Saturday, January 31, 2009


Last month, Libby told me I am lucky. And I feel fortunate, but I don't think luck has a lot to do with it. This article explains why.

1. Lucky people frequently happen upon chance opportunities. But this is more than just being in the right place at the right time. “Lucky” people also have to be aware or the opportunity, and have the courage to seize it.
2. Lucky people listen to their hunches. In other words, they listen to their gut instinct. This reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, which argues that often our first instincts are correct.
3. Lucky people persevere in the face of failure. You’ve all seen that Nike commercial from Michael Jordan, right? “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
4. Lucky people have the ability to turn bad luck into good fortune.

I am an information junkie, not just information about my field or my interests, but information about opportunities. I am always scouring the net for info that might lead to something. I get this in part from my friend Amy. When I was in my first year of college, Amy (who'd been one of my best friends in K-12 but graduated a year early and went to Cornell, which I attended the next year) called me up to tell me that the library had just called her to ask her for an interview as she had applied for a job there. She had already taken another job and wasn't available, but she called me to let me know in case I wanted a job there. I applied and worked there for 3+ years very happily, and rose to the heights of Student Supervisor.

Amy made an impact on me. As a result of her influence, I try to be as generous and networky with my friends. But I also try to keep my eyes open for interesting possibilities.

I am not as secure in my hunches as Gladwell would have me. I tend not to like to make snap decisions. But I do make such decisions about people and am rarely wrong. Was I lucky in my contractor who worked on my kitchen? I don't know. I made a snap decision that he was the person I wanted to work on my kitchen. I knew the price he was asking and was willing to pay it. And I have to say, the work did not drag on. I think it was done as quickly and efficiently as possible, and they did a competent job. We didn't have any Nightmare Contractor stories as a result, and that was the most important thing to me.

Most importantly, I think I do persevere in the face of failure. In 2000 I took a risk and left a great job and great boss for an opportunity to teach full-time. It blew up in my face spectacularly and I did three years in pris^H^H^H^HMaine as a result. But I kept looking for jobs in my field and also did a lot of self-examination, and I found the right job for me, a job that is incredibly family friendly and gives me freedom to pursue my interests. I think 3 and 4 go together; I wouldn't say I had bad luck in 2000. I made some choices that didn't work out. I guess some bad luck was that 9/11 happened. That was something I couldn't control, and it affected me deeply (as I used to work a few blocks from the WTC). I fell into a deep depression and several other things happened outside my control. But the good thing is that I was so used to looking for opportunities and making my own luck that I was able to see that my depression was the barrier to seeing opportunities and I was able to get myself the help I needed. I knew that the normal me saw opportunities everywhere, and if I couldn't find them, that's because something was wrong with my perception. And I was right. Once the Zoloft started kicking in, I started to see more clearly.

I've had an awful January, feeling down and making some bad (not really really bad, but bad enough I would change them if I could) choices. But I've been open to new possibilities, and I have a busy social schedule in February. I expect that the pendulum will swing the other way soon enough.

And it won't be luck. It will be me making that happen.


Libby said...

Sorry about your January. I have to say, lately I've been feeling lucky to have a job! And who would ever have thought that pursuing English as a career would ever be the way to job security? It's astonishing to me that it's working out this way right now. (Of course, nothing is truly secure, but relative to some careers this one is looking good right now...)

Wendy said...

I agree--I don't see myself losing my job any time soon. I even asked my chair, and she listed all the steps that would be taken *before* we lost our jobs. (We don't have tenure at our institution, too.)

Two years ago, I had a worse January, but I could tell you why, and you'd wonder how I survived. :) This January sucks beause it's been lousy, but there's no good reason for it. Ugh.