January 10, 2013
I realize that everything I say in this post can be explained by confirmation bias and selective memory. But that’s the part I find interesting. So here we go.
I have a hypothesis that everyone is born with the same amount of luck, possibly because we are a computer simulation, but that’s not my point today. My point is that luck doesn’t appear to be spread evenly across a person’s life. Some people use up all of their luck early in life and die young. Some people start out life in bad circumstances and finish strong.
For example, Lance Armstrong had an amazing life until the doping allegations. Steve Jobs was on top of the world but died young. Magic Johnson was frickin’ Magic Johnson until he got infected with HIV. John F. Kennedy was the fornicator in chief until someone shot him in the head. If the pattern holds, I give Justin Bieber a year before he lands in jail.
On the flip side, Halle Berry slept in her car at one point in her early life. Later she won an Academy Award. Oprah had a rough childhood but finished strong. And so on.
You can probably think of lots of people who violate my hypothesis, apparently experiencing continuous good luck or continuous bad luck throughout their entire lives. But my observation is that people who have consistently bad luck with money, for example, are often having more than their share of sex and/or love, and vice versa. And famous people have more than their fair share of depression and mental illness. According to researchers who study happiness, money doesn’t change your enjoyment of life that much. People who look extraordinarily lucky might be a lot less lucky than they appear to be.
Further complicating my analysis is the fact that people don’t always grab the opportunities that luck provides. Some struggling folks might also be the luckiest, but it won’t show if they don’t take advantage of the luck when it wanders into their lives. Other people might be aggressive about exploiting the crumbs of luck they find, making it seem as though they have extra luck. Serial entrepreneurs come to mind.
Personally, I’ve been unusually lucky in my career, but if you factor in my childhood, and calculate the average, my total lifetime luck would be about average.
I’m curious about whether you perceive luck the same way. Taking into consideration your entire life, professionally and personally, has your luck been about average?