The phrase “I’m feeling lucky” is a phrase that is not just misused, but also doesn’t really make sense. In gambling, people often rely on using their luck to guide them through a game, or even worse, to justify entering the game in the first place. People can claim to have either good luck or bad luck, but only when something good or bad happens to them. It takes an analysis of the term ‘luck’ to understand why.
When people do claim that they have good luck, often times it is a mystical claim. The phrase admits that their being is outside of their control, and the forces they claim to provide them with either good situations, or bad situations. If a person loses a hand in poker he may say “Oh I have bad luck,” instead of “Oh, I shouldn’t have played that hand,” the second phrase which assumes the blame to be on the person instead of the idea of luck. One reason people may claim to have bad luck is to shift the blame from themselves to the mystical force of luck.
But if this were true, then why would people claim to have good luck? Why would they claim that luck brought them fortune instead of claiming it was their actions all along? It can be said that they don’t understand themselves what brought them fortune. Going back to the example of poker, if first-time player makes a royal flush, their circumstance makes it so they probably won’t claim it was all skill. Since something outside of their control brought them the good fortune, they’ll claim it was luck to explain the situation. Or it can be used as reassurance. A person can go around claiming they have good luck so they’ll always expect good things to happen to them, which is a much calmer life than thinking you have horrible luck and expecting bad things to always happen to you.
So when a person makes a claim about this mystical force of luck, what exactly is it? First of all it means that it is largely outside their control. It is the frame of mind that leads to superstitious thought. This is evident when people still avoid walking under a ladder, or throwing pinches of salt over their shoulder. Even if they say “It’s just a joke,” or “You can never be too careful,” they are submitting themselves to the belief that the mystical force of luck will bring bad things upon them.
Now of course, I don’t believe in the forces of luck. Instead I propose a more rational way of looking at situations. I understand that events can be outside a person’s control, but that doesn’t mean that luck caused them. Instead, good or bad situations are caused by a mix of yourself, and the outside material forces that are in play. If a person loses at a game of poker, for him it is a bad event, but for the winner it is a good thing the other person that lost. What brought that person a bad situation, first of all was himself for sitting down at the poker table in the first place, then the dealer for giving him the cards he did, himself for making the plays he did, and then finally the other players for making their moves against him. There was no mystical force at work here.
I also understand that people use the terms “good luck,” and “bad luck,” to just simply describe a situation. But better terms can be used, since bad luck for one person is good luck for another. For instance a man’s dog may run away, this is seen as bad luck for the man because he loses the dog, but it is good luck for all the dogs at the shelter because it means somebody will come looking to adopt a new dog. In another situation, a person is rejected from the job of their dreams, but it’s good because that means that another person gets the job of their dreams. So instead of using the term luck to describe situations, I propose to simply say it was an unfortunate event.
Even with this mode of thinking a person can still have good or bad ‘luck’. A person can measure out the amount of good things that has happened to him, the amount of good they have brought him, and measure it against all the bad. If a person wanted to call the result of this to be “luck” then so be it, a better way of describing it would be the measure of fortunate events vs. unfortunate events. This has no real impact on the future events of that person, but merely alters their way of thinking.
So finally, why does this matter? There are many negative sides to people believing a mystical force is controlling their lives. A person at a poker table may win a few hands and decide that luck is on their side, bet everything, and then lose everything. The idea of luck caused them to forget their situation and them make bad decisions. Of course things weren’t entirely up to them, but they could have prevented it by regulating their bets and actions accordingly, instead of assuming it was out of their hands.
The idea of luck has ethical implications and insinuates a level of responsibility for people’s fortunes and misfortunes. Once people take a rational view of the matter they can act based on their decisions, which will lead them away from good events, or further towards bad events. Either way, luck had nothing to do with it. We are not predetermined to have unfortunate lives, we allow it to happen.