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Oprah is Missing One Element in Her Definition of Luck

The missing element in Oprah's Definition of Luck is key for you reaching your own money goals.

a woman in a white summer dress out in a meadow with text overlay "Oprah is missing this in her definition of luck"

Oprah’s Definition of Luck: Where opportunity and preparation meet.

Every year the Emperor Penguin goes through an incredible ordeal in preparing for the season of mating opportunity in Antarctica.

With no certainty that their attempt will produce offspring, the male and female emperor penguins travel between 31 and 75 miles inland at −40 °F to conduct courtship and mate.  The female then lays the egg and carefully transfers it to the underbelly of the male before returning to the sea to feed for two months. The male penguin stays behind with the egg for two months without ever allowing the egg to touch the ice below, keeping both him and the egg warm by huddling against all of the other male penguins. The male endures about 115 days of fasting and the loss of roughly 40 pounds of body weight with no guarantee that the egg will actually hatch.

Around the time that the egg is supposed to hatch, the mother returns and takes over care and feeding of the hatchling while the father walks back to the ocean and feeds himself back to health. If the egg does not hatch, the couple dissipates and each returns back to the ocean in preparation for the next mating season.

Let’s take a moment to really think about this awe-inspiring act: two penguins spending roughly four months in the below-freezing Antarctic winter and losing up to 45% of their body weight in order to breed and hatch an egg. The journey is so perilous that many attempts at breeding are not successful, and yet they continue to put themselves through this journey year after year. Would you be willing to do so?

Oprah’s Definition of Luck

Preparing for something that is guaranteed in the near future is not difficult because you know that your energy and time spent in preparation will not be wasted.

But focusing time and energy on something that may or may not happen is a much more difficult feat.

After all, no one wants to waste their limited resources.

Oprah’s definition entails preparing for an opportunity that may or may not come. Yet preparation for the unknown in our lives is so important.

Think about all of the ways that we prepare for the future, and especially with money goals: we educate ourselves for that future career, we save money for our future lives, and we invest in a retirement fund that will not occur for another 20, 30, even 40 years from now.

We do all of this because, as Oprah points out, without proper preparation we may not be able to take advantage of the opportunities that do come our way. But in order to continue to prepare for the opportunities that will come our way—thus making us “lucky”—we need something more.

We need a motivating force.

The Missing Element

While we cannot necessarily control opportunity, we can control the amount of preparation that we do in our lives.

Yet, who would be willing to do the same thing day in, day out, year after year, without some sort of motivation other than preparing for future opportunities that may never come or money goals that may never be met? The penguins may be driven in their preparation out of a primal instinct, but where is the drive to make people endure seemingly aimless preparation when an outcome is not guaranteed?  The missing element to Oprah’s definition of Luck is truly the human element to all of this.

It is hope.

Hope is an integral part to this equation as it is the motivating factor for us to do our part to ensure that ‘Luck’ finds us. Without hope, we lose sight of everything that we want, everything that we are willing to sacrifice, and we stop doing the work towards our money goals.

When this happens, even though opportunity may finally come one day, the preparation will not be there and so once again we will label ourselves as “unlucky”. Without it, we may not even be able to recognize the opportunities that do come our way, much less feel that we can take advantage of them.

Hope is what keeps our engines running.

There are beautiful examples of this motivating force everywhere, both among people and in nature. Hope is what kept the trees in our front yard—slowly dying from the exceptional drought last year—poised towards the sky with several buds that were ready to burst open and germinate should the rains come (and they eventually did). It’s what keeps working parents driving their children to music lessons or soccer games or spelling bees after working full-time and surviving their commutes. Hope is setting up social media buttons on blogs that only our mother and father currently read in preparation that when we write something one day that is so unique and wonderful, the tools are there to make our work go viral. Hope is getting ourselves out of debt so that we can open ourselves to the opportunity of helping others in the future, or to the many other opportunities that will surely come our way.

Hope will lead us towards our luck. And “luck”, at least Oprah's definition of it, will lead us to our money goals.

Do you have hope for your future? What kind of preparation are you doing in your financial life to be able to take advantage of future opportunities when they come your way?

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Amanda L. Grossman is a Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 10 years, her money work helping people with how to save money and how to manage money has been featured in Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here.

Financial Samurai

Monday 24th of September 2012

I agree about hope. Hope is so powerful that it leads you through all sorts of storms!

I'm currently in my own storm of frustration about how slow it's going to become a successful entrepreneur. Hence, I need to couple hope with PATIENCE. Patience is a virtue I need more of.

But in the end, life is not bad. Life is wonderful and we are so lucky to be living in America!



Monday 24th of September 2012

Hi Sam!

Patience is definitely a virtue in anything. But most of us want things now--especially when it deals with making money (I know I like to make money:)).

Keep chugging forward! Thank you for taking the time to comment.


Monday 17th of September 2012

Most opportunities require some cash investment. I prepare for the future by having savings. In this way, I can take advantage of opportunities.

Amanda L Grossman

Tuesday 18th of September 2012

Hi krantcents!

I hope you are well?

Many things in life take cash, and definitely lots of opportunities. I am happy to hear you are saving yours up.


Monday 17th of September 2012

Nice, what a beautiful post. I definitely have hope for the future and because of that am trying to pay off all of my debt and start socking money away into a savings and retirement account. I feel like I've spent my entire 20's focused on working and nothing else but don't have the finances to show for it. I want to be able to balance that out so I can lead a fuller life in which I'm not always struggling to move forward.

Amanda L Grossman

Tuesday 18th of September 2012

Hi Shannon!

Thank you. It is so hard to look over a period of time of life and work and then look at your bank account and/or assets. But by doing this, or becoming irritated by what you see, you will make necessary changes and catch-up. I am glad you have hope!