On June 9 of this year, the writer Michael Lewis gave the commencement speech at Princeton, his alma mater. In it he made an observation about luck that went viral on the web.
Life’s outcomes, while not entirely random, have a huge amount of luck baked into them.
The truth of his statement is so obvious, one wonders why all the fuss. Being born is an extraordinary amount of luck, given the randomness that a particular sperm would intercept a particular ovum to produce “you.”
Lewis is right to remind us not to confuse luck with entitlement, however. Hard work and having talent is a necessary component of success but luck plays a huge part — a recognition that should humble us.
Take for example, the recent experience of a friend of mine. He is a dancer who created his own company. During his period of entrepreneurship, he learned many lessons, most of them about failure. Still, he carried on. Then, one day, a prestigious dance company advertised for a ballet master. Why not? he thought and applied. Several hundred other applicants had the same thought, but my friend got the job. What made the difference? His experience as the Executive Director of his limping company. He had an understanding of the business of ballet no other candidate could offer.
Was it luck or was it labor that got him his bright new future? Obviously both.
Lewis’ advice to the Princeton graduates rings true for all of us and for writers, especially. Good prose may not be enough to succeed in this trade. Sometimes a poor writer will soar above others of greater skill because of “the right connection” or having material that’s “all the rage.” If justice is blind, so is luck. A writer can do little about that except to keep writing and hope. Who knows? As they used to say on Candid Camera, “sometime, somewhere, when you least expect it,’ that bolt from the blue may have your name on it.
(Courtesy of www.wizards.com)