Luck, probability and privilege
I wanted to dedicate this blog to my interpretation of luck. I wanted to focus on what luck actually means to me, how it has affected my life. I wanted to talk about whether or not the concept of luck even exists! Since there’s no easy way to do this, I’ll try jumping straight in.
So, this idea of luck popped into my head about a week ago – when I was writing my first ever blog. To be honest my idea of luck has been floating around in my head for years now. It doesn’t really align with the concept of “luck” that most people maintain; I guess I look at it in a much more mathematical manner and simply see it involving probability.
In particular, I see luck as being events occurring which have a relatively low probability of occurring. Now this part is arbitrary- people are different; they have different skills, different personalities and different levels of confidence. This is why the same event, for different people, have different probabilities of occurring. I understand this is probably a little bit confusing right now, so maybe an example will help. I, for one, am terrible at playing pool- so the probability of me consecutively potting 5 balls is probably really low. So if I do actually pot 5 balls in a row, I guess you could say I was lucky! But, to be honest, this is still something which you have control over- if I did manage to pot 5 balls in a row it could be put down to a greater level of concentration or maybe I changed my technique. A better explanation of luck could be that it is when events, over which we have no control or influence over, changes the probability of an event occurring- either positively or negatively.
As long as you get the gist of what I’m saying, that’s good enough. But this idea of “luck” got me thinking. Simply put, it made me realise that the deciding factor in determining the wage a person earns, the quality of their life or their employment is, more often than not, luck. I think that so many factors, over which we have no control, affect the probability of key events occurring in our life. These events, in my mind, can potentially span back across decades and each event or decision has the potential to drastically affect your present situation. Of course, when it’s something as mundane as pool it seems hard to see how important this idea can be. But when it’s interpreted as the likelihood of passing an exam or getting a job, it immediately becomes much more drastic.
I’m sure everyone has experienced some good or bad luck when taking an exam- be it that your exam paper was unusually hard compared to previous years or that a loud noise the night before meant that your sleep was abruptly disturbed. Either way, events which occur completely at random have the genuine possibility of drastically affecting your performance in exams which consequently have many knock on effects.
The thing is that, this was always something which used to worry me. I always used to worry the day before an exam that, “what happens if the exam paper is really hard? What happens if I end up being late?” I’m sure this is something most people do. But one thing I’ve learnt is not to worry about things which aren’t in my control, not to worry about the external factors. Because these external factors come down to probability and probability alone. Sometimes we get lucky and these external factors work out in our favour. But I feel like this depends on your mindset. It’s fair to say that I am a realist, probably even a border-line pessimist. And worrying about this idea of “luck”, (worrying about whether or not I’ll get a hard paper) often creates the problem itself! Because the incessant worrying would keep me up the night before, wreck my sleep and take me into the exam half awake- any paper put in front of me would appear hard! On the other hand, some people may believe that luck swings in their favour, which may encourage them to take the easy road and ultimately pay the price in the exam hall. The morale of the story I guess is to worry about the things you can control and leave those external factors to fate.
Luck: it has the ability forge a fearless attitude, a fretting mind or a calm mentality.
Kishan is a Chakra ’16 Intern working with Arushi.
The views expressed on this blog are those of the Chakra Intern