Money Talks, So Should You

40-Something Frugalista: Is luck just perception?

by T.L., Dimespring 30 (@beachbudget)

About a week ago, my friend Andrea wrote an article called, “Do You Need Luck To Be Successful?” I have a strong fascination about the topic and wrote a long-winded comment, but found I had so much more to say on the subject because I do think there is a strong correlation between "luck" and "success," but I think that luck, to a degree, is actually achievable.

I had this friend from back in the day who I'll call Susan. Susan seemed to have the worst luck of anyone I know. I mean serious stuff too, like being robbed at gunpoint, car accidents and other random misfortunes. She seemed to have a black cloud over her head. But here is the thing about Susan: she had the worst self-esteem of anyone I know. She would constantly talk about her misfortunes and wonder why bad things happened to her. Now did she have self-esteem issues because she had such "bad luck," or did she get more back luck because she had self-esteem issues?"

READ: 40-Something Frugalista: A marathon, not a sprint

I have another friend I'll call Jeff. Jeff is extremely charismatic, outgoing and popular. I've never heard anyone say a bad word about him. With the exception of the divorce from his wife of 14 years, the guy seemed to always have it made based on his optimistic attitude.

Several months after his divorce he met a girl, then got on a TV game show where he won $50,000, then got engaged to the girl, then got pregnant with his first child … all within one year! In his e-mail announcing his fiancé was pregnant he said, "I'm the luckiest guy alive!"

Was Jeff happy all the time because he had "good luck," or did good things come his way because he was optimistic? Was Jeff just born with the lucky gene and Susan wasn't? I actually don't think so, because I think luck is often perceived by the person who either claims to have it or not have it, and somehow the people in their life actually believe them.

READ: Budget Whisperer: Living large (enough) on a budget

Let's take Susan: the reality is she had those bad things happen to her. She didn't "imagine" someone robbing her at gunpoint, but she also didn't get physically hurt or die. And there might have been things in her life at the time which she didn't notice or bring up to friends, like getting a huge pay raise at work, or hearing back from the doctor that the lump they found in her breast was benign.

Instead all everyone around her knew was that she was robbed at gunpoint.

Jeff, on the other hand didn't imagine that he won 50 grand at a game show. He really did. But what we may not have known was that his grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, or that he was very concerned about a health problem. All we hear, because he is optimistic, is that he won a lot of money. Lucky bastard!

Another theory to think about is this: optimistic people are happy. People like being around happy people. Because Jeff has a lot of friends who want to be around him, he may know someone who thinks Jeff would be a good fit at their company.

Susan on the other hand is unhappy and doesn't have many friends because of it. She spends a lot of time alone, and therefore has few contacts in life who may be able to help her find a new job, or maybe set her up on a date.

READ: Dealing with Money: What not to do with your money 

I think about how this applies to my life. I can think of all the million ways I've been "unlucky" the last few years as a freelancer: lack of steady jobs, money issues, etc. The more I focus on these aspects of my life, the more I come to believe that I am indeed an unlucky person.

But if I sit and think about it, some cool things that have also happened in my life: last year I won a $500 gift certificate, four years ago I won a trip to Costa Rica, I have been in good health, and therefore the health insurance I have to buy is much lower than someone who has a pre-existing condition, etc.

The big secret to being lucky is gratitude and perception. Practice gratitude, and your perception of your own circumstances will change. I agree it sometimes takes work, but in the end would you rather feel happy or unhappy? Lucky or unlucky?


T.L. is a freelance video editor and blogger living in Los Angeles. She enjoys movies, running and playing beach volleyball. You can follow her personal finance journey on her blog at Budget & the Beach, and follow her on twitter at @beachbudgetT.L. is a member of the Dimespring 30, a community of bloggers sharing their thoughts, experiences and attitudes on personal finance.