Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Good and Lucky

Today at Timmy's I announced that we would be playing a game of "Step on a crack; break your mother's back." Given that the floor there is tile, it seemed an amusing idea. What was even more particularly amusing was that the middle-aged women listened to me and even added a rule: if you step on a crack, you have to sing a song. Customers must have been rather confused.

But how does one go about playing a game like that when working in a fast-food restaurant? For one, you don't play during the rush hours. Second, you either have to be very lucky with where you step, or a very skilled stepper.

This relates to a question of some interest to the Heinrichs and Schroeder families, a question that has appeared in impromptu sermons and in oddly timed long-distance texting conversations. We ask you, "Is it better to be lucky or to be good?"

If you're good, you are better able to predict the outcome of whatever you are doing because you know what you are doing. You know you can do it. If you are lucky, then it's much more of a gamble. You don't know how anything is going to turn out. On the other hand, the uncertainty will spur you to plan for more eventualities and perhaps condition you to roll with the punches a little better. Then again, you might just be caught on your backside when the stats turn against you.

If you are good, you are more confident. You would have to be extremely lucky to be confident, and even then it's rather silly. Of course, that assumes there is such as thing as luck. Is saying you're confident in your own good luck really just a masked way of saying that you're confident you've been blessed? That you have faith God will get you through?

You certainly can't take credit for your own good luck, though you might be able to claim ownership of your skill level. Along the same track, if you run out of luck, that's not your fault, but if you claim to be good yet fail, then you have to shoulder the blame for that.

If you're good, just not quite good enough, then you're hosed, in which case you will still need to rely on luck. Does it make more sense to have a Plan A or a fallback? Can you become skilled without first being lucky enough to receive a high aptitude and the proper opportunities? Is it actually possible to make your own luck? Sun Tzu and Machiavelli think you can't, but if you're good enough, you can prepare yourself and survive through the bad luck. I guess that makes sense, but you can be as good as you stinkin' want - if you've got the worst luck, then you're only going to last so long against it before you burn out.

Luck is pretty well guaranteed to let you down from time to time, while being good is less capricious. Everyone has bad days, it seems, but perhaps then they're just not really as good as they thought? Yet it seems kinda of ridiculous to say you have to be perfect to be good. Talk about unreachable standards.

Naturally, it's best to be both good and lucky, but if forced to choose between the two... hmm...

I think I'd be lucky. There's so much less pressure that way. Plus, I think it's more honest to have faith in God than faith in yourself (not that luck is God, of course, but that somehow or other God controls luck). You can have luck without skill and make it out ok, but being skilled and unlucky won't get you anywhere. But however lucky I got, I'd hope I'd still be striving to get as good as I could...

Now here's another thought: which is more abundant? Skilled people or lucky people?

I wonder if Niccolo Machiavelli was married: "I conclude therefore that, fortune being changeful and mankind steadfast in their ways, so long as the two are in agreement men are successful, but unsuccessful when they fall out. For my part I consider that it is better to be adventurous than cautious, because fortune is a woman, and if you wish to keep her under it is necessary to beat and ill-use her; and it is seen that she allows herself to be mastered by the adventurous rather than by those who go to work more coldly. She is, therefore, always, woman-like, a lover of young men, because they are less cautious, more violent, and with more audacity command her."

"Most of the time, people who take credit for their own success are really just taking credit for their own good luck." Laura from the DC.


Art said...

So you would rather be lucky than good. I think that is the same thinking Uncle Ray has. I think it depends in the event as to which is better. If I was using power tools and did not blind myself only because I was lucky, I would still say that I was bad. Hopefully we can get Uncle Ray to comment on this.

Bri said...

Nothing like light summer writing Carla! Haha.

I thought when Uncle Ray brought it up we were also addressing "good" in the moral sense, not just skill level. Like you maybe be good and obey traffic laws, but you could still be a ruthless driver and be lucky right? That is more fun.