How come my back hurts?

My favorite book series is the Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind.  It’s a good sword-and-sorcery, good-versus-evil fantasy.

But I’m not here to talk about that series.  Rather, I’m going to talk about one particular scene in book 6, Faith of the Fallen.

There’s a scene where Richard, the protagonist, ends up in a socialist workers’ paradise, where the government controls distribution and everybody is starving.  Jobs are hard to come by, because everything is unionized and unions control access to work.  That’s a non-accidental parallel to every country that has embrace socialist principles, or even leans that way.  Go open a business with employees in France, I dare you.

So Richard goes out of his way to help someone with no expectation of reward.  This person then offers to vouch for him at the union meeting, effectively offering him a job.

This is the conversation that follows:

Nicci shook her head in disgust. “Ordinary people don’t have your luck, Richard. Ordinary people suffer and struggle while your luck gets you into a job.”

“If it was luck,” Richard asked, “then how come my back hurts?”

If it was luck, how come my back hurts?

Seneca, a 2000-year-dead Roman philosopher said, “Luck is where the crossroads of opportunity and preparation meet.” 

I won’t lie, I’ve got a pretty cushy job.  I make decent money, I work from home, I love my company’s mission, and I kind of fell into the job.

By fell into, I mean:

  • I started teaching myself to program computers when I was 7.
  • I worked in a collection agency collecting on defaulted student loans to put myself through college while I had a baby at home.
  • When I graduated, I went out of my way to help anyone I could, which positioned me for a promotion, getting my first programming job.  The first one is the hardest.
  • I spent 3 years studying the online marketing aspects of what I’m doing, with no promise of a payoff.
  • I launched a side business in the same industry as the company I work for.
  • I built a relationship with an author to include his books in the classes I teach.  He happened to move to the company I’m with.
  • I offered advice–for free, on a regular basis–on certain aspects of his business and his responsibilities with this company.
  • He offered me a job.

That’s 25 years and tens of thousands of dollars spent earning my luck.  How come my back hurts?

I have a friend on disability.  He has a couple of partially-shattered vertebrae in his back, but he keeps pushing off the corrective surgery because the payments would stop after he heals.   He refuses to get a regular job, because his payments would stop.  He lives on $400 per month and whatever he can hustle for cash, and he will make just that until the day he dies.   And he complains about his bad luck.

His back literally hurts, but not metaphorically.  His bad luck is the product of deliberately holding himself down to keep that free check flowing.

I have another friend who made some bad decisions young.   Some years ago, he decided that was over.  He took custody of his kid and started a business that rode the housing bubble.   When the bubble popped, so did his business.   Instead of whining about his luck, he worked his way into an entry-level banking job.

He put in long (long!) hours, bending over backwards to help his customers and coworkers, and managed a few promotions, far earlier than normal.  His coworkers whined about it.  He’s so lucky.  If it was luck, why does his back hurt?  

We make our own luck.

If you bust your ass, working hard and helping people–your coworkers, your customers, your friends, your neighbors–and you are willing to seize an opportunity when it appears, you will get ahead.   When you do, the people around you who do the bare minimum, who refuse–or are afraid–to seize an opportunity, who always ask what’s in it for them, they will will whine about your luck.

When they do, you will get to ask, “If it was luck, how come my back hurts?

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    1. I agree. If we just depend on luck, we’ll go nowhere. All takes handwork and perseverance, not just luck.

    2. Oh, you hit on one of my pet peeves. 🙂 I can’t stand it when people call my self-employment “lucky”. 100 hour work weeks with 2 jobs for more than a year is not luck. Luck matters, but persistence and putting the time in matters more.

    3. Well put! There is no luck involved. Everything I’ve ever made for myself was the result of good decision making, lessons learned, and tons of hard work! I always have a lot of people accuse me of being wealthy or not having to work as much as they do. But I always have to remind them: I worked hard to get to where I am. I force myself to create residual income streams that will yield me even more income. None of this is by chance. It’s all by design!

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