I hardly ever drink alcohol, but considering it was the first conference where I’d put myself up to pitching, you could say—I would say—that a lucky thirst possessed me. The editor not only extracted a pitch from me, but ended up offering me contracts (plural).
I also believe bad things happen to good people, which some of us might call bad luck.
I do not believe bad luck and good luck can always be distinguished from each other.
Take, for example, my dear old dad, who as a young man wanted nothing in this life so much as to own a dairy farm. Dairy farming is relentlessly hard work, dangerous, and difficult, but this was his dream—his only dream.
As dreams go, owning a dairy farm has a drawback. A modest dairy operation with a decent herd, some acres, equipment to tend those acres, a milking parlor and tank, living quarters, and all the other accoutrements of the trade costs an immodest fortune. Then too, my dad had not been raised on a farm, and the skills involved—everything from commodities economics, to meteorology, to bovine veterinary science, to agronomy and many other disciplines—is not easily or quickly learned from books.
Dad is nothing if not determined, though, so he mapped out a course: He’d hire on with the company that went from farm to farm and collected the milk from the holding tanks. He’d get to know the various farms in the area, and then go work with one of them. A few cows at a time, he’d start his own herd, or share of a herd, and so the dream could be attained one moo cow at a time.
Alas for my dear father. He got the job with the milk collecting company, and shortly thereafter forgot to tighten some coupling between two hoses. Awfully bad luck there—he’s not a forgetful man, by any means. A semi-trailer worth of milk went into the ground, dad was promptly fired, and his dream went into the dirt along with all the moo juice.
Except… my great uncle pointed out to Dad that one could study dairy science up at the college. Up to the college Dad did go. Turns out, there wasn’t much known about how milk is produced at a cellular level, and the subject fascinated my father. In very short order, he was a tenured professor with graduate students from around the world (milk is serious business for most developing counties), publications stacking up left and right, and—more important than any of that—a job he loved that made a meaningful contribution.
The next time you drink milk from an opaque plastic jug, remember the young man whose dream went into the dirt. He instead figured out that light alters flavor compounds in milk, and had great fun doing it.
So… was it bad luck, the day Dad forgot to tighten that coupling, or good luck? I fare best if think in terms not of good luck and bad luck, but of good luck and good luck in disguise.
What about you? Ever had some good luck arrive in disguise?