Saturday, 14 July 2007

Do We Make Our Own Luck?

Luck in its specific definition, is directly related to fate. To be lucky, is to simply be in position of a fortuitous circumstance. Such circumstances are apparently brought about through some unknown property of the universe, which often places itself at our disposal, in the form of lucky charms, lucky wishes, lucky mascots etc. When luck happens upon us, then it is put down to fate. Our 'lucky number' came up and it was a fateful event that was meant to happen, it was 'written in the stars'.

When someone wins the lottery we call them lucky, without realizing even in multi-million lotteries, which have millions of entrants, someone somewhere is statistically likely to win. So why bother calling it luck, when in reality it is just a statistical likelihood, that someone has to be a winner. Of course, for the millions of losers luck was apparently, not on their side.

There are a 'million-and-one' supestitions that are supposed to be unlucky: crossing a black cat on the wrong side, the number thirteen, walking under a ladder (is that really bad luck, or is it really just asking for trouble?), smashing a mirror, putting shoes on a table, opening an umbrella indoors, the list goes on and on. What is so astounding about these apparently unlucky customs, is not that they are really unlucky, it is that grown adults, actually believe such nonsense in the first place.

And why is luck so 'hit-and-miss'? ...It apparently doesn't even play favorites. In the UK, a convicted mugger won the lottery. Perhaps he had a 'lucky rabbits foot' on him at the time. The point is that luck has nothing to do with it, just about anyone is up to win the lottery and statistical probability does not care whether you are a a thief or a policeman. Of course those of us with more sense, tend to stay away from lotteries, realizing that winning odds are so pathetically poor, that you would be better of sticking the money in a jar each week or better still investing it. Then again, if you believe in luck, then nothing will keep you from buying that ticket each week... and who reading this, has their own set of 'lucky-numbers'.

There are believe it or not, individuals in the World who even take the belief in luck to new heights of absurdity and have such a divergent fear of apparently unlucky phenomena, that one could call their passion for avoidance of such phenomena - phobic. There are people who are so fearful on 'Friday the 13th' that they will spend the day in bed.

The foreboding of fear, in some individuals over unlucky 'signs of the universe', is of course instilled in them, through tradition and such beliefs are started in folklore, many of which are straight out of the Dark Ages and are passed on from generation to generation. The more reasonable among us, giggle at such nonsense and find such beliefs cringe-worthy.

However, there is another definition of luck that can be summed up in the sentence: 'do you make your own luck'. What this really means is, that based on probability, if you do the right thing in relationship to what you are attempting to achieve, then sooner or later, you will hit a 'lucky home run'. Of course this has nothing to do with luck in the traditional sense, of believing in something based on folklore, it is just putting yourself in a position of likely probability, based on statistical likelihood.

As a side note: Many individuals, when looking at statistics of probability, make a common error of misunderstanding. They assume for example, if one flips a coin and it comes up heads 70 times and tails 30 times, then statistical probability would predict that the next flip of the coin, is more likely to be in favor of tails than heads... This is erroneous, the flip of the coin will be a 50% likelihood for both heads and tails, on every flip of the coin, the coin has no memory of past statistics and the probability on each single flip of the coin never changes.

So, luck in its common sense meaning, is of course nonsensical. There are no elements within the laws of physics that guide or determine human behavior based on luck. On the other hand, one can make one's own luck, based simply on repeating the correct actions, that would lead to a good statistical probability, of those events coming true.

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