Years ago a suit salesman gave me a tip that has always stuck with me. He said that people won’t notice you’re bald if you keep yourself very fit. He was a good example of this. I literally hadn’t noticed he was bald until he made the comment. My first impression of him had been dominated by the fact he was so obviously fit. It was a brilliant case of misdirection. And it made me think about all the ways people mitigate their bad luck.
Generally speaking, a high level of fitness can compensate for whatever imperfect genes your parents gave you. Fitness is enough to achieve good looks if you bother to dress well, take care of your skin, and get a good haircut.
And fitness, along with a good diet, can also suppress the most common killer diseases that your genes might predispose you to. You can’t prevent bad luck, but you can keep it at bay.
If you have the bad luck to be born to a poor family, education can compensate for that. Some schools are better than others, but almost all of them, at least in developed countries, will get you where you need to go.
If you’re unlucky in love or business, your degree of effort can compensate for that. In both cases it’s a numbers game. If you keep trying, you’re bound to get lucky eventually. You just have to be willing to move on to the next attempt, and learn from your failures.
If you boil it all down, the only types of pure bad luck are the truly random disasters such as being struck by lightning, or being born without the gene for optimism. Optimism is what gives you the willingness to stay fit, eat healthy, and keep trying. You wouldn’t do those things unless you expected them to work.
So suppose science finds the gene that controls optimism. And suppose it can be manipulated. That would be enough to solve the healthcare problem and boost the economy. People would get fit, avoiding medical costs, and they’d work extra hard because they believed it would pay off in the long run, thus fixing the economy.
The optimism gene is probably the most important one in the universe. Someday we’ll find it. That will be interesting.