Well are you? Because if not, that may be the problem….
While channel surfing a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon the classic early scene from “Dirty Harry” where he shoots up a gang fleeing a robbery. One of the bad guys is only wounded and Harry walks up to him. The bad guy’s weapon is within reach and they both look at it.
Harry says: “I know what you’re thinking. Was it five or six shots he fired? I lost track myself. The question you have to ask yourself is: do I feel l lucky? Because if you’re wrong, I’m going to blow your head off.”
After a few long seconds of thought, the bad guy moves his hand away from the weapon and Harry takes it. As Harry walks away, the bad guy implores: “I have to know.” Harry walks back to him and, as the bad guy’s eyes widen in fear, points the Magnum at his face, and pulls the trigger. Click. The bad guy slumps in relief while Harry smiles.
Some 35 years after that movie was released, research suggests that whether or not you feel lucky is in fact an important factor in whether positive things happen to you. Folks who are optimistic about life often make their own luck, allowing good things to happen. Things which a causal observer might ascribe to “luck.”
One interesting example of this was a test where participants were asked what a “website” address of a few words strung together and flashed to them for a few seconds said. The words could be read in either a positive or negative context. Optimists “saw” the positive version while pessimists “saw” the negative version.
Now 40 years ago in high school, I’d have said that there are some folks who are “lucky” and others who just aren’t. And to an extent, I saw myself in that latter group. But by the time I graduated college, I was convinced, based on personal experience, that in many ways we make, or don’t make, our own luck. (That’s the long promised “power of one” post I continue to struggle to complete.)
Recently, I wrote about how I met my wife. I mentioned how easy it would have been not to ask her out since we had no similarities in background, education or career that I believed then are important elements to a successful relationship. Instead, I was willing to challenge those assumptions and I’m thankful I did.
So when friends say how “lucky” I am to be with Susie, they are right but not in the way they think. Because while meeting her was chance, everything that happened after that was because I made my own luck to allow the relationship to develop. If I had been a “pessimist” then I’d not even have taken the first step because I’d have already decided there was no way it could work given our “differences.”
That perspective applies to so may other aspects of life. Why do some folks stay in a job they don’t like? Or in an unhappy relationship? I think that in many cases it’s because they’ve learned to cope with their situations.
And coping is so much easier than facing the fear of the unknown. The fear of whether you could be successful in a new job or in a new relationship. The fear you’re not going to be “lucky” because you haven’t been lucky. Some folks are convinced their past will be their future. They are prisoners of their past.
That attitude of hopelessness goes back to a theme in another recent post: those folks have surrendered. And recall how I ended that post: never surrender!
So go out there and make your own good luck!
Here’s the Newsweek article about “luck.” The part I’m referring to is towards the end, after the “who survives” part.