The secret of luck Print
Youth Column
Written by Karen Osborne, Catholic News Service   
Thursday, Feb. 06, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

Don't let James Bond flicks fool you -- casinos are really boring. I've only been twice, and both times I've been pretty much bored out of my skull. The one exciting moment came on our way back to the car, when my friend Melissa decided to put a penny she'd found on the ground into a nearby slot machine.

She pulled the lever and jackpot!

The initial excitement of hearing the jackpot music and seeing the flashing lights faded as we realized the entire amount we were getting was less than $10, but, still, we got lucky. In those moments, it was easy to figure out why, for some people, casinos can be terribly addicting.

The concept of luck has always bothered me. It seems unfair that there are some people who have better lives because they are "luckier" than others. These people were dealt a better hand by virtue of putting their metaphorical penny in the right slot machine: a singer at a karaoke club hits the stage the night a big record producer is visiting, a girl is born sole heiress to a fortune, or a guy takes the wrong train and meets his future wife.

It's really easy to get jealous of "lucky" people if you don't think you're one of the chosen few. The rest of us rarely see the full story, after all. We see the glam of a Grammy award, but none of the exhausting work it took to get there. We see a beautiful wedding, but not the 500 bad first dates that preceded it. Luck, in some ways, has to do less with magic and more with probability. Most people who get lucky have many unlucky moments before the "lucky" one happens.

If you look at a casino, you'll find it is all about math and probability. If you sit in front of a slot machine feeding it quarters for three days straight, you'll eventually "get lucky" (if you don't spend more money than you win, which is what the casino is really trying to get you to do).

It's better to apply this to real life. Instead of gambling, spend more time making yourself a better person and working on your skills. It will pay off later in ways you can't begin to imagine.

Every hour spent researching and learning pays off when you ace a paper or test. Every unpublished short story helps you work toward your publishing dream. Every hour spent practicing gets you closer and closer to a recording contract.

What will people say about you? "Oh, she got lucky!"

In a way, we're all very lucky. I have a roof over my head, a family to love me, and I know that my next meal is coming. That makes me very lucky indeed.

Are there people who end up in incredible situations just by virtue of being in the right place at the right time? Sure. But they are the outliers, exceptions to the rule.

Most of us make our own luck. Most of us do the work so that we can put ourselves in the right place at the right time. We put in the hours, learn the material and understand that success rarely comes overnight.

Karen Dietlein Osborne contributes to Coming of Age, a CNS column series for and about youth. She is a staff writer for the Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y..


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