Working hard, favorable conditions result in good luck

Life is an ordeal with many sudden twists and inevitable turns. Many factors, some rapid and others gradual, pressure individuals to adapt or die. What allows some of us to survive – or even thrive – while others suffer?

The question has no easy answer. It has baffled us since the dawn of time, driving biology and many areas of philosophy. The Law of Natural Selection, which now incorporates genetic principles, emphasizes that genes control the characteristics that determine survival in unfavorable environments.

However, we hear stories of triumph over adversity all the time. Think of the individuals who overcome medical afflictions or societal ones like poverty to become evolutionary and financial successes. It parallels the rebound of survivors following mass extinction events — occurrences defined by major losses of biodiversity in short periods of time.

What allows one person to fare better than another? It’s like asking what enabled birds to survive their dinosaur brethren into the present. My answer is simple and twofold: They got lucky when circumstances tilted in their favor.

Luck is nothing more than chance working in someone’s favor. If we’re unlucky, it’s called “bad luck.” If we can’t explain it, we call it “dumb luck.” But luck, whatever it is, determines everything in the game of life.

Every choice made is a wager for some sort of future reward. It is a risk, not a guarantee. Even when the odds are stacked in your favor, the slightest of mistakes can eliminate your hope for success.
Good luck is the only thing that separates the lucky from the unfortunate. However, it takes hard work and favorable conditions to make someone lucky. That’s why the philosopher Seneca said, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” You don’t need to be perfect to be successful. You just need to play your cards right.

Andrew Blitman is a senior majoring in marine affairs and biology.

November 6, 2011


Andrew Blitman

Science Columnist

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