by Chris Brannick
“I know what you’re thinking. ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well, to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you’ve gotta ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”
From the film Dirty Harry, scriptwriters Harry Julian Fink, Rita M. Fink and Dean Riesner, more generally misquoted as “D’ya feel lucky, punk?”.
Well, do you?
Clint Eastwood, as Harry Callahan, is pointing his Magnum at an injured man who is trying to decide whether to grab for the rifle that’s just out of reach. Clint has outlined the choice perfectly. He had just fired either 5 or 6 shots, so there is a 50/50 chance that his gun is empty. One option is that the bank robber escapes; but the other is that he dies.
That, then, appears to be a matter of logic, not of luck. Rewording the question as “Do I feel logical?” would be better, although a much less telling piece of dialogue.
So, if I may, the same question again. Do you feel lucky?
Are some people born lucky?
Sometimes we can meet people who appear to be born lucky; and sometimes we feel that we were born under a bad sign. Some people then extend that – consciously or otherwise – into a belief that somehow they don’t deserve to be successful. Good things happen to other people.
Coaching can help target the self-limiting beliefs that lie behind this attitude and develop strategies that can change perspective and motivation, and bring about better results in all areas of life.
What is luck?
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” is a quote often wrongly attributed to Seneca, the Greek philosopher.
Our lives are a succession of chance events. We naturally try to structure these events so that there is some predictability – certainty of the future is one of the prime drivers of contentment for many people. We know where we will be working, where we live, who will be there when we return, and so on. But we cannot predict the behaviour or attitudes of any of the other people involved.
Our cars break down, trains are cancelled, clients change their brief – a million different things can happen and in spite of our best efforts, no single day is like the next one. And few of us would wish for absolute predictability.
“Luck” is how we perceive these unpredictable events. Bad things and good things happen to all of us, and there is no universal law that ensures that these things even out over a lifetime. Things that appear to be bad can have positive impacts; those who failed to get on board the Titanic, for example, from reasons ranging from a sprained ankle to a toss of a coin. A close friend of mine lost her job two weeks before her dream job became available – where she is now working happily.
It’s easy to find tales of lottery winners deeply regretting ever winning their millions, including William ‘Bud’ Post III, whose story includes his brother trying to murder him, his landlady suing him and ending his days wandering around his mansion complaining that his false teeth didn’t fit. Luck is relative.
Luck is relative
Tsutomu Yamaguchi was working in Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. He was about to leave the city when he realised that he’d forgotten his permit to travel. He travelled back for it and at 8.15am was just 3km from the first atomic bomb to drop on Japan. He survived, and returned the next day to his office in Nagasaki.
Two days after that, he was in his office, explaining what had happened to his supervisor. His supervisor could not believe that any bomb was capable of what Tsutomu was describing. At that moment the second bomb dropped, again just 3km from where Tsutomu was standing.
He died in 2010 aged 93.
Lucky or unlucky? Unlucky to have been so close to two nuclear explosions, or lucky to have survived them? His attitude tells you how he felt about it:
“I could have died on either of those days,” he said. “Everything that follows is a bonus.”
So what can we do to maximise luck? Part 2 of this post will look at ways to reframe events that have happened to you in the past, and start to look at ways you can change your luck.