Being Thankful For “Luck”

After reading “To Get Luckier, Realize Success Is Mostly Luck” by Sam at Financial Samurai I decided to take a look at my life to analyze how luck has played a part in getting my family to where we are today.

Overall, I don’t believe that luck plays a huge role in our lives, and people often attribute luck to the success of others because they don’t want to admit that someone else could have possibly made different choices, set a plan, worked hard, and put in the effort to change their situation for the better.  About 30 years ago my parents moved to Michigan from Ohio when my dad graduated from Ohio State University to take a job at Whirlpool Corp World Headquarters.  We moved into a trailer park and our next door neighbor once remarked to my dad that he was “lucky he had a college degree.” You know, cause you win those in the lottery.

Thankful For Luck, Hitting The Big Time:

Being alive right now and living in America are two of the best fortunes that could befall anyone.  Infant mortality is the lowest it has been in recorded history,  we can travel anywhere in the country by air for under $1,000, and we have access to a god-like brain of the sum total of all human knowledge with extremely little cost.

Growing Up Lucky:

I’m not entirely sure how unique my childhood was, but it the grand scheme of the history of the world, it was certainly unique.  I was able to watch my parents move up the socio-economic ladder from living in a trailer park to a fairly new house on 20 Acres in 2003.  Over the 31 years of my life my parents have gone from a negative net worth to hitting early retirement by 55.  My dad will retire on his 55th birthday in January. They were able to pay for both their children to go through college and now have control of 100% of their time for the rest of their lives.

A lot of kids don’t grow up having parents.  A lot of kids don’t see their parents move forward in wealth. I think being able to see that helped me to understand that it is possible to change your circumstances.  Some kids watch their parents move down in net worth and socio-economic standing.  Mrs. C.’s family had their home condemned (stolen and destroyed) by the local government.  Some kids don’t have parents willing and able to pay for further education, or parents that even encourage it.

Luck In Meeting Mrs. C:

14 years ago I was a senior in high school and was looking for a job.  The first place I randomly came across that had a “now hiring” sign out front was the KFC in Benton Harbor, MI.  I walked in and applied on a Friday in early March, I was interviewed Saturday and hired on Monday.  I started out earning $5.60 an hour.  Mrs. C. started working there in July.  With how high turnover was it’s actually amazing that I was still there and that our paths crossed.  Our turnover at that restaurant was about every 3 months.  Very few people lasted much longer than that.

Mrs C. was working at another fast food restaurant and  our district manager tried to recruit her and a few other staff members from that restaurant, offering them a slightly higher wage.  Had our DM not eaten lunch at that particular restaurant on that day and not been impressed she would have never come to work there.

Luck In Starting My Career:

In the summer of 2005 I had worked for KFC for a little over a year and was driving our chicken van for the county fair.  We had a small building set up at the fair grounds and we cooked all the chicken for the fair in Benton Harbor and I drove it to the fair grounds.  The driver of the chicken van worked 16 hour days all 7 days of the week.  For a job that doesn’t give ANY overtime, getting this spot was a big deal.  I earned $750 gross during this week, with $500 take home.  While I was at the fair my mom called me from work to check up on me, and I told her I was working 90 hours that week and wouldn’t be stopping by the house until sometime the following week.

Unknown to me at the time,  the project manager for the ice project at D.C. Cook was walking by her cube and overheard that part of our conversation.  He told my mom that the contract company that staffs the ice project has a job fair every season and in February there should be postings in the local paper for it.  They are always hiring people to work long hours during the outage.  I kept my eye out and I showed up to the job fair and I ultimately was hired. I still remember sitting in my car and debating whether or not to go.  I was nervous and felt like I didn’t have a chance, thankfully I went and ended up getting hired at a job that paid over twice per hour what I was making at KFC.

One day while sitting at our break table the project manager walked up to me and asked me to stand back to back with Jason, one of the more experienced workers on the crew.  Jason was really good at basket unpinning, which requires long skinny arms.  Because I also had long skinny arms I was a good candidate for that job.  Jason spent a couple days training me on that aspect of our work and the next outage season I was promoted to the support crew.  This meant working 72 hour weeks instead of 60 hour weeks and I was also brought in for online ice basket weighing, which gave me an extra 2 weeks on the project.  When I came back to work for the Fall outage in 2006 I earned more money there than I did working at KFC all year. Overtime I kept coming back and now I am a supervisor on the project.  I actually am one of the interviewers now at our job fair. If our PM hadn’t selected me to go work with Jason that day I don’t know if I would have ended up still working for this company.

Luck has certainly influenced some of the most important factors in my life.  That isn’t to say I haven’t had bad luck,  there are plenty of times that something I really wanted to happen didn’t.  Overall I still believe that luck is when preparation meets opportunity.  We have the power set ourselves up to become lucky, even so, sometimes those opportunities come at just the right moment to greatly impact our lives.

What ways has luck influenced your life?  Do you agree that just being alive today makes us incredibly lucky?

John C. started Action Economics in 2013 as a way to gain more knowledge on personal financial planning and to share that knowledge with others. Action Economics focuses on paying off the house, reducing taxes, and building wealth. John uses the free tool Personal Capital to track his net worth and posts quarterly updates on his finances. Check out the Action Economics archives section for all past posts.

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