luck

Being wary of success

When we don’t meet our expectations or the targets we set to achieve; we are often told to take solace in the fact that failures are a stepping stone for success. We are reminded to introspect ourselves and find out where we went wrong so that we would not repeat the same mistakes again.

However, our successes are always met with adulation and praise and we are made to feel that we have done everything right. As a result, we often fail to introspect and ignore the role of chance that might have played a part in our success. Rarely do people ask us to introspect when we surpass their expectations. 

Consider India’s recent Champions trophy triumph. We only talk about how well India played  in the tournament and how they deserved to win the cup. But it was actually a couple of minutes of  English self destruction in the final that gifted India the cup. Of course, they did play well to get to the final but on another day India could have been on the losing side and we would immediately find a host of reasons for their loss. But for us a victory overshadows all the small mistakes which (un)fortunately did not have to play a major role.

The major reason why we dont ask others to introspect in their moment of glory is that we are bothered only about the final result and not the process leading to that outcome. We dont ask a kid who gets a perfect score on his class test, if he had skipped certain portions but was lucky not to see them on his test paper. A full score means he is a prodigy: No further questions please.

Another reason is that we are afraid to ask someone to take some time to think about his success. We feel that it would roughly translate into something like “Sorry pal, you dont deserve this. You were very lucky” which project us as a jealous person.

In the end, it is upon us to ensure that we don’t overestimate our capabilities or underestimate the role of chance since it is a failure to introspect after a success which often causes our next defeat

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When luck becomes a problem

The dictionary defines luck as good fortune or adversity brought by chance and not through one’s own actions.   Luck can be experienced in two different situations.

Situations where we do not have control over the outcome such as winning a lottery or losing a game of dice or suffering an accident etc and situations where we can control the outcome.

It is in the latter situations that luck can have an adverse impact on our minds.

Consider two students A and B who prepare for an exam. A studies exactly half of the portions while B studies the other half. In the exam it is found that the questions largely pertain to the domain which A prepared for. So, A scores much higher marks than B though both studied exactly the same amount.  Naturally, both would believe that luck was the reason for their outcomes considering both of them knew each other’s preparation levels.

The unlucky B would ask himself why he wasn’t as lucky as A and that he might continue his same practices hoping that luck would favor him the next time, like it did for A. Chances are that he would again likely be unable to meet his aim of a high score.

Meanwhile, A would no doubt feel elated at his performance in the exam. However, he fails to realize that it defeats the larger purpose of mastering the subject. Furthermore, he might continue the same practices for the next exam and could suffer the same fate as B did.

Let’s take another example of a batsman who plays reckless shots but ends up scoring a century due to sheer luck. Dropped catches, balls narrowly missing the stumps and missed run out chances all would have played a part in his century. The next batsman gets inspired by watching him and plays his first rash stroke the first ball he faces and gets out due to a fluke catch. Here also luck had  affected the outcomes.

The first batsman might continue to play the same way in the next match and would get out soon while the latter would also continue to play the same way hoping that luck would favor him the next time with no guarantee of success.

These examples illustrate the dependence on luck in situations where we have control over the outcome.

Instead of attributing one’s success or failure due to luck isn’t it better to avoid the dependence on luck and instead concentrate on preparing for all possible difficulties which may arise in the situations thereby guaranteeing success always ?  For you never know when luck can help you.