“Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity” (Oprah Winfrey).
WHEN GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO THEIR NEIGHBORS, SOME PEOPLE JUST SHAKE THEIR HEADS AND SAY, “SOME FOLKS HAVE ALL THE LUCK.” They assume that life’s blessings are only for the lucky. But while fortuitous circumstances do occur, the thing most people call “luck” is not luck at all. It is, as Oprah Winfrey said, a matter of “preparation meeting opportunity.” Oprah herself gave a number of writers their “big break” by putting them on her television show. But there is nothing lucky about that process. These were people who had worked long and hard at their writing craft, and when Oprah called, they were prepared and ready to take advantage of the opportunity. For the unprepared, such a “break” would be useless.
In our instant society, the whole concept of preparation is often short-circuited. If a situation requires any preparation, we can’t see why it should take very long. The idea of preparing for something by working diligently over a period of many years sounds crazy to us.
The truth, however, is that all serious work requires preparation — sometimes over a long span of time. Indeed, the time of preparation may exceed the time of the work itself. And not only does it take time, but it often requires considerable hardship and pain. Those who finally succeed are usually those who have experienced many failures along the way. So I encourage you to take a broader view of preparation. There is not much that you will ever learn or experience that won’t help prepare you for some worthy work that you could do in the future.
My good friend Curtis Byers, who knows the science of physics, tells me that “potential” is the amount of “work” that can be done by an elevated object. But its potential (the work it can do) is no greater than the work that was required to elevate it in the first place! So in life, as in physics, there is no free lunch. Those who have the greatest potential are those who have worked the hardest at preparation. Instead of luck, it’s a matter of being ready when opportunity knocks.
“Men who have attained things worth having in this world have worked while others idled, have persevered while others gave up in despair, have practiced early in life the valuable habits of self-denial, industry, and singleness of purpose. As a result, they enjoy in later life the success so often erroneously attributed to luck” (Grenville Kleiser).