Is it really just luck?

Photo credit: Jim Lowman,

The word "lucky" is overused, so much so that it has come to represent a number of related concepts. "Beginner's luck" refers to the steep learning curve of a new activity. We are lucky when we escape an adverse event/fate. We've all had the thought, "I am so lucky" when we see someone less fortunate who is suffering.

I've been thinking about this because last month I found out that I passed the American Board of Anesthesiology oral exam (yay!) Of course, I didn't know for sure I had passed until I received notification in the mail, but I had a feeling that I had passed. When I walked out of the last interrogation room that day, I felt like, "That was it?" The whole thing seemed very straightforward; nothing that they asked was really unexpected. I discussed my experience with other examinees. I heard some amusing stories of random questions they were asked during their exams, and I immediately thought, "Wow, I'm lucky... I had nice examiners."

Really?? Were they exceedingly nice, or was I just well-prepared? Probably more appropriate things for me to feel in that moment were happy and confident in how prepared I was. I studied hard, I took lots of mock oral exams, and I had earned a "That's it? Bring it on!" attitude that day!

It's a running joke in my household that my husband says to me, "You are so lucky to have me." I mirror the joke to him often, but truly we work hard at our relationship. Of course, there is some serendipity that we were both in the places and times in our lives to meet 20 years ago, but the success of our 14-year marriage is most certainly not due to chance.

This over-usage of "lucky", while colloquial and accepted by all, doesn't truly honor our own personal responsibility, drive, judgement and intelligence. I would argue that the triumphs we sometimes attribute to luck are more a combination of factors both under and not under our direct control (luck being a very small component). So instead of feeling lucky, I'm going to feel grateful for the gifts life has given me and confident in my choices for how I live my life!


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