The missing element in Oprah's Definition of Luck is key for you reaching your own money goals.
Oprah’s Definition of Luck: Where opportunity and preparation meet.
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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