It's only 'luck' if it's somebody else

By KRIS SHEARER Columnist Published:

"People will always call it luck when you've acted more sensibly than they have." -- Anne Tyler, from Celestial Navigation.

We love to play games in our house. In fact, Christmas Eve in our house is traditionally "Family Game Night." This tradition started when my kids were small and has now expanded to include my son-in-law, his sisters and brother-in-law, and whoever my son is dating at the time. Problem is, we're all rather … shall we say… um … "Competitive." What gets me, though, is that if my son or husband wins, it's pure skill, but if I win, then I'm just "lucky." Hmph!!!

But that's just a "game," so we all just really laugh. The thing that actually angers me is when I hear lazy and unmotivated underachievers who put forth no effort in school, work, or relationships complain that others are more successful, have had better "chances," or just more "luck" than they've had. Though I acknowledge that some of us are born into tougher circumstances than others, every day I see or hear stories of those who have made it out of those tough circumstances to make something of their lives. And they didn't "make" something of their lives by "making" excuses!

I have come to believe, throughout my life, that people are about as successful as they choose to be. Yes, some may have greater hurdles to clear than others, and some may have obstacles to overcome. But what I have noticed is that those who really WANT to overcome those hurdles will, and those who want something without benefit of effort on their part will spend a lifetime bemoaning their bad "luck." When asked what they've done to improve their circumstances, they often have a very short list.

I frequently am the target of people complaining about the "benefits" of my job -- summers off (which rarely happens really because I spend my summer improving on my lesson plans, buying -- out of my own pocket -- new materials, taking classes, and so forth), holidays off throughout the year, "excessive" pay (HA!), working "only" 7 hour days, except of course for those 20 additional hours spent on grading papers, emailing parents on my own time, refining lessons and so forth. But when I say to them, "Here are my programs from both of the universities where I got my degrees, and here are my student loan bills … If you envy me so much, please, join our ranks. We need people like you," they often say "Oh there's no way I could do what you do!" Well, then, why are you criticizing?

And it's not just teachers who take this criticism. Our president takes it. Our police and firefighters. The checkout girl at the grocery store. Doctors and nurses. Somehow, it's much easier to criticize those we envy than to admit we have defeated ourselves, that it's our own fault we chose not to work as hard as others.

When I see someone I envy, I stop and ask myself what they did differently from what I chose to do in my own life. Often, I find it's my own lack of effort that put me where I am. Then, my envy quickly turns to admiration for their strength and determination. So, next time you find yourself lamenting that someone has it "better" than you, take it as an opportunity for self-evaluation and ask what steps you can take toward what you really want out of life.

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