What’s Luck Got To Do With It?

One of my friends -let’s call him Tim- is stuck in a nine to five job he hates with every ounce of his being. He’s seriously overweight, so that’s a lot of hate.

I’ve tried to be helpful by being a considerate, patient listener, but last week it became clear to me that Tim is very invested in staying miserable.

It may sound twisted, but having something to hate means Tim can blame his misery on something he perceives as being out of his control. If he can’t control it, he can’t change it. That’s the idea.

Here’s my prediction: as long as Tim keeps blaming others for his woes, he’ll never be happy. For him to feel better, other people or “circumstances” would need to change, and that is unlikely to happen.

CREATING CHANGE

Between you and me, if I had a magic wand that could suddenly transform people into becoming moral, thoughtful, compassionate, selfless contributors to society, I’d go to every prison, school, addiction center… even the White House, and I would wave that wand.

The truth is that we cannot make other people do or believe what we think is in their best interest if they don’t see it that way. It’s the reason why countries are at war, marriages break up, friendships fail, and why psychotherapists are still in business.

I think Tim could benefit from seeing a therapist, but remember, he says there’s nothing wrong with him. The rest of the world just sucks. As you can imagine, Tim hasn’t been fun to hang around lately, especially since he’s added another poisonous emotion to his repertoire: resentment.

Not only does he hate his job, he also resents the fact that people like me love what we do for a living. Sorry Tim, but I make no apologies. I enjoy dealing with clients from the solitude of my home studio. I’m happy to use my voice to educate people about new medical treatments. I’m thrilled to help companies and organizations share their message with the world. I wish everyone had a job as fulfilling as mine.

GOOD FORTUNE

I’m not going to give up on Tim, though. He’s a good man going through a bad time. Been there. Done that. What rubs me the wrong way, however, is the thing he keeps on repeating every time we talk:

“Paul, you’re so lucky. You’re so lucky to have a job like that. I wish I was as lucky as you are.”

Tim is telling me something he’s not saying. He’s revealing how he believes the world works. It’s something I’ve heard many, many times when I tell people about the joys of doing voice-overs for a living.

Those who call me lucky don’t see my success as the result of hard work, but as the effect of good fortune. The gods must be smiling upon me as I count my lucky stars. I simply showed up at the right place at the right time with the right people, and everything fell into place. My goodness, what on earth did I do to deserve this?

This notion is strengthened by the fact that people who are good at what they do, make it seem easy. Look at famous athletes or musicians. If you make something look or sound effortless, it must mean that what you do requires little effort, education, experience, or talent.

HAVING A KNACK

Talent is another tricky one. It’s something you’re supposed to be born with, so: lucky you!

Let’s conveniently forget how long it takes to shape a diamond in the rough into a precious jewel. You’ve got to nurture nature. I’ve seen insanely talented people get nowhere because they’re lazy and arrogant. I’ve also seen moderately talented people make it big thanks to hard work and an attitude of humility.

To tell you the truth: professionally speaking (pun intended) I don’t feel lucky. I feel accomplished.

Me being where I am in my career is the result of carefully planned and executed steps that started way back when. It is the result of my choices and my actions. That’s where Tim and I differ.

Tim sees himself as a victim of circumstances. He feels he has no choice. I see myself as the creator of conditions that pave the way to success. In my mind, I always have a choice, as long as I am willing to learn, be flexible, and take action.

FEELING PRIVILEGED

Looking back at my life, I think there were only two things that have stacked the deck in my favor that made me extremely lucky:

The country of my birth, and what family I was born and raised in.

Those two elements are part of the tragic unfairness of life. We don’t get to choose where we’re born and into what family. But it does not have to define our destiny either. Getting a head start doesn’t mean we’ll beat everyone at the finish line. Some rich kids end up in the gutter and some poor kids run multi-million dollar companies. Who and what is to blame and why?

We can’t change where we were born, and from what gene pool we came into being. The rest is pretty much up to us if we choose to embrace that responsibility. That involves making a choice between cause and effect.

Do you wish to lead your life like Tim, who is letting things happen (effect), or do you want to be the one making things happen (cause)?

If you’re convinced things are randomly happening to you, Lady Luck is your best friend. If you believe you are the prime instigator of change in your life, preparedness is your best buddy.

ACTIONS AND RESULTS

After years and years on this planet, I have a feeling that things don’t just fall into our laps, although it may certainly seem that way. I believe that we -consciously and unconsciously- are putting things in motion by what we do and fail to do.

All these things lead up to one moment where preparedness meets opportunity. Not by chance but by choice. That opportunity leads to other opportunities, and to something we eventually call a career. Connect the dots backward, and you’ll see what I mean. And if you’re still not convinced, start reading (auto)biographies of people you admire.

If Tim wants to be happy, Tim needs to change. He needs to stop blaming his food for making him fat. He needs to stop blaming his boss for making him miserable. Tim needs to let go of his anger, and turn resentment into appreciation.

If he wants his life to change, he has to change.

Tim and I need to talk.

I’ll have that conversation with him tomorrow.

Wish me luck.

Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice

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About the author

Paul Strikwerda

is a Dutch-English voice-over pro, coach, and writer. His blog is one of the most widely read and influential blogs in the industry. Paul is also the author of "Making Money In Your PJs, Freelancing for voice-overs and other solopreneurs."

by Paul Strikwerda in Articles, Career, Freelancing, Personal

14 Responses to What’s Luck Got To Do With It?

  1. Cliff Zellman

    Outstanding Paul! (again).

    If I may add a short thought my very wise and long-gone Grandmother taught me…

    ” Wherever you are in life, you made an appointment to be there”.

    I think this fits this theme of your blog.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Most definitely. Sometimes we don’t realize we made that appointment in the past, but the future is a result of all the seeds we have sown yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

    [Reply]

  2. Joshua Alexander

    What’s luck got to do…got to do with it? What’s luck, but a second hand emotion???

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    You must have first-hand knowledge!

    [Reply]

  3. Mike Hennessy

    Man, ain’t that the truth. I’m working very hard to become a professional voice over. Haven’t made it yet, but this is a tough racket and I’m sure people more skilled and more talented than I am are facing the same struggle. One thing’s for sure, if you choose to become a voice actor, you’re going to have face some very ugly realities. Voice acting is a choice and if you make that choice, you can’t afford to be thin-skinned. I don’t mean oblivious, if you’re not getting work you have to know why, but you also have to understand that there’s a randomness to voice acting that you can mitigate, but never eliminate.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Your voice alone will not give you a career. That’s the part people consistently underestimate. Once you hang up your online sign, you’ve become the owner of a shop that needs foot traffic to survive. That’s something they don’t teach you in voice-over school.

    [Reply]

  4. William Cline

    I believe in making your own luck and be being prepared to to take advantage of opportunities that come your away . Your absolutely correct in that People never see the hard work that goes into being successful only the end result .

    Happy 4th

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Thank you, William. I’ve seen and heard enough fireworks to keep me going for another year.

    [Reply]

  5. Jodi Krangle

    Well said, Paul. And I have more friends I have to have that sort of conversation with than I’d care to admit. :-/ It’s not a good one to have to have. But there are certainly people I know who have gotten so down on themselves and their circumstances – and with whom I CAN NOT express my joy at my OWN circumstances (or much of anything about what I do, really…)… And I can either have that conversation or just see a LOT less of them.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Some people are really invested in their model of the world. If you try to shake it, they feel personally attacked. I always tell myself that a person is not their behavior. It’s just a coping mechanism to deal with life’s challenges. I’m a strong believer in the power of unconscious persuasion. Watch the movie Amélie and see the role the gnome plays. That’s my kind of intervention!

    [Reply]

  6. DaveC

    Thank you, Paul. That was truly needed this evening.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Any time, Dave!

    [Reply]

  7. Catherine Campion

    Amén.

    [Reply]

    Paul Strikwerda Reply:

    Hallelujah!

    [Reply]

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