Friday, March 30, 2012

The Moo-ral of the Story About Luck by Grace Burrowes

I believe there is such a thing as being in the right place at the right time, as, for example, when I found myself standing in line at a bar, and a friendly editor with a knitting bag happened to be waiting for a glass of water (swear to goodness) right beside me.

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?

9 comments:

  1. Grace, I love the story about your dad. And I'm glad that the editor with the knitting bag offered you multiple contracts because that's what put you into my path as a writing buddy. Plus, your writing is simply delicious!

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  2. Grace, what an inspiring story about your dad, and what amazing luck for you! Multiple contracts!

    I am a firm believer in fate and destiny...karma too...so I'm careful what I wish for and who I curse. LOL!

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  3. When I first applied for my dream job I immediately received a rejection letter.
    Then six months later they called me, was I still interested? They'd made a hiring mistake, a bad fit.
    In that six months I completed tests giving my CVID diagnosis and started my treatments that keep me alive. The first six months knocked me flat.
    So while they made their hiring mistake I had time to get a treatment to be healthy enough for my dream job.

    What a cool dad. And here's to the line at the bar for club soda with lime!

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  4. Excellent story!

    I definitely believe bad luck can lead to good luck in the future.

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  5. Grace, I like your take on luck. When I was a Senior in high school a girl I didn't know well did a book report on Pride and Prejudice (I did Ivanhoe). She raved about the book. I was less than enthralled with Ivanhoe and didn't immediately grab P&P. But I thought about that review for the next year and a half and the summer after my first year of college I noticed my parents had P&P on their bookshelf. I started reading it in the afternoon and at 3 a.m. finished the book. It changed my life. I wouldn't be a romance author if I hadn't read it. And it all started because I listened to that book report.

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  6. Carolyn, thanks for shout out, and I'm warning you now: I'll probaby be driving through OK toward the end of summer. I expect to meet some cowboys, writing buddy.

    Colleen-Because Dad ended up on faculty at a major university, any of his dependents could attend there for a 75 percent tuition discount. All seven of us have at least one undergraduate degree, some of us have two.

    Kitchen--gadzooks, what a tale. Worked out for the best, and I'm sure the bad fit was happy to move on, too.

    Brooklyn Ann--though sometimes it takes almost 400 pages, right?

    Shana--Ivanhoe was written by a guy, of course, hence the fair Rowena's sojourn to Spain when she shoulda gone for her man. Glad you were struck with the P&P bug, and your readers are too.

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  7. I love the story of your dad, Grace! That's really precious. And that's so neat that he found his dream. That's great about the multiple contracts also. So now, you go to a bar and have a drink...what was the drink you had?...and pitch to a woman who has a knitting bag and...:)

    I totally agree that luck can have something to do with having the right mss at the right time before the right editor, but all the wonderful writing you do has nothing to do with luck! It's all you. :)

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  8. Always so fascinating to learn the twists and turns that bring someone to the place they end up in life. I really like your "good luck" and "good luck in disguise" mentality...I'll do my best to remember it next time I feel like things aren't headed down the path I want to go - perhaps I just being nudged somewhere better :)

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  9. What a great story! And I agree about good/bad luck. I got laid off from my job half-way into writing my first novel. The time off allowed me to finish it and I ended up getting a contract on THE HIGHEST STAKES. Four years later I'm writing full time and will never look back.
    Thanks so much for sharing!

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