“You’re so lucky!” We say this to others frequently. But what are we really saying? We are telling them that the sacrifices they made, the courage they exhibited, and the work they put into whatever it is that we envy doesn’t matter. It’s inconsequential. It was only luck that got them where they are. And in doing so, we tell ourselves that we could never be that lucky, so we should give up on our dreams.
When I was Chief Financial Officer of the Colorado Department of Transportation, I was told that I was lucky that I made a lot of money. Those who said this didn’t see the years of working and going to school while I was raising a family, some bosses I worked for who treated me like dirt, the 80 hour weeks I worked more frequently than I’d like to admit, and the immune system diseases I had from years of dealing with incredible stress. Is this luck? No, this is hard work that resulted in an enviable outcome.
Another example of this is my son, who does these crazy races, such as marathons (26.2 miles, in case you didn’t know), or trail runs that increase in altitude by unfathomable amounts. People have commented to me that he is lucky that he can run like that. Lucky?! He has committed a substantial part of his life to this luckiness. He’s fought through debilitating injuries that forced him to take months off from running. He’s passed on a glass of wine at dinner because he has a big run tomorrow. He’s changed his diet, reorganized his busy life, turned down plans with buddies, and suffered through some miserable runs, all in the name of what some call luck.
“But wait,” those of you who know me or have read many of my blogs, say. “You believe in the power of the Universe in helping to manifest the things you want in life. That is luck, isn’t it?” Yes, I do believe in the power of God or the Universe, or whatever you want to call it. But that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in hard work or that something must be given up to attain a dream. I do not believe that the Universe will just plop whatever you want into your life.
What is lucky is that my son and I both found things we loved enough to commit such time and energy to them. Everyone has these things in their lives. Accomplishments that were only made with hard work, ingenuity, and dedication. We are fortunate when we find the thing that we love so much that it appears to be lucky and effortless.
Another place we see luck where it doesn’t exist is when people have made lifestyle choices that we envy. Maybe they give up a high paying job and live more simply to have more free time and less stress. Maybe they adopt a healthier diet and commit to fitness in order to feel better and be more slender. I have a friend who, with his wife, made the decision to relocate their little family to Costa Rica. I have heard people tell him how lucky he is that he will live in such a beautiful paradise. But in making this move, they have made decisions that lots of us would not make. They are leaving friends and family. They are leaving a business that they built from nothing. They are leaving the comfort of a culture they understand and have flourished in. They leave certainty and risk that this will be all they have dreamed. I feel certain it will be all they desire, but how can I say, “Wow, you’re so lucky. I wish I could do that,” when I’m not willing to take the risks and make the sacrifices that they’ve made?
A final thing that makes others seem so lucky is that we may see our lives as “unlucky.” Something happens that seems bad, and we let it overtake our entire life. We become pitiful and frail and afraid and everything that everyone else does seems so much better than what we are doing.
As I stated, I once had a job making what is a lot of money to some. I loved the job, although the stress was wreaking havoc on my health. Then I had a stroke. The stroke affected my cerebellum and visual cortex. To look at me, you’d not know anything happened, but the rug of my life was instantly pulled out from under my feet. I can no longer drive ;cannot read well or for extended periods of time; can’t understand some ideas; and have difficulty recognizing faces. I get tired very easily from any mental or visual stimulation. At this moment, I am writing with a blindfold on so that I don’t read as I write, and I can write for longer without getting too tired. And the high paying job? Gone. I can no longer come close to doing that job now. And you would be amazed at how many people tell me how lucky I am! Not lucky that I didn’t die when I had the stroke, but lucky that I have a life they envy. Making far less money, taking hours to get places by public transit that a driver can get to in minutes, having to sit for hours with my eyes closed if I overdo reading.
People think I’m lucky because I decided I would not be unlucky. One of my friends told me, “I’d never wish that I had a stroke, but you make it look really good!” Not to say that I never feel pitiful, or grieve for what I lost, or am frustrated with my life. Yes, I experience these things, but then I look at the cards I have in my hand and decide the best way to play them. I see The Path that the Universe has put me on, and wonder what amazing things can I find, see and do because of where I am in contrast to where I was? What do I have time to write that might make a difference to my readers? What can I do to make the most of what I have and find happiness right here and now?
So would you really like to be a CFO? Then get the education, do the work, and prepare for the sacrifice of personal time. Would you really like to run marathons? Then start running and research the changes you need to make in your life. Would you really like to live in an exotic paradise? Then give up your life here and move.
The bottom line is that unless your friend won the lottery, or you are permanently disabled in some way, you probably can’t say the other person is luckier than you, or that you wish you could do what they do. What you can say is that you envy what they have, but you are afraid or unwilling to do the things they do in order to have them. Instead of being envious or downplaying their efforts by calling them lucky, spend your energy deciding what it is you really want for your life and do the things it takes to get them. Maybe that means living a simpler (aka less expensive) life, or managing your schedule so you have time to train, write, paint, or whatever your dream is. Or maybe it just means realizing that you are not “unlucky” and that what you have is the perfect thing for you. You just need to see it with the eyes of an outsider. Because I guarantee that someone thinks you are lucky to have what you have!
And if you’ve found the things you really want in life and are going for them, CONGRATULATIONS! I am happy and proud for you of all your hard work and sacrifices!
Count your blessings and feel lucky, my friends!