I have been thinking a lot about luck lately. It seems to be popping up everywhere in my life in the past few weeks. What is it? How does it exist? Who is lucky?
Mathematically speaking there is of course randomness in the universe. If a big enough group of people each tossed a coin ten times, there would be people who get a large number of heads and some who get only a few heads. If they kept tossing the coin ten times, though most people would get around five heads most times, there would be people who frequently get a higher number of heads and some who frequently get a lower number of heads.
If something good happens that isn't too largely focused on skill, we say it's good luck and if something bad happens we say it's bad luck. Though if something happens that is neither good nor bad, but we were hoping for something good we may say that's bad luck (even though things could have been worse) and if we were hoping for something bad not to happen we may say that's good luck (even though things could have been better).
One cool thing that happened to me recently whilst playing a board game of Mario Party 4 on Nintendo GameCube, was when a computer character (as Luigi) on 10-sided dice, rolled the exact same number as I had done, three times in a row. The odds of Luigi doing that were one in a thousand. Kind of remarkable, quite lucky right?
What about when there is some skill involved? A person who has won a prize or achieved something great may feel, "I guess I'm just lucky" discounting all of the hard work they have put into it. Conversely, a complete fluke can be explained with "Oh, I meant to do that!"
Some say you make your own luck. Yes, you may have been in the right place at the right time but it was your effort and diligence that put you there. Yes, you've been given wonderful opportunities but you were the one who networked with good people, were kind to them and impressed them with your personality and abilities. Even with the Lottery, you have to be in it to win it.
A couple of years ago, I very fortunately was allowed to go to Nickelodeon Animation Studio to watch voice acting recording sessions for Blaze and the Monster Machines and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They were incredible, wondrous experiences and in my head I feel I was very lucky to get to do that – read back that last sentence, I even used the phrase "I very fortunately".
Maybe I did make my own luck? I worked hard to meet the people who invited me or the people who introduced me to those people, I worked hard to earn the money to make the 5000 mile trip to Los Angeles and so on...
... but going one step further than that, I have a loving family who taught me good values (and took me to the airport), my local childhood schools were great and the country I was born and raised in has excellent healthcare and employment opportunities. All of these have enabled me to work hard and nurtured my dreams. In this sense, I am incredibly lucky! Just like my gender, ethnicity, sexuality, height, my first language – all of these are birth factors that are out of my control.
So maybe luck is largely down to our perspectives. It depends on what we look at and how we evaluate it all. Take the coin flippers mentioned earlier, I talked about getting heads but what if I had talked about getting tails?
Here's something that was pointed out to me by popular BBC TV show QI, try this yourself: take a pack of cards, shuffle them thoroughly and look at the order that those cards are in. Statistically speaking, nobody in history has ever had a pack of cards in that order and it will never happen again. There are so many different combinations (I can't emphasize how huge this number is) that it is as good as impossible to randomly get that order again.
If you literally did just get a pack of cards, shuffled them and looked at the order, getting the order you got is going to be the most incredible, remarkable and lucky thing you do or that happens to you today. Yet you probably wouldn't feel all that special about it, it wouldn't feel lucky. Yet the much, much extremely more likely event of winning the lottery would certainly feel lucky. Vegas blackjack dealers would be constantly achieving something unique and lucky on a daily basis and yet they would probably feel unlucky if one day they lost more than they won.
In Mario Party, if any of the characters hit any three numbers in a row, the odds of that character getting those three numbers in that particular order would have also been a one in a thousand chance. Essentially, I thought of something as lucky because I denoted that thing as interesting and special and because I paid attention to it happening.
In fact, luck may always be popping up everywhere in my life, it may just be in the last few weeks it's happened in ways such that I paid attention to it.
Personally, I think luck is a combination of all of this stuff. I do think that you can make your own luck or certainly shift it in your favor with preparation and graft. But I also believe that spectacular stuff can come out of nowhere or as a result of things completely out of your control. Being in the right place at the right time, can be down to either of these factors.
What I believe most of all though, is that it depends on your outlook. You can look at all the good in your life, see all that is important to you, pay attention to your universe and realize just how lucky you are. It's what you give value to (including yourself), luck varies depending upon what you base it on and that is down to you and you alone.
The one thing I feel I know for sure, is said best by Brock in the Pokémon Advanced Challenge episode, "Judgment Day":
"Luck is an important skill too."