Wednesday, March 13, 2013
There is No Luck
Not the victory but the action; Not the goal but the game; In the deed the glory.
- Hartley Burr Alexander
There is no luck. At least not that matters for us as we make our choices. Yes, things outside of us can conspire in our favor, but since they are outside of us, they are not our concern.
A colleague taught me this last month: focus on your process, the root not the fruit. I had a good sequence of things happen, and I said to him "I was lucky with that, that those things happened" and he immediately said:
No. Don't ever say it is luck. Luck has nothing you can do to change it, to affect it. It's not luck. It is the combination of what you do, what you're doing that you have to look at. Understand what was working. Don't ever put your results, what you do, on luck. Luck is out of your control. What you do isn't. Focus on what you do. Work on what you're doing; refine that, learn from that, figure out what is working, and what isn't.
All those other things are not about you. They will take care of themselves. Anyone can have a list of good things or bad things happen. Your job, your task, is to do what you do, and improve that.
It has been a few weeks, so I paraphrase, but that is the core: run your own race. Focus not on chance, or fortune, focus on what your work is.
Whether this is objective truth or not, it might help put our focus where it belongs: where it makes a difference. Doing what you can and having faith that what is out of your control will take care of itself is not easy. Maybe not even always possible.
Many of Chekhov's characters never do it. They see themselves as at the mercy of everything but their own choices. They never go to Moscow (Three Sisters) or they never change how they run their estate, and so they lose it (Cherry Orchard). A director could chose this single theme for a production: putting the blame/credit/focus in the wrong place in life. Or if not wrong, certainly not useful.
Ibsen's characters tend toward a different mix of taking charge vs. passivity. They burn their lovers' novel (Hedda Gabler) or slam the door as they leave (A Doll's House). A director could chose to make the play an examination of what happens when people take control of their situations, both for better or for worse.
Death of a Salesman could also be done with an eye to what we each do to change the lives we're living. Hamlet almost exists as an examination of what action and inaction are, personal agency vs. paralysis.
Giving away your power to chance is not the same as being humble in the face of a world you don't control. Giving luck the credit, means giving luck the blame, and can leave you helpless to do anything about anything. In our lives and careers the balance must be struck.
We are blessed with many things, things that have come to us or been given to us not through our direct choices (ex: we are alive), so be thankful. It may be this simple: while you are being thankful, do the things you can. And luck? That's preparation meeting opportunity.
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