Why Fear Luck?

 Posted on October 11, 2007 in Uncategorized

The Greatest American Lawyer writes about luck:

If luck were a dominant factor in how things happen, there would be few if any patterns amongst high achievers. Achievement would be random. At that point, what is the use in even trying?

That's a non sequitur. Who's to say that good fortune is not part of a complex of traits that high achievers generally have? For all we know, good fortune is somehow tied to physical attractiveness or high IQ or persistence or good judgment.

Wait. Not only is GAL's statement a non sequitur, but it's also demonstrably wrong. We know that good fortune is tied to all of these things. People don't choose to have these traits. The fact that you were born who, when, where, and how you were is strictly a matter of luck; ultimately everything else that you become flows from the facts of your birth. Our luck makes us who we are.

Even if you believe in a personal Creator who decided that you should have whatever traits made you successful, you are lucky that he gave you those gifts. You didn't earn God's beneficence in the womb.

Sufficiently good luck is indistinguishable from divine favor. And, since we can't understand or account for divine favor, it's indistinguishable from good luck.

Even if you believe that who you are in this life is attributable to what you did in the last, what you did in the last life was attributable to who you were, which in turn was attributable to what you did in the life before that, and so on and so forth until, at some point, you had the luck to be created one way or another.

The GAL says that "luck is just a word." Sure, luck is just a word; it's a word we use to explain the good things that happen that we don't think we earned. Here's a simple demonstration: did you choose not to be born in a village in Sudan? Did you choose not to be born to a meth-addicted mother? Did you choose not to be born with a mental disability? Of course not. Yet if the circumstances of your birth had been a little different, you would have had no chance of being where you are today.

Why is it that so many successful people are reluctant to concede that they wouldn't be where they are if it weren't for luck? The idea that we somehow earned our positions in the world by dint of our "choices" is risible Frankensteinian hubris. We made our choices because of our good luck in being born and raised the way that we were.

Achievement is random, but the dice were cast before we were born. So what's the use in even trying? Because we try, we succeed; because we're lucky, we try. The unlucky ones are the ones who stop trying.

Technorati Tags: luck, philosophy

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