for myself, or worked hard to earn something.

Example A: you’re so lucky to have gotten a scholarship to University so you don’t have student debt. WRONG! I practiced or played softball every day, PLUS conditioning every day to earn every dollar of that scholarship. I gave up weekends with friends to work hard to earn that scholarship, and while I was in university I put in more than 60 hours a week to keep up my end of the deal. So is it absolutely amazing to never have had any student debt – Yep! But is it luck – no way!

12 Livworld

Mel, I agree with you on that one.

There are situations were people are lucky. For example, finding a great deal online or at the store!

However, there are other situations were luck is not involved, but pure hard work and sweat.

13 Daisy

I’ve actually blogged about this before. It drives me crazy. People call me lucky because I don’t have student loans. Lucky? Really? Having to work full time while in school is lucky? The people that do this have student loans because they don’t work! Or they do, and don’t spend their money on tuition. Drives me crazy.

14 Amy

I used to get called “lucky” because I traveled to Europe once a year. Yeah, right. They had Brighton shoes and purses…I bought purses from the thrift store. They had big houses and new cars; I bought an 800 sq. foot condo and kept my 1995 car for over 10 years. They went out to lunch every day, I brought mine. You get the picture. Every single thing I did, I did for a reason – to go to Europe every year! So, no, I’m not lucky – I planned it. But it was easier for them to believe it was luck rather than choices.

15 Larry

Methinks the gentleman (as well as those who wholeheartedly agree with him) doth protest too much. The favorite myth in America is that “anyone” can achieve their “dream” if they simply “work hard enough.” The reality is that upward mobility in this country has been decreasing over the past decades, and that we are now a less mobile society than several European countries.*

I have no doubt that my good friend (and I hope he realizes I mean that sincerely) Ninja has achieved much due to hard work and resourcefulness. But Bexxx above supplies the most thoughtful rejoinder, and as Ninja can’t help conceding in his PS, he was born in the US to successful parents. Let’s not forget as well that he is white, tall, male, slim, good-looking — all attributes that, like it or not, contribute to success in this society. If you don’t believe me, try being any combination of black, female, short, dumpy, plain, and/or fat, and see how far you go. Now Ninja may think I’m “insulting” him, which of course I’m not. I’m only pointing out some circumstances that generally hold true.

Emily Hunter tells us: “Hard, bust your ass work is what gets anyone anywhere – thank you.” But for every Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates who has made a major fortune, there are tens of thousands whose hard work has gotten them little or nothing. If you think “hard work” is all it takes to succeed in this country, let me remind you of the pampered and well-born Winkelvoss twins, who sued Mark Zuckerberg on the grounds that he had “stolen” their idea for Facebook. The suit was obviously frivolous, but Zuckerberg paid the Winkelvii $65 million as a nuisance settlement. Lot of “hard work” there.
——————-
*http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-downward-path-of-upward-mobility/2011/11/09/gIQAegpS6M_story.html
http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jan/02/opinion/la-oe-mcmanus-twous-20110102
http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2009/01/16/the-end-of-upward-mobility.html

16 Larry

For some reason, my above lengthy comment is “waiting moderation,” but let me add to the above list – “white, tall, etc.” and also include Christian, most likely Protestant. I think we all know how lucky/fortunate/blessed it is to be Muslim in the good ol’ US of A. As for being Indian (Asian), just let me recount an anecdote, about a time I was asked to review resumes for a programming position. My boss (in all other respects a really good guy) glanced over the pile of resumes, saw an Indian name, and told me quietly “None of that.” Do you think it mattered how hard this person had worked in school or his previous jobs?

17 Ninja

I see your points, but if the definition of luck is “Success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.” I still think it’s lame that people say I’m lucky I got my job. It totally discounts my solid GPA, decent resume, and pretty good interview skills. Not saying that some luck probably wasn’t involved in the process, but to say that my success was the product of chance bothers me.

I also totally agree not every one that works hard will get what they want. I don’t live in a fantasy world and I know that when I got my job offer that meant other (likely qualified) candidates didn’t. Remember, I did say “I’m not saying that everyone who works hard will be successful, but simply that most successful people are typically hard workers.”

Please note the word “typically” as I realize the Winkelvoss twins are an exception to a general rule.

18 Larry

Probably people who are unsuccessful in life tend to blame bad luck rather than their personal shortcomings, while people who are successful tend to credit their personal qualities and discount any good luck. Most likely there’s some combination of the two in each case.

19 Em

Agree with Larry here. It is a combination of luck and making the most of that luck through hard work is what leads to success. It is unlikely that just luck or just hard work leads to success.

I understand that you get annoyed when people attribute your success completely to luck, thereby discounting your hard work. And it’s probably mainly whiney people who like to tell you that, so those people are already pretty annoying anyway ;). But then it can also get grating when you attribute blogging, career, and marriage success to only hard work, thereby discounting luck. You say so yourself that you are lucky in many ways such as being born in the US, etc…I can add a few to that list: being healthy enough to work and blog and maintain a relationship (many sick people do not have the energy to do all three), not being ugly or disfigured (fat people can lose weight, but i don’t know how ugly people can become better looking), being lucky enough to even meet NinjaGirl, etc. All those things are not separate from your successes, but directly improve your chances of success.

Sure, when you compare yourself to those lazier people who have had the same opportunities as you but are just not as successful, then yeah it’s annoying when they tell you it’s all due to luck. But when you compare yourself to others outside your social circle – the vets battling PTSD, the disabled and severely chronically ill, the full-time caregivers, the widows and widowers, the foster children, etc. you may realize just how many lucky breaks you got and how greatly they influence your success and happiness.

Maybe next time someone tells you that you’re lucky, instead of feeling annoyed, you can feel satisfied knowing that they’re just envious ;)

20 Ninja

I can agree with that. Probably a hybrid between the two.

21 Em

Another thing to add is that maybe your definition of luck is something discrete that happens entirely by chance such as winning the lottery, or sitting next to Jay-Z on a plane and he offers you a 7 figure job just because he thought you were charming, or discovering buried treasure in your backyard, etc. But let’s not forget that luck also works in less easily identifiable ways that are just so entertwined in your life that you don’t even think about, like the examples I had given.

22 Em

P.P.S Just read the proposal post you linked too. Your description of how love and marriage should be is perfect!!!!

23 Kevin @ Thousandaire.com

You’re so lucky you get so many comments every day on your blog. I wish I were as lucky as you…

24 Larry

You might try adding some music videos.

25 Lutus

I’d start with this one…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4foOe9kUgY

26 Me

I tend to agree with Ninja. When I had babies who slept through the night at 2 months old, went down for naps without fussing, were happy and a joy to be around, people called me lucky. Not so. It was diligent consistency, giving up outings so my babies could go down to sleep in their cribs rather than in a stroller on the go. My kids were extremely well rested, and it showed in their happy moods. And before anyone says “you don’t know what it’s like to have a spirited child”, let me just say that my middle child challenges my parenting skills every day with her feisty spirit. She makes me a better parent because I need to be creative and consistent and always thinking things through. Today she’s a great kid, still very spirited, but applies good morals and values to most situations. I wasn’t just lucky to have 3 well behaved children… It was hard work, and I take offense when people say I’m just lucky to have great kids! So Ninja, I do understand where you are coming from.

27 SP

I agree in general, but it doesn’t bother me at all.

Most people do the best they can with the opportunities and knowledge (and personality!) they have. For all the hard work I have put into my life, I truly do feel lucky that things worked out the way they did. I had parents who supported me emotionally my whole life and encouraged me in school, I had aptitude to do well in a hard curriculum, a friend introduced me to my husband, etc. etc.

And sometimes, I just feel like my life is so darn amazing that I can’t help but attribute it to look. Because I sure as heck didn’t do anything extraordinary to get all this.

28 Kamara @ The Modern Financial

Totally agree with you on #1 and #2. Not sure I agree with #3.

You can’t force love no matter how hard you work at it. Lucky and blessed are the same in this context. Maybe you aren’t “lucky” to be married, but you are lucky to have found the right person. You are lucky enough to have appealing personality traits and genes that made you physically attractive. In this situation I don’t see the difference between the word lucky and blessed. I feel I am both when it comes to having connected with my partner.

Your posts are always a good read!

29 Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog

Have to agree with you here – many people call the result of hard and focused work luck. While everyone gets a favorable break once in a while, it just seems like those who get what they want happen to get favorable breaks more.

30 Dani

I completely agree! I absolutely hate when people call me lucky for things I work hard for!

31 Lysander

I want to punch people who think that luck doesn’t matter in the face. Luck matters, or more specifically, probability matters.

From a simplified perspective, everything can have two outcomes associated with it a positive and a negative outcome and each of these outcomes has a probability associated with it. Best that you can do is made decisions that increase the likelihood of positive events happening while decreasing the likelihood of having negative things happen.

As an example, you apply for a job with 100 other people. If they pull a name out of the hat you have a 1% change of getting that job.
But you went to college, had an internship, and have some experience so you are one of 10 people they have phone interviews with, you have improved your chances of getting the job to 10%.
You are one of three people they bring in for a live interview, your chances are now 33%.
You have a great interview, displayed your knowledge and energy, but so did candidate B. You have controlled everything that you can control and getting the job is still a 50-50 chance. The fact you made it to this point is a result of hard work and preparation, but the other person could still get the job. You have improved your odds from 1% to 50%, but luck still matters.

You have two job offers, the one above and one with equivalent pay and benefits, similar responsibilities and advancement opportunities, nearly identical commutes. You get one and candidate B gets the other. 5 years later, the company where you are working is bought by another company and your whole department is eliminated. You are out of a job because events that you couldn’t have expected when you made a decision 5 years ago happened – Luck matters.

You can do thing that reduce the probability that something negative happens (bad luck), but you can never eliminate the role that probability or luck plays in every part of our life, including being successful.

32 Melissa

That’s not really luck, though. That’s just life.

33 Lysander

And Luck is part of Life.

For one person to claim that luck had zero role in their being successful is no less outlandish than another person claiming that everything you have done is the result of luck.

34 Math error?

I disagree with this math completely. It’s not “lucky” that a company calls you for a phone interview when you apply to positions that match your qualifications. It’s not “lucky” when they decide to interview you in person…it’s doing your research about the company, the job requirements, and speaking in an intelligent manner. It’s not “lucky” when they select you out of the top candidates. It’s coming to the interview appropriately dressed, groomed, and knowing your s*it.

Sorry, I think your math is way off.

35 Jenny

My sis and I had an interesting (read: odd) discussion while out Christmas shopping this past weekend (bear with me). I’ve been to sci-fi conventions all over the US, and two outside the country. She’s never left the country and said I was “lucky” that I was able to do it. 1) Credit cards allowed me to make those trips, and it took me 10 years to pay them off (yes, I have Learned My Lesson Well). I wanted to go, so I went. How is that luck?

A friend called me lucky to be almost done with credit card debt. I paid more in interest than I ever wanted to, but I paid off my debts without any help from anyone. Luck had nothing to do with it; hard work and the occasional sacrifice did.

My own mother thinks I’m lucky that I’m out of debt…hello! I’ve told her repeatedly how I did it, how long it took, etc. and yet she still thinks it’s “lucky”.

GAH, I hate that word. I don’t even apply the term when I happen upon a parking space close to the store entrance.

36 Mo D.

My French Mom and Scottish Dad decided that it would be best to have their offspring educated fluently in both English and French (Canada’s official languages), so I have to admit, I know I’m very lucky to have received a bilingual education; it has given me a leg-up in most jobs I’ve had. We didn’t attend French immersion; it was full-out French school (everything, except English) was taught in French; the first English School I attended was college!

That being said, I’ve still had to work my a$$ off to prove myself; I’m not offended if someone calls me lucky, but depending on the circumstance of that person’s comment, they may get an earfull that I’ve had to pay my dues as well.

37 Em

You bring up a really good point about how it depends on the circumstances of the person making the comment. If it’s from your broke-ass friend who spent his college partying and barely graduating, his summers vacationing, and then graduating without ever holding a single job….then it’s his fault he has CC debt and his fault he’s not getting hired in this economy. But if it’s your neighbor whose house is getting foreclosed because he lost his job and his wife doesn’t work because she’s the full time caregiver for their disabled kid, whose medical bills prevent them from saving…then that’s a completely different circumstance.

38 Matt

You’re Lucky that you got a comment from me.

39 C

Well, as someone who’s always been single, is 44k in student loans, and has a job at Walmart making 8000 dollars a year, I guess those same people would say I’ve been unlucky.

But I’m not going to call you lucky. That would be stupid. I don’t honestly care. I will say you are privileged, though, as a white, heterosexual male (I am none of the three), there are some things you say on your blog that show your privilege. That’s not about being lucky, though, though those things you had no control over. So to being in a stable family and being born in a 1st world country, I would add your race and gender. And yes, sometimes it does inform your opinions, which I sometimes find offensive.

Like that post where you said you weren’t as sexist as you sounded, you just wanted everyone to agree you weren’t sexist, and you got mad when anyone said you were being sexist.

You’re very young and it’s obvious from the way you post, you have a lot to learn about the world, and even, dare I say, about money. Although as someone in as much debt as I am, maybe I’m not qualified to say that.

40 Donnie

It isn’t really an either/or. I would say these days it takes hard work and luck to get to where you are.

Not that what got you to where you are really matters. What matters more is your opinion on giving aid to those who weren’t lucky.

If someone tried to start a business, and failed, and now can’t afford healthcare, would you say: He should work harder like I did, or would you advocate giving him help, because you know that without some degree of luck, you could be in the same position? That’s what really matters.

41 kim

“The harder I work, the luckier I am.”

42 kim

From Thomas Jefferson, it actually goes “I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.”

43 Travis

I usually enjoy reading your blog, but this just sounds like you are whinning about people not giving you the praise you think you deserve.

44 Ninja

I don’t think I deserve any praise. Just don’t like when people assume the only reason I got my job is because some mythical employment creature drew my name out of a hat and gave me a job.

45 Lysander

Only reason, no. A reason, absolutely.

By any objective measure, the difference between the 1st and 2nd choice for most jobs is so small that luck does play some role in being the one selected. Hard work may have but you in the position to be one of the top candidates, but luck is why you got the job and the other person didn’t.

46 C

Thank you!

Are not you Lysander? Are not you smart? lol.

47 Ninja

I can agree with that for sure. In fact I did above with Larry’s comment. The rant was about people who write off my achievements to luck without understanding the work that was also put in.

48 Lysander

My issue with your rant (and the rant of many others) is that they fail to give due credit to the fact that probability (aka: luck) played an integral role in the successes that they have had. Hard work does not guarantee success, it never has and it never will.

In 99% of cases hard work is necessary, but not sufficient by itself to ensure success.

In 99% of cases, luck is necessary, but not sufficient by itself to ensure success.

49 Em

So true. I know for my last job, I was one of the top two candidates. I graduated from a state school, the other candidate from Harvard and had a more impressive resume. Why did I get offered the job instead? Because my boss had a good experience with a former employee that graduated from my state school…and because I reminded him of his daughter. So you can say I pretty much got the job from luck!

p.s. This was lab, so the climate is very relaxed and coworkers are free to share this kind of information with you once you are hired. I also know that in another department, one candidate was picked over another candidate because he was better looking!!

50 StackingCash

I’m lucky and unlucky, that should explain everything :)

51 Lindy Mint

I find when people call you “lucky,” they’re really just saying “I wish I could be you cuz you’re so rad,” regardless of how they think you got there.

I prefer to say “good for you” (in a genuine way, not sarcastic one) instead of fortunate or blessed. That way, a person’s hard work is rewarded, but if it was because of luck it’s still good for them, so it fits.

52 Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager

There is no trying when it comes to luck. I definitely like the idea of being blessed or being in the right place at the right time way more.

53 krantcents

People who think it is luck just doesn’t know any better. So if they think I am lucky, I just smile and say thank you. Everything I ever wanted required a lot of effort and nothing came easy.

54 Evan

2 Cheesy sayings about luck

1) Luck is when preparation meets opportunity..
2) The harder I worked the luckier I seemed to get get

55 Therm

The responses to the posts on this site is why I like this blog. The comments aren’t filled with “great post!” and “you rock!” and other bring-nothing-to-the-table responses. Ninja, you publish a lot of content here that seems to get people riled up pretty quickly.
As far as luck, I’ll add my two cents. What you control is not luck. What you don’t control is simply luck. Micheal Jordan won six championships, but the fact that he made it to the nba was luck. Tom Brady was lucky to have Drew Bledsoe get injured. I only use these names because theyre popular. In my case I’m very blessed to have come from where I did and make it to where I did. However I realize that while I bust my ass, the luck just works in my favor. You’re VERY lucky to be where you are.

56 Tiffany

I love this post! I think that people make their own luck. BUT people are born into very different positions in life. I was lucky to be born in a family that encouraged education and helped to pay for my college. I think it is SO important to recognize that. I was born into a better position than many.

However, in my day to day life I am no “luckier” than anyone else. I was laid off 4 months ago, and it wasn’t luck that got me a new, better paying job. It was me coming home from work every day, setting a timer, and spending at LEAST 2 hours sending resumes and calling companies in search of a new job. I had three job offers within two months. Luck? Hel* no. That was me busting my as*!!!

People also tell me and my husband that we’re lucky we could buy a house and have a nice wedding. Um…do you see designer bags on my arm? Do you see expensive furniture in this house? Our date nights are home-made meals, a walk around the neighborhood, a groupon adventure, or a Redbox movie. That’s not luck. That’s budgeting.

57 Larry

My fortune cookie at lunch today read, “Luck sometimes visits a fool, but it never sits down with him.”

Top that.

58 Emily @ evolvingPF

I agree with what you wrote and what you meant. I don’t think anyone has ever said that I’m lucky with respect to my work but I have read it over and over with respect to finding and marrying a spouse at a relatively early age, as you did. There was probably a lot of luck involved with meeting my husband in particular, but not so much luck involved with becoming a good partner and developing a great relationship with another person. That took a lot of time and hard work.

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