Monday, 1 March 2010


Phrases that annoy me, Part 2:

"You make your own luck"

Where do I start? How about a couple of dictionary definitions of the word 'luck'?

From our friends at "Something that happens to somebody by chance; a chance occurrence"

And from the generally more authoritative "Noun. 1. Success or failure brought about by chance. 2. Chance considered as a force causing success or failure. 3. Good fortune."

Are we seeing a pattern? 'Luck' is a term used to describe things that happen to us over which we have no influence. Things that we have not planned, brought about or often even conceived of.

There are two conclusions I wish to draw here. Firstly, if you have played any part in bringing something about, it is NOT 'luck'. It might be hard work, good preparation, a reward of your intelligence, skill, courage or sheer perseverance, but it is NOT luck. This of course works both ways, in that someone can be negligent, lazy or stupid, leading to mistakes, mishaps and even catastrophes. So, whilst Union Carbide may contend that the Bhopal disaster was 'bad luck', the Indian Supreme Court found otherwise. Likewise, England's 1966 World Cup triumph was down to physical strength, skill and tactical prowess as opposed to 'good luck'. And of course Mr Tofik Bakhramov of Azerbaijan.

Secondly, by it's very nature, luck CAN NOT be 'made'. It is random occurrence, outside anyone's sphere of influence, and, theoretically at least, would happen regardless of any actions taken by individuals or groups. I accept that a person can take actions which allow the forces of luck to take effect. A good example of this is buying a lottery ticket. If you don't, you're obviously not going to win, but once you have, you have no influence over your chances of success (assuming the propriety of those who conduct the draw).

It was Gary Player who said: "The more I practice, the luckier I get". He knew that his golfing success was down to his own dedication and natural ability. Actually, I think we all know when we are entitled to claim credit for our successes. "You make your own luck" is a lazy platitude, and I think it's time we gave luck the credit it deserves. We have a good degree of control over the course of our lives, but chance will inevitably have a role to play, and life is far more interesting as a result.