I learned a great lesson about luck recently.
A few weeks ago my family went camping with some good friends. During the trip we spent a couple of mornings fishing at a nearby lake.
We had a blast! Between all of us we caught 22 fish over the course of 2 days. But there was one fish that was particularly memorable.
Towards the end of the second morning on the lake my boys were getting pretty frustrated. Not only had their friends caught the vast majority of the fish but their sister had caught three good sized rainbow trout and neither of them had caught a thing.
Suddenly the younger boy got a nibble! He managed to set the hook and then handed the pole to my wife to help him land it. After a short battle we realized that the entire line had been pulled out of the reel and that the fish, with the hook and bobber still attached, was slowly swimming down the shoreline about 50 feet out
Dad the Hero
Wanting to make my son’s dreams come true, I took off my sweatshirt, shoes and socks and waded into the shallow water.
I got within about 5 feet of the bobber before sinking into a hole with a splash that caused the fish to dive, dashing my hopes of patriarchal heroism.
I hung out in the water for few minutes but when the fish didn’t show up I begrudgingly returned to shore soaking wet, freezing cold and empty handed.
The One That Got Away
I started to dry off on shore when our friend yelled excitedly that the bobber had reappeared further down the shoreline!
Back in the water; older son managed to cast and snag his brother’s line; son got the fish close enough for me to grab it. I got hold of the bobber and then that fish somehow broke free and swam away.
We were so close in fact that we all noticed that this fish wasn’t a rainbow trout like the rest we’d caught. This fish had large distinct leopard spots along its back.
Well I climbed out of the water for the second time; dried off as best I could; we all had a good laugh and unanimously agreed that we’d chock that up to a catch-and-release.
But I was determined…I wanted to catch that fish for my boys. We’d all worked hard for it and I wanted it back. The great thing is I knew exactly what I was looking for because this was a distinct fish.
The Luckiest Catch
A couple of hours, several prayers and many casts later everybody was ready to go. As people started packing up I looked at my youngest daughter and said “watch, THIS time I’m going to catch a fish.”
I cast my line out one last time and within just a minute or two saw the bobber sink below the water! I set the hook, felt the fish start to pull and called my oldest boy over to let him enjoy the thrill of reeling one in.
He excitedly grabbed the pole, landed the fish and then our jaws hit the ground when I pulled out a fish that looked exactly like the one that got away.
Needless to say this was an incredibly awesome way to cap off the experience. That’s a memory with my boys that I will enjoy forever.
Making Your Own Luck
As I’ve thought about this experience over the last 3 weeks it’s made me a believer that much of what we attribute to “luck” is really 95% vision, hard work and tenacity and 5% being in the right place at the right time when opportunity and good fortune come knocking.
In this case, it would have been easy to just let the fish when the line pulled off the reel. No getting wet, no spending 2 hours in cold, wet clothes.
It also would have been easy to call it a day and head back to camp after getting in the water twice and losing the fish.
I could have gotten fed up with the lack of action during the 2 hours that I was fishing in wet clothes and just kicked back in a chair to enjoy the scenery.
But I persisted, I believed, I prayed, I worked and in the end, this time, all of that effort aligned with a little bit of good fortune and BOOM…miracle!
Life Lessons from the Lake
So how does this apply to the rest of life?
Think about all the times you’ve looked at someone and thought “they’re so lucky.” Have you looked at those around you and mentally uttered anything along the lines of:
“Sally is so lucky to have an in with so-and-so.”
“He’s so lucky to have that body.”
“She’s so lucky to have her own business.”
“They’re so lucky to live in that house.”
“John is so lucky to have that job.”
“Lucky for her, she’s very good at ________.”
“He’s lucky to know so much about ________.”
The more I learn from people who have been “lucky” in things I want to accomplish the more I realize that luck has nothing to do with it.
How to Make Your Own Luck
The people I meet or follow who have been successful have worked hard at the right things. Specifically they’ve worked hard to learn the rules of success and then follow them.
For example they achieved physical freedom by learning what things would truly improve their health and they exercised discipline to implement those rules in their lives.
Those who have achieved financial freedom did so by following the rules that lead to financial freedom.
Those who’ve started successful businesses, become successful writers, developed an expertise in something have all done so by following certain rules that lead to certain outcomes.
It’s not magic. Success usually requires being willing to invest the time, effort and sometimes money necessary to learn what to do and how to do it. After that it’s a matter of diligently pursuing your goals and pushing through the challenges that inevitably arise.
Sure, there will always be that portion of success that is dependent on good fortune, happy accidents or divine intervention. In this case no matter how hard I worked, re-catching the same fish (or one that looked just like it) was an answered prayer. Sometimes it comes down to that, doing all we can and waiting to see what happens.
Certainly things will not always work out as we would wish. I have way more fishing stories that end with me leaving the water empty handed, hard work, tenacity and prayers notwithstanding. Disappointment and frustration are part of life.
But the harder I work to succeed in achieving my goals the more I understand what seems to be a natural law. That luck, good fortune and divine intervention usually result from one’s efforts to work hard on the right things that will put you in the right place at the right time for good fortune or divine intervention to give you the break you need.