Saturday, March 17, 2012

What's Luck Got to Do With It?

While the cynical believe ‘luck’ to be untrue, the phrase ‘the Luck of the Irish’ is, historically speaking, confusing. But as luck would have it, some folks have proved this contradictory and somewhat contentious phenomenon,believable.

You can’t consider the tragedies endured by the Irish, lucky. From 1,000 years of invasion, colonization, and exploitation, to the Irish ‘potato’ famine resulting in starvation and emigration of over 25% of the population, I wouldn’t consider all that very lucky.

But then a few Irish guys left Ireland around the time of the famine in 1845 (not together, mind you – by coincidence they met up in California, discovered each others’ background, and danced a jig), and did something pretty nifty. William Shoney O’Brien, James Clair Flood, James Graham Fair and John William Mackay started ‘The Consolidated Virginia Mining Company’ in Nevada, where years before a claim was made called the Comstock Lode. Their mining company would eventually earn them well over $100 million dollars in silver, as well as the name the ‘Silver Kings.’ It is said that because of their cultures’ tragic history, the Irish guys were thought of as dumb and poor, and therefore, apparently, completely incapable of doing something fantastic (this in the eyes of fellow miners). And so, of course, the only plausible explanation for their great discovery and wealth was that of having luck – Irish luck.

And so the confusing term was born – ‘The Luck of the Irish.’

And as for the Irish folks back home? Life improved and boats sailed back and forth between the Emerald Isle and the Land of Opportunity. Somewhere in all that my family tree was well underway, and the leaves and seeds of that tree blew all over Ireland, the east coast of Canada and the United States.

And here I am. I’m pretty darn lucky, if you ask me.

I am not a historian, but it’s amazing what you learn when you research a little.

So back to the luck bit….

I wonder if (remember, I am not a historian) part of their determination in finding the silver and creating their profitable business was also fuelled by the need to prove all those naysayers wrong. By chasing their dream, the four men SURE SHOWED THEM, and found the pot at the end of the rainbow.

I would like to think they proved the cynical and judgemental wrong, and finally got what they worked so hard for - all good things come to those who wait and all that. And maybe, just maybe, sprinkled in there was a bit of much-deserved luck.

In the writing world, arguments rally back and forth with many saying only hard work and determination will get a writer published, and that luck has nothing to do with it. These cynical ones hold strong in their belief that there is no such thing as luck – in life, and especially in the business of writing. They stand-fast in their belief that only with amply shed amounts of blood, sweat and tears will success happen.

And then there are others who say that luck plays a big part in it all: in being in the right place at the right time and in having the right kind work needed at the right time. Or even better – it’s a writer’s lucky day when they catch an agent, editor or publisher in a good mood, thereby granting the struggling writer much success.

I believe in hard work, but I also believe in that little shiny word – luck. I also believe good things happen to those who wait, as cliché as it is, and those deserving will be duly rewarded.

But when you’ve paid your dues, wrestled and toiled with words, rejection, publishers, and folks near and far telling you aren’t good enough, why not prove them wrong - and keep going after your dream. You never know when a little luck may come your way.

Sometimes things just happen; not only to those who DO work hard, but also to those deserving. Some might call it Karma - some might call it forces of the universe. But whatever it is, it’s there. Often thought of as an unseen, unexplainable, improbable force that someone made up, many also call it a weak explanation for why things happen to those deserving.

But what if some ‘mystical’ force like luck is out there? WHAT IF? I always go by the thought of never dismissing the possibility of something – because you never know.
I have a lottery ticket dated March 17th, to be drawn on March 17th – just in case.

So who cares what it’s called. I believe in it, and I’m calling it luck - Irish luck. And I applaud the ‘Silver Kings’ from many years ago, who were fortunate to have a silver string of luck.

Lucky for you I’m done rambling.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


  1. Louis Pasteur (not Irish) said, "Fortune favours the prepared mind."
    That is, luck comes to those who do all the hard work to get ready for it – and recognize it – when it shows up. It's one of my favourite sayings.

    1. How true that is, Rachel! I didn't win on the Lottery ticket, however - and the only work I did to get it was walking to the store. I didn't even pick my own that says it all! Thank you for reading. Lisa