How to Get Lucky

On good days I accept it as a compliment; a sincere expression of admiration. Other times, though, it’s hard not to take the meaning literally.

“You’re so lucky.”

Lucky. The word hangs in the air like an accusation.

In many ways we are lucky. We’re lucky to have been born to middle class families in the richest country on earth. We’re lucky to have been raised by loving parents; to have received a good education; to have our health and all of our faculties. I’m immensely grateful, every day, for my good fortune.

In short, we’re lucky in the same way that millions of other middle class residents of developed countries are lucky. Everything else took effort, determination, sacrifice and, perhaps most importantly, a strong belief that we are the masters of our fate.

Which brings me to the other thing I hear when someone says “You’re so lucky:” capitulation. Capitulation to the vagaries of life. Surrender to imagined forces beyond our control. I hear in these words the sentiment “if only I were luckier, things would be different.” That’s a copout. We assign ourselves too easy a task in life when we ascribe so much of our condition to luck.

Invictus, William Ernest Henley

More than chance or fate, choice and consequence dictate the direction of our lives. Luck plays a part, but only as the wind against which we sail. Sometimes it blows aft other times it blows forward, but we alone control the rudder. And just like the wind in our sails, luck only determines our destination if we choose not to steer the vessel.

Wherever the wind has blown us, there is always time to right the ship. Here’s how.

Select a destination

What do you want to be?

It is a question asked exclusively of children, but why? Our epitaphs are not carved in stone the moment we reach adulthood. Sure, we’re more burdened than our younger selves by an accumulation of real responsibilities, but far more doors remain open to us than have closed. Every day we draw breath is an opportunity to remake ourselves in exciting and wonderful new ways. If we fail to exploit this daily blessing we shouldn’t blame bad luck for our lot in life.

So ask yourself a question you’ve long since forgotten: What do I want to be? Who do I want to be? Find the answer and follow it like your personal North Star.

Chart a course

You can never arrive where you want to be, except by chance, if you don’t have a plan to get there. Fortunately, there are few things left on earth that are truly original. If you’ve dreamt it, chances are someone else has already done it. Seek them out and mimic the hell out of them. There’s no shame in following a path someone else has blazed if it leads where you want to go.

Leave safe harbor

With your destination locked in, and your course plotted, it is time to set sail. Your journey will not be without risk. Nothing worth doing ever is.

Shannon and I confront our own fears with the knowledge that we can always turn the ship back around. There are few choices in life that can’t be undone. Careers can be rebuilt, possessions re-bought, savings replenished. Fear of leaving the comfortable status quo shouldn’t deter you from following your dreams. You can always return to your old life if you truly want to, although I doubt you will.

Steer the ship

The tradeoffs we make in life are the rudder that steers our ship. By choosing one thing, we necessarily forego something else. The culmination of those choices determines who we are, where we are, what we have – essentially everything. Oftentimes we make these tradeoffs unconsciously, without much forethought. In those instances, we end up drifting through life wondering how we got where we are.

Instead of drifting, take control of the rudder. Choose those things that drive you toward your North Star and avoid the Siren call of those that try to pull you off course. It won’t be easy. The Siren’s song is sweet. But it’s easier to resist when you understand that you’re steering toward an important objective and away from the rocks that threaten to dash your dreams.

Course correct

You’ve plotted and planned and set sail for distant shores, and yet for all your efforts you remain frustratingly close to where you started. Welcome to the club. Not all sailing is smooth or goes how we planned. If our initial efforts haven’t yielded the results we hoped, it may be time to try a different tact. Get new skills or a new environment. Redouble your efforts and try different angles. Every destination is reached by multiple paths. You haven’t failed unless you’ve tried them all, or have given up trying.

Stay Positive

Ups and downs are part of every long-term pursuit. Eventually we all get worn down and have moments where we wonder whether it is all worth the effort. Staying focused on the objective helps us overcome these moments of doubt. Picturing our future selves living the life we want helps put present day sacrifices into perspective. We know the path we’ve charted is the right one. Now it’s just a matter of walking the talk. Good things, dare I say luck, will follow.


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40 Comments on “How to Get Lucky”

  1. Honie Briggs September 17, 2012 at 7:52 am #

    Perfect expression for a Monday. Thank you so very much for getting my week off to a great start with these inspirational words.


    • Brian September 17, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

      You’re very welcome. Thanks for reading.


  2. Magu Bee September 17, 2012 at 8:23 am #

    Hi Brian & Shannon,

    Thanks for that post!
    ”Being lucky” has been on my mind for quite a while now – I’d always repeat how lucky I was, as things always seemed to work themselves out and life brought some awsome things times and times again, but am not doing it any more
    One day another ”lucky” thing happened and I shared it with my friends, one of whom commented ”so what amazing thing happened to you again this time?” and it was the first time it kind of hurt to read something similar, it felt a bit as if they were acusing me for the ”good fate”. I realised nothing ”amazing happened to me” – I was about to make something amazing happen – and at that point I stopped using the ”I’m lucky” expression.

    Of course, in most of the cases it\’s about being at the right place at the right time but the thing is, we all are at the right places at the right times so very often, it\’s juts that not everyone notices it. Some, even if they do, won\’t act upon it. And there are those few who, once presented with an opportunity, will jump at it and do cool things, which others later attribute to ”luck”.

    However, at least from my experience, ”being lucky” is more about being brave enough to take a leap of faith, being strong enough to keep on moving forward, being curious enough to ask questions, being in control of how we want to live.


  3. Rev. Paul McKay September 17, 2012 at 8:25 am #

    Excellent stuff, Brian. And with the incredible resources of information we have at our fingertips with the internet these days, selecting and doing your homework on a destination is so very easy.


  4. Airstream Family September 17, 2012 at 8:26 am #

    What a brilliant metaphor to use sailing to describe the ups and downs of the path you have chosen. Dropping out and pursuing a more adventurous life involves sacrifices and choosing a course that often goes against the flow. Our family is in the process of priming our boat to set sail and it’s much harder than what many people realize. There is no luck involved apart from the privilege of being born into a society where we have the luxury of choice and free will.


    • Brian September 17, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

      May you find the sun in your face and the wind at your back. 🙂


  5. HolidayPlusBlog September 17, 2012 at 8:29 am #

    We feel the same way. Some say we are lucky, but we actually work every day for our indipendence, and our company was built from nothing. So lucky yes… to be so determined to succeed and never give up!


  6. September 17, 2012 at 9:31 am #

    “And just like the wind in our sails, luck only determines our destination if we choose not to steer the vessel.” Love that. Great post.


    • Brian September 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

      Thank you. That line gets at something I’ve thought a bit about lately – how if we don’t take active control of our lives we just kind of drift.


  7. Christina September 17, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

    I frequently tell my husband that our life together will be what we make it! Attitude is everything. I think feeling lucky, that is having a sense of gratitude for the wonders of the world, is different (and necessary for happiness) than other people attributing your wonderful life to simple, blind luck. Recent research has shown that people who beleive they are lucky, actually are luckier than others.


    • Brian September 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

      Agreed. To paraphrase an old saying: Be grateful for all that is given to you, be proud of what you’ve accomplished, and have the wisdom to know the difference. 😉


  8. Raunak September 17, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    “Leave safe harbor”, been the story of my life. Always do something new and when it becomes a comfort zone, I leave it to look for more challenges. People around don’t appreciate this spirit though. They think that I’m crazy to be doing this.

    Even in corporate/work life, consistency is rewarded. Anyone trying different things in life is looked down upon. I have always wondered why!

    Truly inspiring post!


  9. Heather September 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm #

    Great advice! I, too, believe in making your own “luck” and these are excellent guidelines!


  10. Kerry Dwyer September 17, 2012 at 3:06 pm #

    Choice. I am staying here for now. I may go somewhere else one day. Sometimes I like a safe harbour sometimes the mountains and sometimes the sea. Aren’t we all lucky to have choice?


  11. writecrites September 17, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

    “You’re so lucky.” That’s what neighbors and friends in England said when my dad told them we were emigrating to America. “What’s stopping you?” he answered back, and there were always excuses. Thanks for a great post. The subject is one we need to be reminded of every so often.


    • Brian September 17, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

      Ah, excuses. Such lovely and limiting things. For more, I’ll defer to Henry Ford: “If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can’t, you’re right.”


  12. Ivonne September 17, 2012 at 6:11 pm #

    I can’t recall how many times people has told me that, it is just a matter of wishing something and making everything happen, if you stay still everything will happen to everyone else but you!
    Wonderful post 😀


  13. Kathy's Chronicles September 17, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

    “Lucky. The word hangs in the air like an accusation.” I’ve never heard it more aptly put than that. So many things to admire about this post…your insight into an unspoken truth about that phrase, your creative title, not to mention your life philosophy. I’ve just stumbled upon your blog after you recently liked one of my posts, and I have to say, I’m impressed with your writing. Well done.


  14. Ben September 17, 2012 at 11:55 pm #

    My mother was fearless. She had lupus, nerve diseases, and no end of aches and pains. She would start something only to be bedridden months later. That never stopped her. She was in her time a real estate agent, fashion designer, patron of the arts, art director, writer, caterer, and always the matchmaker. She was never afraid of failing. Because of that, she lived an amazing life.
    I liked your post. I’m not normally a fan of cheer leading. But you are right. It’s never too late to recreate yourself. Thanks.


  15. Arizona girl September 18, 2012 at 3:17 am #

    Nicely put! My husband always says “put yourself in a position to get lucky.” Sitting around and waiting (hoping?) for something good to happen to you is a waste of life. If you want something, at least start moving towards it. Sure, change and new experiences can be scary, but isn’t it even scarier to never try? Go forth and conquer!


  16. P. C. Zick September 18, 2012 at 8:42 am #

    Glad to see this expressed. It’s always annoyed me when someone looks at my life and says “You’re so lucky.” I didn’t wake up one morning and have this life drop in my life. I got here through my own hard work, determination, and stamina. I’ll admit some break may have come my way but only because I was where I needed to be at the time and I remained open to see them as “breaks” and not as back breakers. Thanks for post.


  17. Melysses S. Grant September 18, 2012 at 10:50 am #

    Great post! Thanks for checking out my blog!!! I love what you are doing here.


  18. keepingmymemories September 18, 2012 at 11:10 am #

    Complement with an “e” means to add to; compliment with an “i” means to say something nice about.
    A famous golfer once commented: The more I practise, the luckier I get. Wise words indeed.


  19. rfljenksy September 18, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    Loved this enough to reblog.. I am often accused of being lucky… Little is understood about the level of work, taking chances and mistakes I have had to recover from to become so lucky… Your piece touched me.. Thanks.


  20. Marianne September 18, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    I always think that to a large extent we make our own luck. Nice post.


  21. fallofroam September 18, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

    Thank you for this. To drop everything and go is never easy and the easiest thing in the world all at once–thanks for putting that feeling in to words so well!


  22. Nikhil Kardale September 19, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    You had me at that beautiful picture of a sailing boat upfront, and then came ‘Invictus’! Seriously though, excellent post. You’ve articulated the points very well, I can relate to so many of them. Being a teacher and a freelancer in India, I’ve had many such “You’re lucky” moments, and have thought along the same lines as the attributes you’ve mentioned. I’d like to add a few points to the discussion, and those are focus, drive, passion and the ability to shun the negative elements from the mind. Peer pressure and doubting relatives (even close ones sometimes) test your determination to chart out that new path or simply do something different, more like rowing against the flow of the stream. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow then isn’t simply ‘luck’, its a ‘well deserved’ prize.


    • Brian September 19, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

      Good points, all of which factor in. Doing something different is never easy. If it were, it wouldn’t be different.


  23. janecrickpaintinginparadise September 19, 2012 at 11:14 am #

    What a beautiful post! I’ve had many people tell me how “lucky” I am and I know how rocky the path has been to achieve this “luckiness” of being able to make a life doing what I love to do. Also, I absolutely LOVE the monkey and you Gravatar!


    • Brian September 19, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

      Love the monkey picture. I’ll probably never age on the internet because I can’t imagine using a different Gravatar.


  24. Lynne Ayers September 19, 2012 at 12:38 pm #

    “luck only determines our destination if we choose not to steer the vessel” … what a great nugget that is – love that.


  25. dannybreslin September 22, 2012 at 6:58 am #

    I love this post. I totally agree that people think they can only play the cards that fate deals them, that they are born unlucky or when bad things happen to them “it’s God’s will.”
    The last couple of years I’ve been dealt a pretty poor hand: losing both parents, mother in law, two uncles and an aunt. On top of that I was diagnosed with a wasting disease that the doctors (wrongly) say will kill me. You know what? I took a look at the hand I was dealt, decided that they weren’t the cards I wanted and have thrown the table up in the air. If I don’t like the game I’ll go and play another, one that I make up the rules for as I go along.


  26. las artes September 23, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

    After reading this article “15 Powerful Things Happy People Do Differently” that Lauren posted last week, and “The Real and Good Career” from Jess , it got me thinking about this idea of being “lucky” and “wishing” as if good things come to those who sit around and wait. False.


  27. thecassandra September 24, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

    I really appreciate this post! Many safe travels to you two!


  28. NewLifeOnTheRoad (@NewLifeOnRoad) November 1, 2012 at 11:22 pm #

    Yeah I get told we are lucky! but really we have worked towards our end goal for so long – with many times hitting a brick wall. Yet with knowing what we want out of life anything is possible!
    Good idea to keep going and knowing exactly what you want from life.


  29. February 3, 2013 at 8:31 am #

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