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The Merriam-Webster definition of 'lucky':

"1 : having good luck

2 : happening by chance : fortuitous

3 : producing or resulting in good by chance : favorable

4 : seeming to bring good luck"

The Merriam-Webster definition of 'luck':

"1a : a force that brings good fortune or adversity

1b : the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual

2 : favoring chance; also : success <had great luck growing orchids> "

I recently complimented someone as being lucky for having discovered Objectivism at a young age. I was surprised, however, when they told me that this was an insult. This lead me to think deeply about the nature of luck. In my experience, I try as hard as I can to achieve success so when I do, I am proud of myself. There are times, however, when unpredictable circumstances cause what I would call 'bad luck'. For example, if I were driving to an appointment and there had been a car accident which caused traffic causing me to be late, this is bad luck.

So when someone tells me that it wasn't luck that lead them to discover Objectivism early in life, then they must be wrong. I can't think of what I might have done wrong to delay my discovery of Objectivism until my early twenties, so what could they have done right that would have lead to their early success?

I am particularly interested in a discussion about whether luck exists. I think some people will say absolutely not. Others that say it does may differ in degree. I myself agree with the second and third definitions of 'lucky' and the 1b definition of 'luck'.

I got the definitions from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary.

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"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity".

I dont know who said that, but I like it. There are no mystical "forces" affecting anyone, no cosmic scale to be balanced, just free will and causality.

added on edit:

Apparently it was Seneca, a 1st century Roman (stoic) Philosopher.

Edited by JayR
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So when someone tells me that it wasn't luck that lead them to discover Objectivism early in life, then they must be wrong. I can't think of what I might have done wrong to delay my discovery of Objectivism until my early twenties, so what could they have done right that would have lead to their early success?

They were either more curious about Politics and Economics than you were, or they were more avid readers, to the point that they were willing to read a thousand page novel just because it came highly recommended. Either way, I don't see what luck has to do with discovering and reading a great, widely published bestseller (Atlas Shrugged), or learning about a prominent figure of the American Right (Ayn Rand). She's probably been mentioned on every political talk show that ever existed, in the past five decades.

Of course, if we were talking about some obscure book or author almost no one heard of, then those who stumble across it are not just smart and hard working, they are also lucky. But to find a book constantly near the top of bestseller lists and in the public eye, all you need is curiosity and rationality. You can have the worst luck in the world, and still end up coming across it, if you search for answers hard enough, and are smart enough to recognize its value from other people's reviews (even from certain people's insults).

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"I find that the harder I work, the move luck I seem to have". - Thomas Jefferson

I like this quote.

The person you complemented could possibly believe that they found Objectivism at a younger age than you because they had a greater drive to understand the meaning of life. All definitions of luck explain a "force" that causes some to be lucky and others not. I do not believe in the supernatural.

I was dissatisfied with what I had been taught thus far in my life. I read many books in search of a philosophy I could embrace and once I came across Atlas Shrugged my search was over. Was that luck?

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"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity".

I dont know who said that, but I like it. There are no mystical "forces" affecting anyone, no cosmic scale to be balanced, just free will and causality.

added on edit:

Apparently it was Seneca, a 1st century Roman (stoic) Philosopher.

I think this quote covers most of what people today call "luck" very well. In competitive chess, there is a similar saying which I really like: "The stronger player is always lucky".

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I'm having trouble admitting that I should have been more driven during my childhood, more questioning than I was poked fun at for being, and respected the bestsellers lists that, apparently, listed "Atlas Shrugged" alongside the other garbage that's been popular in my lifetime. Unfortunately, there are things I could have done that would have lead me to Ayn Rand sooner. I can only be proud that I was interested in philosophy more than anyone I knew that my uncle noticed and finally mentioned "Atlas Shrugged".

The consensus seems to be that luck exists, although not as some mystical force. Since I doubt anyone on these boards is willing to argue that luck is a mystical force, will someone argue that it doesn't exist at all?

But first, consider the fact that a child born to intelligent parents immediately has an advantage over a child born to unintelligent parents which is best described as luck.

Edited by DancingBear
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Hmm, you sound like you may think that if it wasn't just dumb luck that some found it sooner, that would mean you were somehow guilty for not finding it earlier than you did. Saying that there were reasons aside from luck that others found it sooner doesn't necessarily say anything bad about you though. So they found it sooner maybe because they developed an interest in politics sooner and heard of Rand that way while that wasn't really something that piqued your interest too much for a long time so much as other things you spent your time on instead. That doesn't make one or the other of you better or worse, just different. Who you are may lend to some people finding it quicker than others, that's all. That is one reason for having lots of people working to spread the word about Rand's works though, to help get the stuff introduced to people who are less likely to have existing interests developed which would lead them quickly to her stuff all on their own. Somebody telling you about it rather than you finding in on some book list isn't indicative of anything bad about your character, that you for whatever reason "should have" already known to take more interest in these things. We aren't born knowing anything, including what areas we should be interested in finding more out about because, though we don't yet know what, they will contain hugely important stuff.

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Let me take a slightly different spin on this. Your friend is accusing you of being insulting when you clearly had no such intension. The word luck is not an insult. This rude person appears to be playing word games. (Reminds me of a twit who, when I accidentally spilled some of her coffee, accused me of "destroying her property." By accepting his rules, you are playing his game. Don't do it. Don't accept an insult when there is none.

Is this person REALLy worth hanging with?

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Youre 22, thats plenty early, youve got all the time in the world to integrate new ideas. But its not about your age, its about honestly scrutinizing the philosophy, look for conradictions, test new ideas against your old ones, integrate. A person who spends 1 year in honest study and reflection will have a much better grasp than someone whos taken a dogmatic rationalist position for 10 years.

And as for luck, as I said before, free will and causality. People who talk about others being lucky do so in attempt to hide the fact that some people work harder, and are more successfull than they are. They usually have egalitarian motives, as in, "its not fair", "he got lucky". Deep down its "hatred of the good for being the good", they demand subjective "fairness" over objective justice.

To accept "luck" as a determining factor in life is to accept primacy of consciousness in philosophy. It has no more say over youre future than Jupiter being in Pegasus when you were born.

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The consensus seems to be that luck exists, although not as some mystical force. Since I doubt anyone on these boards is willing to argue that luck is a mystical force, will someone argue that it doesn't exist at all?

But first, consider the fact that a child born to intelligent parents immediately has an advantage over a child born to unintelligent parents which is best described as luck.

I do not see where a consensus exists supporting luck. The only way luck can be see is as a mystical force. It is saying that one person magically is favored over another. Being born to a wealthy family is not lucky. There is not a line of babies up in the clouds waiting to see what household they will get put in and some get lucky and others don't.

Edited by OCSL
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I'm not sure what this thread adresses:

On the question of discovering Ayn Rand at an early age there is a controllable factor that I can think of: Sheer intelectual curiosity which leads to an almost systematical quest for more truth - which in intellectually honest people is a quest with no end.

Luck does play a part in it, as in everything, but there's nothing we can do about it other than furthering the field of theory of probability.

(some kids naturally like to spend more time during their childhood over maps and books rather than hanging from trees - I used to envy the tree-climbers, now I climb them as an adult; or some children are bred in dogmatic householods where knowledge is still the original sin, some are offspring of objectivists, some are forced to read it in school and some may grow up speaking a language for which there are no translations available, etc)

Luck in many languages and in Italian specifically is exclusively translated as "Fortuna". Luck exists in the way that it is a recognized pattern of "good fortune", scrap the mystical temptations and omens and it is just how humans describe a positive or negative, but in either case unlikely outcome of a situation - or perceived propensity of a person for it.

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Luck simply means a coincidence that had a favorable(or unfavorable if bad luck) outcome. For instance, if I go out for lunch and run into a friend I haven't talked to in years it is good luck because a positive outcome happened even though I made no specific action* to cause it.

*meaning I choose actions that caused it, but I did not intend to cause what happened and the lucky event was only a matter of concurrence.

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Luck is a valid concept that can be best described as something that occurs by pure chance and has a positive impact. An example of luck, of course, would be winning the lottery. Nothing you can do will cause you to win, except simply buying the ticket. Basically, luck arises out of identifying what cannot be predicted (if a meteor will hit your house tomorrow) and what you cannot cause (you cannot cause or prevent the meteor from hitting your house). Still, I think the word luck is extremely overused and even abused.

Similar to what bluecherry is saying, something like discovering Rand (or any author, really) isn't a matter of luck. As you grow older and wiser, different things pique your interest, which is usually determined by what you've been thinking about. Especially with wikipedia around now, you find out about lots of ideas, and in concrete terms see that running into new ideas isn't a matter of luck, it's a matter of what you do and cause.

The thing about luck is that it basically implies some event could not be caused by yourself. When people use the word, it's as though much in life can't be controlled, meaning you're left with trying to deal with things as they happen. That can lead to a very damaging mindset, a sort of mindset where you are not a long-term thinker in any real way. If even meeting friends is a matter of luck, who really can make long-term plans in a society? Such an idea is false because not even meeting people is a matter of pure chance. People tend to seek out like-minded people, so even meeting anyone here on this website isn't exactly a matter of luck.

Predictability might not even be something worth considering either, since that is almost like thinking about the arbitrary. Why think about if some drunken lunatic may be driving down the road tomorrow and hits your car? There's nothing to suggest that such a thing might happen. If such a thing does happen, you could say you got unlucky, but not even that event is pure chance. Somebody had to drink enough alcohol to get drunk, then decide to get into the car, then decide to drive far enough to reach the same road as you. You could even prevent such an accident if you become a car engineer and popularize those cars that require a breathalyzer test before starting.

Origins to the concept of luck might involve, for instance, the need to make people less envious of success (this point is much like what JayR was saying about an egalitarian motive). If something really good happens only out of luck, other people wouldn't attribute that success to ability. Why feel sore about something that only happens mainly out of luck? This literally hides the fact that some people work hard and achieve their goals by thinking. Luck makes things "fair" for everyone, because luck cannot be controlled. Bottom line is that I think the concept of luck is mostly damaging and shouldn't be used at all, since it reduces the meaning of achievement.

Kind of an aside, but I'll mention anyway. About the concept of luck in general. It may be interesting to note that some cultures don't even have the concept of luck, such as the Navajo. For them, good or bad events are literally caused by people, through mystical means even. Get struck by lightning? Someone made that happen with the evil eye. Also interesting is that the German word for both "luck" and "happiness" is glück.

Edited by Eiuol
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The thing about luck is that it basically implies some event could not be caused by yourself. When people use the word, it's as though much in life can't be controlled, meaning you're left with trying to deal with things as they happen. That can lead to a very damaging mindset, a sort of mindset where you are not a long-term thinker in any real way.

Agree. Then Luck works like the Joker in a card set. It's interesting to mention luck because we tend to focus on the religious aspects of mysticism, however in all ages there have existed with more or less popularity, fortune tellers, psychics, and the like. For these people, and their customers, Luck might work as the equivalent for God, I think that's the kind of mindset you're referring to.

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But first, consider the fact that a child born to intelligent parents immediately has an advantage over a child born to unintelligent parents which is best described as luck.

Luck exists, but that's not an example of it. Like OCSL said, the fact that our parents had us was their decision, not luck.

Luck is having an event that you knew had only a certain probability of occurring, happen, and benefit you. I think its role in our lives is overblown though (partly because people assign events that aren't lucky at all, to luck). The chances of someone being consistently lucky are very small.

More often than not, successful people are not actually lucky, they just have better knowledge of the probabilities of future events, and therefor their choices seem lucky to those who don't have that knowledge, but in fact aren't. Take for instance a card counter at a blackjack table: he's not winning because of luck, but everyone thinks he is. And, unless you know how to count cards yourself, you'll never be able to tell if any player is winning out of luck or if he's a really good card counter, except based on the results. That's how they get caught: not because the casino security went to MIT, but because they know that even though the odds of winning a single hand are very close to 50% (between 49 and 50) no one is lucky enough to come out on top over a long period of time, by playing those odds.

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Luck exists, but that's not an example of it. Like OCSL said, the fact that our parents had us was their decision, not luck.

I agree. The fact that we were born was our parents decision, not ours. So that's where I'll draw the line: it's luck if you don't control the variable that works in your favor. Control can mean either directly controlling something or indirectly as in understand the probabilities of the variable and taking advantage of that knowledge.

I think the hard thing to distinguish is where control ends though. Someone mentioned winning the lottery as an example of luck. I know the change is insignificant, but the more tickets you buy the higher your probability of winning becomes. And to prevent a meteor from striking your house, move into a cave. What I'm trying to say is that although control can be exerted over a wide berth, it's unfeasible to use that effort when the probabilities are so low for certain events occurring. Therefore, because an average person wouldn't waste energy preventing or enhancing extremely low probabilities, it can be considered luck when the unlikely event occurs.

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I think the hard thing to distinguish is where control ends though. Someone mentioned winning the lottery as an example of luck. I know the change is insignificant, but the more tickets you buy the higher your probability of winning becomes.

To the point that if you buy all the tickets you are guranteed to also have bought the winning one. When that approach is taken, it is not luck what is mind, but probability.

When someone buys one lottery ticket because it's got a number he likes on it, or whatever omen, he's thinking of good or bad luck, he's engaging in mysticism.

That is the difference, as you said actually, when the chances are minimal and the situation is beyond your control (if not it would be risk) we are talking about being a mystic (putting luck into the equation). When the chances increase, they do because you are taking probability into the equation which is a rational approach to it.

Like God, the word and concept of luck does exist. But the asception of Luck as a real "force" is wrong.

This does not mean however, that if something unlikely and very good or very bad happens to you frequently, that this experience wont cause a momentum, which can be understood as a force (but isn't).

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