I cringe almost every time I hear someone describe the success of another as luck. From the local athlete who is drafted to play professional sports to the unheralded student who becomes a titan of industry, we so readily use the term “luck” when describing these achievements.
As a father who has raised his son to believe, as boxer Muhammad Ali said, “impossible is nothing,” I’m almost certain associating achievement with luck is one of the biggest obstacles parents create for themselves in trying to raise successful and independent children.
Dispel the fairytale of luck as magic
When children hear the word “luck” – unless they have been trained differently – they think of a good fortune that occurs outside of and irrespective of their own effort. Luck is the Fairy Godmother who waves her magic wand only for the select few. Make the varsity team – luck. Earn an academic scholarship – lucky. Graduate with honors – fortunate. Run a successful corporation – blessed.
This fairytale approach robs many children of the opportunity to do what practically every child is capable of – doing everything in his or her own power to maximize his or her ability.
Waiting for luck to decide who achieves and who flounders becomes the mythology that makes an unhealthy number of children and parents alike more than happy to settle for less. Waiting for luck is an exercise in futility that dooms many promising futures.
If he only had a Brain
When my son was 5 and participating in his first season of youth soccer, I figuratively introduced him for the first time to his brain. More precisely, I provided him with the first of many notebooks we affectionately referred to as his “Brain.” Before each game, I assigned him the tasks of thinking positively about his preparation, imagining a game well played, and meditating on the process that would allow him to play a good game.
The Brain was the tool we used first to rebuke the traditional teachings about luck. Instead of talk about luck, he used his Brain to document his visualization exercises. It was the instrument he used to write affirmations – often times over and over and over again. And his Brain was how we assessed the successes and shortcomings of our preparation.
While we initially used the Brain for soccer and later his track and field pursuits, my goal was not to create a world class footballer or an Olympic sprinter. We used the Brain for all pursuits – academic and athletic – with a goal.
I wanted my son to be equipped with tools to achieve whatever he desired in the unlikely event I was not alive to be his co-pilot. If I did met some untimely demise, using tools would never allow my son believe that luck had been or would be responsible for the trajectory of his life.
Gone are the days of the spiral notebooks. Today, we use a project management app called Asana to house his Brain. While the technology clearly has changed, what has not — nor do I ever expect to — are the things we keep inside his Brain.
As it was when we began, that includes things to be memorized, affirmations to be recited, history of past performances, examples of people who have triumphed over tragedy, and his hopes and dreams for the future. One improvement today’s digital revolution brings is that now my son can detail – in real-time – the process for reaching his goals.
His Four Horsemen
In addition, I also introduced my son to four brilliant men – men who shared similar ideas and philosophies about luck: Desiderius Erasmus, Benjamin Franklin, Louis Pasteur, and Lucius Annaeus Seneca. Their combined wisdom remains the foundation for the way I have trained and encouraged my son to approach life and his understanding of luck:
- “Fortune favors the audacious.” – Desiderius Erasmus. Always be bold and daring.
- “Diligence is the mother of good luck.” – Benjamin Franklin. Luck is birthed from dogged determination.
- “Fortune favors the prepared mind.” – Louis Pasteur. Chances of success are enhanced when you are equipped mentally.
- “Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca. Luck is not a mystical property. It is the product of hard work and timing.
It’s up to you, mom and dad
If you haven’t already done it, do your child a huge favor. Make sure your child understands the real meaning of luck and how one acquires it. You will most likely raise a child who will help change the world. I think we can all agree that right now, the world needs all the help it can get.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nathaniel A. Turner, JD, MALS, is the author of Raising Supaman, a collection of life lessons written by a father for his son. Nate has also designed a system that trains parents to be Zealous Advocates TM for their children. The G.P.S. TM gives structure to parental involvement so that ALL children can have a chance to reach their potential.