This past week, among other things, I read a book recommended to me by an old grad school friend called Success and Luck. As the title suggests, it explores the role luck plays in individual – and collective – success, success being defined here as the financial or economic type. Yes, there are many definitions of success in the world, it’s not all about the money, we could talk for days about how we measure material success but there are other WAYS to define success, I know, I know, but the book is written by an economist, was referred to me by an economist, and hell, I AM an economist, technically, although I haven’t worked in that field for many years.
Anyway, the role of luck is something I think about often, and so this book was fascinating to me. Every single job I’ve ever gotten has had an element of luck and timing to it, and each one of those jobs – from my very first as a library page to my job as a quantitative analyst on a natural gas trading floor to my job as a yoga teacher – has shaped my life. I am qualified, hard-working, and smart, but so are many people; luck and timing have so much to do with everything. The book wrote about actors who ALMOST didn’t get the parts that essentially made their careers: Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, Bryan Cranston as Walter White. Where would they be without those roles? Al Pacino could have landed minor supporting roles to supplement waiting tables, Bryan Cranston would have gone down in history as the guy who played the dad on Malcolm in the Middle.
But jobs aside, sometimes I will think of things that have happened in my life that almost DIDN’T happen, and how that would have changed everything. It’s like that urban myth of someone stepping off the sidewalk and suddenly a car careens into that spot; if that person hadn’t stepped off the sidewalk they would be dead. A butterfly flaps its wings and an earthquake occurs.
So much of our lives depend on things that happened before we were born; WHERE we were born, for example, and who to, and who they were born to, and so one ad infinitum. Of course we can make our own choices, and to some very limited extent, our own luck, but the world is a rich tapestry, people, and I can’t stop thinking about it.
Speaking of which, my husband recently saw the movie Into the Wild, and is now reading the Jon Krakauer book of the same name. Have you heard of this? A young man from a very intellectual and wealthy family leaves everything, burns his identification, and without telling any of his family members, changes his name to travel across the States, ultimately landing in Alaska, where he starves to death. Hoo boy. There are so many things about this story that bother me no end: the man wants to live off the land, essentially, and just be one with nature. Thoreau-like, if you will, except as we all know, Thoreau’s mother was always leaving him food and doing his laundry, and his little cabin in the woods was owned by a friend, and in fact Thoreau himself benefitted much from aid from friends and family. It’s funny how our baser needs must be taken care of before we can reach these higher intellectual achievements, and we could talk forever about how women have supported men in those achievements but it doesn’t typically work the other way around, a room of our own, a woman’s work is never done, et cetera, but let’s return to the story at hand before I digress too much.
Anyway, this man who died in Alaska: it turns out that he was about thirty- five kilometres away from the nearest town, that’s ALL. When he finally figured out that living in an abandoned bus, completely unprepared, with no food and no axe and no common sense, wasn’t what he wanted to do, when he figured out that being around other people is actually a good thing, he wasn’t able to cross the river that, three months earlier, had been largely frozen over and not swollen with snowmelt runoff. However, if he had explored less than two kilometres in either direction, he would have found places to cross, where he could have eventually made it back to the highway and, probably, not starved to death. There would have been no story, other people who died trying to find the old abandoned bus after the story became popular would still be alive, Sean Penn would have had one less movie under his directorial bibliography. A butterfly flaps its wings.
Someone had recommended Conviction to me; I cannot remember who it was but I want to thank them. Not my usual type of book but I enjoyed it very much.
If you are looking for a cute, predictable, fluffy romance, this series is for you! It’s nice to just enjoy mind candy once in a while.
Late to the party but I can see why this was so popular. What a well-written and wonderful book. Talk about the role of luck and fortune; this book is full of it.
This weekend I got on my bike for the first time since last summer, and went riding with my older son. Things were a little muddy due to the torrential rains we have been having, but that just added to the fun.
Case in point: the boys and I went on a little Canada Day hike/ walk to the natural area near our house; it was awesome, yes, but we probably should have brought raincoats, looking at the sky. The heavens opened on us on our way home, and we were absolutely soaked.
Speaking of Canada Day, I will leave you with a photo of Barkley, festively dressed for the occasion.