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Leveraging Luck & Other Career Planning Strategies…(Or, Not So Much)

Have you ever noticed at a bookstore that you will find many books written on business strategy, money management, and career planning, but you won’t typically find a book on how to be lucky? Is this just an untapped market for business strategists, or is there a reason luck isn’t being peddled as a viable option?

For me, “luck” is a word that is overused and overplayed in almost every arena in life. It’s a word that represents a false hope that many people are waiting for to provide a means to an end. Without the illusion of hope that luck offers, state lotteries wouldn’t survive. Vegas would be a ghost town. We wouldn’t enjoy fantasy football (but that is just silly to say such a thing).

Luck is also one of the worst answers to the “why’s” of life.

I was recently talking with another actor who is having immense success this year in her career. While we were talking, she said something that troubled me, especially as I sat there knowing that she’s booked numerous roles this year while I am still persevering through audition after audition. Paraphrasing, she said, “It takes a lot of luck to succeed in this business.” She then went on the list the reasons why she believes that luck is a huge part of becoming a working actor.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I do believe that our circumstances can play a massive role in whether or not our aspirations will materialize. However, I think that the word “luck” oversimplifies the process that goes into achieving a vision and it can rob us of experiencing the journey.

When I quit my corporate job and recommitted to pursuing an acting career, the “L” word was brought up a lot during my last two weeks. Coworkers would say, “You’re lucky that you get to pursue a career that you love. I wish I could do that.” However, it wasn’t that they “couldn’t” pursue their dreams; rather, they had overextended their finances and placed themselves in a circumstance where fewer choices were made available. In contrast, my wife and I had made sacrifices such as living in a one bedroom apartment, taking packed lunches to work, not making payments on a new car, not being chained to mortgage debt, keeping excessive shopping to a minimum, eating dinners at home as often as possible, and being intentional about saving. There’s no “luck” to that.

And what do you consider unlucky?

As for me, some of my most “unlucky” circumstances have proven to be diamonds in the rough. In 2006, I moved to LA to chase after a career in acting. By 2008, I was returning to Charlotte with my head held low after the TV/film writers decided to strike, eliminating most of my income as a working extra on TV shows and films. I returned to Charlotte, started a job as a barista at Starbucks, and considered myself to be very “unluckly” as I fell into a state of depression. I went on to gain over 45 pounds, as luck would have it…Or maybe it was the combination of pizza, frappuccino’s, and late night movie binging (it’s a mystery, I know). Praise God that several friends from church reminded me of God’s plan and how He can redeem everything we see as a failure or as broken in our lives. A little over two years after returning to Charlotte I met my wife while serving her coffee as a barista at Starbucks. Unlucky? Really?

Please don’t misunderstand me: circumstances in life can often be very difficult. Life can be unfair. We won’t succeed at everything we attempt. But is that really luck having its way, or is that just a lack of favorable circumstances + the right talent + discipline + attitude + sacrifice + awesomeness?

I’m also confident that God can redeem all the failures, all the mistakes, all the wrong decisions, and all the broken places in our lives when we journey with Him. I’m living proof.

– AV