Luck be a lady

A bag of books (what US students will know as the M-bag) that I had sent from the US 4 years ago when I was leaving arrived in Singapore recently. What a long, strange trip it must have been.

And that - as well as something I read - reminded me of the concept of luck, and specifically of the Luck Project, led by Richard Wiseman over in the UK. What's interesting about the project for me at least is that his findings square with my feelings on the subject, which is to say that a lot of whether one perceives oneself as 'lucky' depends not on what actually happens to you, but on how you perceive and receive the thousands of events that occur daily to you, and how you tell the narrative of your life (which links to Martin Seligman's work on learned optimism, perhaps).

I think about Lou Gehrig, and his famous words as he gave the speech confronting his ALS, or the disease that now bears his name: "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth." Which was a great choice of phrases: he didn't say he was the happiest man in the world: he said 'luckiest'. A disease that was destroying his body and still Gehrig thought himself lucky, and why not? 60 000 people were there, Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day, all clearly filled with compassion and fan-style adoration...

So luck, I feel - and the research seems to show - is in a way completely self-fulfilling: if you expect luck, often it will turn up. Not necessarily in the way one expects - hey, lottery numbers don't just fall out from the sky - but it seems to be a learnable trait.

Which isn't to say that I don't believe in Larger Forces or destiny. There are just some things in life that boggle the mind. But I think of Larger Forces to be something like the old joke about the guy who asks God, "God, I've prayed every day for a lottery win for 20 years. Why haven't I won a single thing?" and God responds, in a booming voice, "Albert - meet me halfway - buy a ticket!" Great things can happen, but you have to do your part, in my opinion.

As for myself? Well, my Chinese name means "get luck" (and yes, it's rare to have a verb in a Chinese name) and I suppose I consider myself lucky (knock on wood): yes, there've been some pretty awful experiences in my life, some of which I wouldn't even tell my closest friends. And you know, I suppose through another lens things like my mother being on dialysis, or having to relearn how to use my right hand through what in retrospect was pretty frustrating therapy weren't the greatest. But as of now I like to think of myself one of the luckiest people around.


Anonymous said…
whoa i hope nothing's wrong man, yea anyway i thought you may like this book, Art Forms of The Ocean, if you haven't already heard of it. it's not really a book per se, but a collection of art prints by Ernst Haeckel. it's brilliant.
recharging said…
Thanks for this nice post. It made my day. Sometimes a small reminder is needed to count the good things in your life and not the bad.

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