Luck is probability taken personally. – Penn Jillette, who attributes this quote to Chip Denman
What does that mean?
Think about that for a moment. Were you lucky, or did statistics simply favor you that one time? Or, perhaps, for several times in a row?
Is that really luck, or are you reading more into it than is really there? Have you ever thought about it? Do you believe in luck? Are you someone who thinks themselves to be a ‘lucky’ person?
Life is full of opportunities to claim that ‘luck’ was involved, but usually it isn’t luck but a fortunate statistical outcome. Just missed something? Just barely got something? Luck, or statistics?
The point is to not take things so personally. Unless you believe that there is something or someone looking out for you, bending the rules of probability, it’s just math.
Why is being realistic important?
If you flip enough coins, you will eventually end up with a string of heads or tails, or any particular pattern you desire to see. Does that mean you were lucky, or simply that statistics favored you? If you had a string of a dozen heads, it’s still a 50/50 proposition the next time you flipped the coin.
I believe it is important to realize this, preferably before you declare yourself to be lucky and then do something stupid. Have you ever done that? Had something go your way a few times, and then go all-in and blow it rather spectacularly? I know I have, and I imagine you have at some point.
Whether it’s rolling dice, playing cards, or jumping out of trees, your ‘luck’ will eventually run out. This is where being realistic is important. If you you start believing in luck, you may well be tempted to start counting on luck. But it won’t always work out the way you hope, right?
Reality and hope are often polar opposites. Just look at the lines for lottery tickets when the jackpot gets particularly large. How well does that work out for all but one of them? Luck has less to do with it than statistics and probability. Just trying to keep it real.
Where can I apply this in my life?
I tend to be in the right place at the right time. But is that luck, or is it preparation, combined with noticing when things go my way and ignoring what doesn’t go my way? Our ability to notice patterns is an important survival trait. Unfortunately, we tend to delete what doesn’t fit our notions, and that can be problematic.
The only times in my life when I have had real problems is when I have said to myself, “Self, you’re a lucky kind of guy, let’s go do something stupid! Luck will see me through!” That rarely goes well for me. It has led to all kinds of problems from cuts and scrapes to emergency room visits.
Instead, when I think about things, I can usually avoid the stupid things fairly well on my own. Luck rarely has anything to do with it. But I don’t consider myself lucky when I avoid doing something stupid, that’s just common sense. At least that’s what I call it.
How about you, how much of your luck is just common sense, applied at the proper time? Whether it’s a second thought about leaping before looking or just thinking through an action and considering the possible consequences, what some call ‘luck’ is usually more about preparation than good fortune.
When do you tend to be the luckiest? Take a moment and consider how much practice you have at it. Consider how many times you tried, and what it took to learn from your mistakes. Consider how much effort went into preparation for the attempt. Are you lucky, or prepared, skilled, and well planned?
Now consider when you tend to be the least lucky. When do things tend to go poorly for you on a regular basis. Consider the same things you did when you were lucky. Were you unskilled? Were you ill-prepared? Were you not particularly practiced, or failed to learn from your mistakes?
Think about the differences between when things work your way and when they don’t. What can you use from the good times to help limit the bad times? You are always at the mercy of the one-in-a-million occurrence, but at least you can plan for the more obvious things, right?
Luck is a term people like to use when they either don’t know or don’t want to acknowledge the reasons why something did or did not go their way. Whether in humility or stupidity, or something in-between, attributing statistics and probability to a mystic force, rather than their own effort, or lack thereof.
Are you lucky or unlucky? Or is it something else entirely?
From: Twitter, @lexfri
confirmed at : https://twitter.com/lexfri/status/279299626413211650 look for Penn’s response, crediting Chip
Photo by Simon & His Camera