Hard Work Makes Luck

Making the Pot of Gold Appear.

Saturday mornings growing up were never a day of relaxation. Dad would holler upstairs to our bedrooms as kids. “Time to do…” he would begin. And it could be anything — yard work, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, or the family business. I could hardly find pleasure in any of this. Childhood felt miserable then, compared to my friends, who got to sleep in and do nothing all day. I didn’t enjoy these tasks.

Working students in high school would sigh, “Wow, lazy guys are so lucky!” — and the lazies bragged it up. They’re parents bought them everything. Who doesn’t like being treated like a prince? Though it’s not the life of a prince… not really.

Fast forward a decade. I’m a young adult, just out of a four year state university with a great job. Everyone expects great things of me and insists, “Wow, you are lucky.”

“Lucky”… It sure seems that way. Events fall into place. I get the best of opportunities and, oddly enough considering what we all said in high school, my peers recognize that I have it good.

Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius has an interesting claim to fame. Known for his stoic philosopher’s mind, Aurelius was dedicated to hard work and learning. While he was born to a privileged family, he was not heir to Rome, nor did he take it by force. He was so “lucky” that he was adopted into the royal family and groomed to become emperor.

In the story of David and Goliath, David gets “lucky”. Having no military training, only a sling with a few stones, he defeated the most fearsome warrior the Philistines could find. It is amazing, right? How did he get so “lucky”?

After reading Malcom Gladwell’s recent book, David’s “luck” is not without explanation. He was skilled with his sling after years of mastery while herding sheep and protecting his flock from predators. His skill required tenacity — hard work, which he most certainly did not enjoy. Even more, think about the strange life herding sheep? Sheep aren’t insurable; if he didn’t protect his asset there would be nothing for him or his family.

Young, adopted Aurelius put forth hard work — studying, following his mentors, all to put himself at the front of the line for ruling. Not an easy feat. Yet we look to him as lucky just like we look to so many presidents, entrepreneurs, authors, athletes, artists, investors, inventors, and the list goes on.

It’s easy to look at the successful people around us and lazily tell ourselves, “It’s all luck,” hoping “luck” will smile on us next. It’s human ignorance that produces the idea that we can get lucky and live our dreams without effort. We only look at the details that we find appealing — and seems appealing to achieve great things with “luck” instead of blood sweat and tears. Those in power do not remain by fleeing from challenges. Being put in a busy workplace refines us.

In his book of meditations, Aurelius says, “Everything happens as it should, and if you observe carefully, you will find this to be so.” So, I come back to my life. Those around me call me lucky. I call myself lucky. The untold truth is, hard work made my luck.