Last week, I had a conversation with my 13 year-old daughter, Sydney, about luck. I’ve never heard her talk about luck before, which is odd because I talk about it a lot.
When I was a kid, every year my parents took me to a Serbian fundraiser in downtown Kansas City, Kansas. My great aunt was Serbian (she was married to my grandpa’s brother) so we went to the fundraiser mainly for her.
That was the only Serbian fundraiser I’ve ever gone to, so I can’t vouch for all of them, but this one was a hoot! It was a lot like a party or a carnival.
The funds were raised from games of chance, like a raffle or a spinning wheel. The prizes were things that people donated; mainly food and drink.
That Serbian fundraiser was my first memory of the concept of luck. It was the first time (of many to come) that I heard, “Oh, you’re so lucky!”
The very first year, I won the raffle, which was a 19 pound turkey. At the time, I was so small I couldn’t lift it without help.
The second year, I won a loaf of Povitica Bread. If you’ve never had homemade Povitica Bread, you’re really missing out! My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
The third year, I won a 6-pack of Coors. Since I was just a kid, my dad had to come claim it for me. Sometimes luck is for sharing…sometimes you just have to give it away….
Fast forward a few years…. During my high school senior lock-in, there was a series of prizes to win from a drawing, the grand-prize being a TV donated from our small country farm town appliance store (this detail will be significant in a second).
Before I left for the lock-in, I told my parents that I had a feeling deep in my gut that I was going to win the grand prize. I can’t explain it to this day, but it was like the future had already happened and I had already won it.
When I arrived at the lock-in, I told my best friend, Travis, that I was going to win the TV. He laughed at me of course, but I think he knew I probably would. He always said I was lucky, too.
The drawing went on throughout the night, with the prizes gradually getting better, building up to the grand prize. I didn’t even pay attention to the other drawings. I knew I wasn’t going to win any of those.
Finally, as the night came to a close and the time to draw a name for the grand prize occurred, I wasn’t surprised in the least bit to hear my name. In my mind, I had already won.
The next day, my dad drove me to the appliance store in Gardner, Kansas to collect my totally awesome TV! I had big plans to for that TV! I was finally going to have a TV in my bedroom!
That’s when I realized sometimes being lucky is offset with being un-lucky.
The year was 1990. The TV was from 1970. It was one of those huge console TV’s with the speakers on either side and a record player on top. There was no way that monstrosity would fit in my bedroom!
Talk about disappointment! I wasted my good luck on a piece of junk!
The TV didn’t go to waste, though. My brother had just moved back to town after 6 years in the Navy and needed a TV. He had an apartment with plenty of room for the Godzilla of TV’s, so I gave it to him.
I could go on with more stories of luck and good fortune, but I think you get the idea. I’m lucky.
Some people view luck as a gift from God. Some people view it as something that’s self-manifested with the right attitude. Some people view it as selective memory: we remember the good things and forget the bad things, skewing our view of how lucky we really are.
Me? I’m more mathematical about it. I view luck as a series of events, each having a probability of either being good or bad (based on our individual definition of good and bad).
If you sum up all of the outcomes from the perpetual “coin toss” of life’s events for every person on Earth, each one of us will fall somewhere on the normal distribution bell curve.
Some will be very unlucky (on the low end) and some will be very lucky (on the high end), while most will fall somewhere in the middle. That’s what a normal distribution is. In my mind, I’m just “lucky” enough to fall near the high end of the curve.
This theory of luck may not resonate with you, but my logical brain has a hard time wrapping itself around the concept of luck being driven by feeling or divine intervention. I’m way too practical for that.
I DO think that if you believe you’re lucky, then that belief manifests itself in the form of a positive, can-do, will-win attitude, which makes other people want to help you, and that increases your probability of a positive (coin toss) outcome.
To sum it up, my definition of luck is that the number of good things that happen to us throughout life is greater than the number of bad things that happen.
Now, let’s circle back around to my conversation with Sydney.
When I asked her about her concept of luck, she said something very odd. She told me that she doesn’t ever think about luck. She said, “Things happen. Sometimes they’re good. Sometimes they’re bad. I don’t see how luck has anything to do with it.”
She’s boiled it down to just the probability of individual events being good or bad, without the aggregation over time…and without the “feeling” of being lucky.
Is her concept of luck even more logical and unemotional than mine?!
I can’t imagine life without the concept of luck; without the feeling of luckiness. How would that affect your perspective of life’s events? How would it affect the outcome of life’s events?
Maybe my daughter hasn’t had enough experiences yet to fully grasp the concept. Maybe she’ll change her mind someday. Or maybe she’ll never believe in luck.
It’s hard to believe that my daughter, of all people, has such a non-view of luck.
Share your thoughts and beliefs in the comments. I’d love to hear what you think.