Preparation, Luck, or Opportunities?

Preparation and luck.  I’ve heard people say “the harder you work the luckier you are” or some version of that.  I think the better way to frame it is “the harder you work the better you’re prepared to take advantage of opportunities.”  You see the difference?  My view replaces “lucky” with “prepared for opportunities.”  This is important to me to because many of those who are actually “lucky” (often just because they were given a better start in life) look down or chastise those less fortunate as not working hard enough.  That’s just not right.  But, on the flip side, those who are lazy and not prepared for when opportunities come, even after long streaks of bad luck, are not taking full responsibility for their continued tough situations.

Those Who Are Lucky

If you’re born with a better start in life (which is most of us in the developed world), you’re lucky, as far as accomplishments and success in life goes.  When you look inward at your utopia, it will seem all you have to do is work hard.  But that’s because many of those in this utopia are running a similar race – far ahead of most other people.  In this race, there are more opportunities as well as things constantly holding you back.  In many places, even if you wanted to advance yourself learn to, for example, read, you can’t.  For others, life situations, accidents can both take away opportunities and add to the things holding you back.  That comes with humility.  Something I rarely see from “successful” or “well off” people.  Yes, they worked hard and did their 20% really well, but they take credit for the other 80% of what others helped make possible.

Looking at “status” alone, people would say I’m lucky, well off coming from a upper middle-class family.  That, for many in this country, is enough to think their “luck” and “good things” is just “how it is.”  But over 27 years of failed medical treatments and on my death bed from ’05-’09, I can tell you there’s a lot of things in life money and hard work can’t solve.  Also, those that work hard, have a ton of talent and ability, can’t necessarily achieve anywhere near their top potential.  One of the biggest hits to my confidence in ’06 was realizing all my academic accomplishments and making it through a top engineering college basically went down the drain.

Those Who Are Lazy

So at the time, I often thought maybe it was best to not have worked that hard and enjoyed life.  Especially at the time, I thought it was the end, it felt like 20+ years of work equated to nothing because I wasn’t able to use any of the skills and knowledge I acquired over time.  But as I said in a previous post, it is that forward moving mentality that probably got me through all the years when every doctor thought it shouldn’t have been.  Just as a car pulling uphill, the engines are still pulling forward.  The car may not be moving uphill because whatever it’s pulling is so heavy, but it’s pulling.  If the engines gave up, the car will slip down the hill and crash.  In tough times, with things pushing us down, it is hard to just stay where you are.  When people try to day trade for a profession, there’s the break even milestone where they finally stop losing money.

For me, now that things have turned a big corner, I’m glad I had worked hard and prepared myself even when it didn’t seem relevant.  If you have knowledge and experience stored up, there’ll be a time to use it.  It may be in a few days, or in a few decades.  But if you aren’t prepared for when the opportunity finally comes, you can’t blame anyone else but yourself.

And a big thing I’m learning: you can learn and gain experience in every tiny thing in life, if you look for it and see it as a learning opportunity.  We’re just so used to immediate gratification we think whatever we learned must be used now, or else it didn’t mean anything.  Not true.  Pay attention and take notes from your life.  Best training you’ll ever have…and priceless.


About this entry