Late Life Lucky

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Back when we had physical bookstores I’d frequent them. And spend lots of time prowling the aisles.

When I hit my 4th decade as a human I began to notice books about people who didn’t achieve their greatest success while they were young. It was likely prompted by my realization that I was no longer young. It made me wonder if I had achieved my greatest success already. Or if the best was yet to come.

I’m still waiting to find the answer. As the saying goes, “Time will tell.” Problem is, time is running out so I have to figure this out really quickly.

Some folks think it’s best to peak, then walk away. Or come to the end. To peak just before it’s over. The problem with that is reduced time to enjoy the peak. Or the experience of the peak.

But what is the peak anyway? Where is it? Would you know it if you even saw it?

Not likely. Because no matter how high you climb, there’s always someplace higher.

At some point I jotted down a phrase in a notebook, “late-life lucky.”

Eventually, I registered that domain. You can buy it if you want ’cause I doubt I’ll do anything with it. Buy it today for just $1,100. It’ll help me fund my current ideal outcome – to get a place over in Arkansas. No, it won’t help me a tremendous amount, but every little bit counts when you’re getting late in life and still searching for luck. 😉

Through the years I’ve dipped my toes into periods of study, reading, and pondering the randomness of things. Things like serendipity, timing, happy (or unhappy) accidents, and random chance.

Ecclesiastes 9:11
“I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

God granted Solomon his desire to have wisdom. Coupled with divine inspiration, Solomon delivered some powerful insights about life. Truth.

“…but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

Some have told me, “I don’t believe in luck.” To which I ask, “Define ‘luck.'”

Then the conversation suddenly gets very quiet. Or defensive.

I’ve noticed there are two primary ways people tend to view luck. One is, “I don’t have any good luck. I’m unlucky.” The other is, “Luck had nothing to do with it. I worked hard.”

Scientific American published a blog post in 2018 entitled, The Role of Luck in Life Success Is Far Greater Than We Realized. By the way, there are millions of Google results on website articles about luck and why successful people don’t acknowledge the role luck plays. If you’re bored and need a hole to dive down into sometimes, it’s a pretty good one. 😉

Luck plays a much bigger role than we admit because – well, we’d prefer to think our brilliance is mostly to blame – not randomness or something other than what we control.

That Scientific American article contains these bullet points to illustrate the point that sheer talent and other personal traits aren’t the only influencers on success:

  • About half of the differences in income across people worldwide is explained by their country of residence and by the income distribution within that country
  • Scientific impact is randomly distributed, with high productivity alone having a limited effect on the likelihood of high-impact work in a scientific career
  • The chance of becoming a CEO is influenced by your name or month of birth
  • The number of CEOs born in June and July is much smaller than the number of CEOs born in other months
  • Those with last names earlier in the alphabet are more likely to receive tenure at top departments
  • The display of middle initials increases positive evaluations of people’s intellectual capacities and achievements
  • People with easy to pronounce names are judged more positively than those with difficult-to-pronounce names
  • Females with masculine-sounding names are more successful in legal careers.

Google billionaire Eric Schmidt: ‘Almost anyone who’s successful has to start by saying they were lucky’ – that’s the headline of an article posted December 24, 2018 at the CNBC website. Eric Schmidt of Google fame said, “I would say I’m defined by luck, and I think almost anyone who’s successful has to start by saying they were lucky.”

Schmidt said, “Lucky of birth, lucky of having intellectual and intelligent family home life, upbringing, global upbringing, etc.”

“The best things in your life will come from the people that you hang out with,” Schmidt said. “That has worked incredibly well for me.”

That same article also cites Warren Buffet and Mark Zuckerberg. Wealth creation requires luck. Maybe a lot more luck than we realize.

Let’s hone in on the late-life part of this ’cause I’m there. Or maybe I should say, I’m here.

Where is here? For me, it’s after you reach a point where it’s evident you have more past than future. Of course, that’s relative and impossible to precisely know. I’m not sure exactly when it hit me, but it seems it was somewhere around 42. Maybe sooner. Some might accuse me of being optimistic. 😉

From then until now I may be on borrowed time. But that was 22 years ago, which happens to be half the time of my married life. On January 2, 2022, we’ll have been married 44 years. I no longer think much about having more past than future. Now I mostly think about his little future I likely have. I’m running out of runway for whatever luck I hope to attract! Which prompts a question…

Do you speed up on a shortened runway?

Of course, you do. Well, you do if you want to get airborne before you have to ditch.

But the runway represents a few different things. In the sense of representing success or higher achievement, you want to experience it as fast as possible. So you hit the gas. But when the runway represents your life, hitting the gas to reach the end of the runway seems foolish. Metaphors don’t always work out so neatly.

“Late-life” – this phase where you’re no longer vexed with what you’ll be when you grow up – is an interesting place. You think older people lose energy, ambition, hair, eyesight, skin tautness, balance, and skill. But maybe not. Okay, maybe not all of those — just most of them. It’s not that clear cut though. I’ve never been this experienced, had this much know-how, known whom I can most trust (and those I can’t), been more clear about who and what is important – and known more precisely what I don’t want – and gaining more clarity on what I do want.

My ideal outcome – just like yours – is subject to change. Mine did change. There was a time, not too many years ago, where I thought I knew precisely what I wanted and what I would, and would not do. But life happened and I changed my mind as I surveyed those changes. Which brought about something else – something late-life taught me. You’re a finite resource.

Intellectually we know that’s true, but we don’t often behave as though we understand it. We squander our time. Our money. Our opportunities. Neglect is a killer. Dwell too long on your neglect and you’ll spiral into depression. No, don’t do that. Instead, draw that imaginary line in the sand and make up your mind to do better. Even if only slightly. Beginning with gratitude – being thankful. A timely subject given that we’re approaching Thursday, November 25th – Thanksgiving Day!

Why I Registered LateLifeLucky.com

Two reasons.

One, because luck, random favor, or serendipity isn’t the sole domain of early life or youth.

Two, because it’s hopeful. Whether good fortune comes your way or not, there’s hope that it may. Hope that you may be able to influence it in your favor, no matter how old you are. No matter how long you’ve been slogging away at it.

That’s why I did it. And it’s why I still love the phrase.

Momentum: Do You Really Care Why?

Talent. Skill. Experience. Execution. Connections. Serendipity. Timing. Luck.

When it works – when momentum builds and you’re gaining traction, do you care why? Maybe to figure out what works best. To figure out what doesn’t work. Otherwise, we’re just glad things are working better.

Do more of what works. Do less of what doesn’t. Sage advice, huh? It sounds ridiculous, but it’s really not. What’s shocking is how often we don’t follow that simple formula. Maybe we don’t pay attention to things to discern the difference between what works better and what doesn’t. Maybe we think the answer has to be more elaborate than that. Maybe we overthink it. Maybe we underthink it. A million things can go wrong to foil our success.

Desire: Don’t Underestimate It

I’ve never known any high achievers who lacked the desire to improve. I’ve known plenty of wannabes who did.

Lots of books, articles, and more have been produced on how to get from here to there. Each of them presupposes there’s a desire to improve and grow. To change. It’s just not always true.

Some people have no desire to change. No desire to grow or improve. Just watch their behavior. Compare it to their words. Pretty obvious that some people lack desire.

Even so, desire isn’t enough to make you lucky. It’s not even likely to make you luckier! Unless you have some inordinate amount of desire.

Saturday morning during ESPN’s College GameDay there was a feature story on Nebraska football player Damian Jackson. A kid raised in Las Vegas by a single mom, Damian admits he got in trouble for being stupid. He entered the Navy and decided, as an 18-year-old, to try out to become a Seal. He described himself as too stupid to quit so he made it. For 4 years he was a Navy Seal, dispatched to combat. When his time was up he faced a choice – re-enlist or attempt something new. He decided he wanted to try college football. Why not? He had never played before but figured he’d enroll at Nebraska because they were a top 25 program. He’d try to be a walk-on. He failed. But he persisted in bugging the coaches until they finally relented. Learning football, for the first time, at the D1 level was an uphill climb, but today he’s a senior, due to graduate in December 2021 and he’s playing on a scholarship. The young man is the epitome of desire and determination. During the feature story on ESPN Damian said, “If you have a dream, exhaust every option.”

Impressive.

“If you have a dream, exhaust every option.”

You have to have a dream. Okay, you have to want something more.

Not everybody does – not enough to pursue it. Lots of people are with their dreams or desires like I am with learning to play the guitar. I’d love to know how to play, but I’m unwilling to pay the price to learn. Turns out I’d much rather listen to good guitarists than be one myself. Great guitar players are driven to play, not listen. I’m far more driven to listen than the play.

Many people are like that with most things we desire. We’re more in love with having it, or being it than we are getting it or becoming it. One we can dream about and imagine how great it would be. The other requires hard work, sacrifice and determination. So maybe it’s not about having a dream. Maybe it’s more about pursuing an ideal outcome! Actually doing something to move forward. And if we commit to do the work, then maybe – just maybe – some luck will follow.

This much is sure. If we don’t put in the work, luck won’t follow. So I suppose we’re all faced with the guarantee of failure even if we’re never guaranteed success. Just neglect to put in the work and failure is sure!

“Late-life lucky” is about exercising wisdom to figure out new ideal outcomes later in life, then commit to making it happen. So I guess it really isn’t about luck at all. It helps, but maybe it’s not necessary.

Damian Jackson didn’t rely on luck to make the Nebraska football team. He just persisted until he got the result he wanted. I’m sure he’d have taken any luck that came his way, but he wasn’t waiting for it. And there’s the rub.

What Are You Waiting For?

“My ship to come in.”

“Permission.”

“A yes.”

“The cavalry.” 

These are some of the things we wait for. They’re all representative of luck. Good fortunate. A break. Things to just fall our way. It’s a life lived in the Land of Maybe. Maybe it’ll happen. Maybe it’ll come true for us.

The phrase “late-life lucky” doesn’t mean that to me though. And it dawns on me that it’s more about how others see what I’m chasing at this stage of my life – later in life. Yes, I’m absolutely hoping some things fall into place, but only after I put the pieces together. Like a puzzle piece you know fits, but it needs a bit wiggling to get it to fit – I’m hoping to figure out where the pieces go so I can be busy wiggling the piece into place! I’m not waiting for the pieces to miraculously line themselves up.

There’s something more about the late-life part of lucky. A joint pursuit, two sides of the same coin. Running from something while running toward something else.

Details don’t matter because our ideal outcome is personal. It’s what we most want to make happen. As world-class mountain climbers say, “Commit, then figure it out.”

People smarter than me have long ago figured out that speed matters. The faster we commit, the more quickly we get on with figuring it out. Those of us who have ever had little kids in our life know. Some of the grandkids used to be very timid to jump into our swimming pool. They’d stand on the edge, peering into the water. Thinking about it. Then back away from the edge. Then approach the edge again. The longer they thought about it, the more they’d delay jumping in. Fear grew until they’d likely just refuse to jump. Many of us behave exactly the same way with our own ideal outcomes. Like my grandkids who would like to jump into the pool, we’d like to jump into action to achieve our ideal outcome…but if we hesitate, it becomes easier to keep hesitating until eventually…we just give up.

I first wrote down the phrase, “late life lucky” because I was thinking of what I most wanted to happen, at this later stage of my life, and I knew I didn’t want to delay taking meaningful action. Mostly, I didn’t feel like I had the time to waste. It wasn’t fearful to commit. It was more fearful not to. Maybe that’s because it’s a late life thing. Maybe it’s because it’s something I’m pretty passionate to pursue. Maybe it’s because it’s such an important thing with important ramifications. Or maybe, it’s all of that.

No point in waiting. It’s better to do something about it.

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