“You’re so lucky that you can do that!”
A phrase that I hear often, and a phrase I correct:
“I am fortunate to be able to do that.”
There is a massive difference between fortune and luck. Yet few people understand the difference.
Today I will do my best to explain.
What is Luck?
Luck is random chance.
Luck is a winning lottery ticket. Or a slot machine.
Luck is your genetics.
You have no control over luck.
Here is an example. I was born into a middle class family in the upper midwestern part of the United States. Both of my parents are of above average intelligence and have post-graduate degrees. They were able to provide for me and were great role models for choices in life.
I am lucky that I was born into this situation. Worldwide, the odds of being born into this situation are tiny. Every day I am thankful for my lucky right of birth.
Beyond that, I assign almost no credit to my successes and failures to luck.
The rest of the good and bad can be attributed to being fortunate or unfortunate.
What is fortunate?
Being fortunate is similar to luck, but with a key difference. Good fortune adds a level of control to random chance.
Being fortunate means you created your own luck.
Here is an example. I have wanted to travel the world ever since my first trip abroad at age 21. As I get older, my wanderlust grows stronger. When deciding on my career options, I had a choice between working in the Internet industry or in video production.
I chose the Internet, because I figured I could do this work anywhere in the world. Over the past 10 years I have visited 6 continents and around 35 countries. All without going debt and having minimal professional impact.
People often tell me that I am lucky that I can do this much travel.
“Fortunate” I correct them.
What is unfortunate?
Being unfortunate occurs when you try to control for the outcome and things do not work as planned.
When one of my businesses failed, it would be easy to say that we were unlucky. Sales didn’t come in as we had planned. The weather was bad that year (this was a summer-seasonal product). We made the wrong hires. We were not involved enough in the business. It was a stupid business idea in the first place.
While the outcome was unfortunate, none of the failures of the business were the result of luck. Well, maybe the weather aspect, but a strong business could have survived.
Even in failure I was fortunate, because I learned what not to do with my next business.
The key to being consistently fortunate
If you want to be consistently fortunate, I suggest two principles to guide you:
1) Always be learning
Learn from your good fortunes and those of others. Why did it happen and can you repeat it? What precautions did you take to minimize the effect of luck on the situation?
There are a million books on business, and many more on personal finance. Few of them recommend throwing a hail-Mary pass or buying a lottery ticket as an investment strategy.
There are countless stories of people being in the right place at the right time for success. Every single self-made billionaire can carry this distinction. Yet none of them attribute their success to random chance.
2) You can not count on luck. Ever.
You can never count on luck to lead you from a bad situation. The odds are stacked against you. Both literally and figuratively.
There is a reason why gambling can become a crippling addiction, because gambling addicts think that luck will change their fortunes.
There’s no chance of that happening on an extended timeline. There is a reason why casinos print money – the odds are in their favor.
Some guiding principles
Many people are waiting around for the day they win the lottery. They think that luck is the way to get ahead.
There are few aspects of your personal and professional lives that can be attributed to luck. The sooner you realize this, the sooner you can move on to the next phase.
The next phase is extending some sort of control over random chance. To push the odds in your favor.
You should create your own lottery ticket. Unlike winning the lottery, accumulation of wealth over a long period of time is more meaningful. It is more sustainable. It is also more fulfilling.
Give no thought to random chance. Put your efforts of learning from the fortunes and misfortunes of others. Mitigate the risk of luck in every situation.
Success will follow.
Whenever someone tells you that you are lucky, correct them. You didn’t roll the dice to get to where you are.
You created your own luck.