Analysis of Luck

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.


15 thoughts on “Analysis of Luck

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  1. I actually have to disagree with you pretty strongly on this because there are events that happen in our lives that are completely beyond our control. Using myself as an example, I didn’t allow myself to be born to a family where my mother ended up becoming an alcoholic. I didn’t allow myself to grow up in an abusive home. To say that those events were somehow within my control is to deny the suffering I was forced to go through.

    None of us are able to control the childhoods we experience, but all of us are free to choose the paths we walk as adults. So, as adults, I will say that we are able to make our own destinies. Make our own “luck” so to speak. But that does not mean we have any say over certain events that befall us – some events are set in stone.

    It is possible to be at the wrong place at the wrong time – that is what we call bad luck. A car accident that cripples someone for life – sure, the person could have chosen not to get in the car. But that necessitates the foreknowledge of the aftermath of the wreck, and none of us know what the future holds in store for us.

    We are, in my mind, somehow equal parts free will and predetermination. Because there are some events in our lives that are completely beyond our control, but there are multiple paths available for us to take in order to get to those events.

    Whether you use luck or fortune to define these key events, you are saying the same thing. Good luck is synonymous with good fortune, as bad luck is synonymous with misfortune. The only real difference, semantically speaking, between luck and fortune is that luck generally refers to everyday events whereas fortune tends to refer to life-changing moments.

    The best example I have for this is, ironically, winning the lottery. No one can control whether they win the lottery. The odds against winning are stacked so astronomically high that no rational human being would ever buy a ticket, yet the vast majority of people do buy tickets in the hope that their luck will allow them to win. Choosing the right numbers is what allows a person to win the lottery, but no one can know exactly what numbers will get them that winning ticket. For the person who wins, luck pays out.

    I will agree that believing in something too strongly, no matter what that is (whether it is luck or something more mystical) can cause problems. If a person puts all their faith into mystical forces and refuses to reason things out, then it’s almost a matter of course that they will experience misfortune. In your example of playing poker, a smart person will know when it comes time to call it quits, even if said person believes in luck. It is when our belief in something outside ourselves becomes strong enough to supersede our common sense that it becomes a problem.

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  2. In a sense, poker is based on luck – the luck of the draw. The person really has no control over what cards are going to come into their hand. They have to decide what to do with the cards given. Kind of like life.


  3. ok, I’m curious. Please explain to me how this post warrants tags like B.B. King, Bernie Sanders and Memphis. Just because I’m curious…. Regarding luck. I agree that in a lot of what we encounter in life, it is more about our perception of the situation than the actual reality of the situation. As you note, one persons’s GOOD luck is the next person’s BAD luck. And really, for so much of the little stuff, doesn’t it just depend on the day and your perspective? Good luck in the short term may actually be bad luck in the long term. I agree with you that to credit luck with responsibility for the outcome of events is avoiding claiming responsibility – which is the same thing as giving up one’s power or authority over any situation. In my mind it’s about fear as much as anything else. Fear of claiming authority over the outcome of events that just happen to be our lives. And to allow oneself to be governed by fear is to remain an observer, a bystander to the events of a life. How sad and lonely that is.


    1. Usually I’ll use tags to direct to my page, so tags such as the ones you mentioned are topics I’ve written with regularity on in the past. This is also why I didn’t use other tags, such as “luck”, for this specific article because it is likely I won’t cover this topic again.

      You are right when you say that luck depends on time and perspective. However, I have to disagree on the aspect of fear ruling our lives. I believe in a way it can be liberating. For instance the stoic philosophers such as Epictetus made it a point to discern events that are inside and outside our control, on the grounds that worrying about events outside our control will lead to a miserable life. I agree with you that leaving every event to this mind frame is a sad and lonely existence, but there are many justifications to see other events in this way. There has to be some healthy balance inbetween.

      As always I love hearing from other people, and I am very thankful for your input.


  4. The idea that one might be blessed with good luck strikes me as being narcissistic. I guess we can all think we are lucky until something unwelcome happens but we live in an indifferent world where if you are not the prey you’ll probably end up as the dinner.


  5. Hello again, very interesting article indeed 🙂 I was glad to see you use the word superstitious, as that really is what a belief in luck is. I am a Roman Catholic I mention this because I often have discussions of a religious and philosophical nature with people who do not believe in God. They cannot sense him therefore he does not exist. Yet, they will refer to luck, another immaterial concept which plays an apparent part in the world for them. If one does not believe in immaterial ‘things’, God included, then it strikes me as a luxury to believe in some immaterial force called luck, irrational, in fact.

    One thing I might raise with you… For me, ‘fortune’ is synonymous with luck, but you don’t seem to use it that way. We can speak about good and bad fortune the same way we can with luck, I would have said. We do this basically to apply some sort of order to the event which transpired the way that they did, when really, as you pointed out, there is no objective meaning of good or bad luck inherent in these events. They just happened that way because of the way people chose to act. I suppose the co-incidence of each event is termed lucky or unlucky, but it would seem that things just happened that way. Sorry for typing so much, the question of luck is an interesting one though.


  6. I love your post and most who oppose they very well articulated point, are those who advocate a blueprint for life, which is comical in itself. This was great and I am 100% in agreement.


  7. Thanks for liking my Garden Epeaphany blog. I enjoyed your Analysis of Luck. I think our intentions and positive/negative thinking directs what happens to us moment by moment. Rather than luck, I think in terms of alignment. Nice article.


  8. I thought you were much older until I read a few of your blogs etc and found out that you were highly knowledgeable through having read extensively. You’re a very young man with an extremely mature outlook on life, and you look as if you’ve been reading and analysing for a lifetime. Good luck with the writing and hopefully you’ll clinch a publishing contract one day. Take care and have a safe journey.


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