You Can’t Control Your Luck, So Control What You Can

Very recently, the lottery jackpot was insane. Something like $1.6 billion dollars was set to go to just one person.

Like everyone else, I spent a fair bit of time daydreaming about what I could do with that kind of money. Yes, even knowing that you’d only ever really see a portion of it, I had lofty plans for so much of it, plans that I’m still kind of impressed with, to be fair.

But alas, I didn’t win. My guess is that you didn’t either. Unsurprisingly, the lottery tickets of everyone I knew came up depressingly short of even a nice fraction of that jackpot.

It’s unsurprising because the odds of winning a jackpot is so astronomical. I probably have a better chance of being drafted into the NBA while accepting an Oscar and being struck by lightning simultaneously. It’s just not realistic to place your bets on something that relies on pure luck.

You can’t control your luck, so it makes more sense to control what you can, like how hard you work.

Today, we have legions out there who are lamenting their poor lot in life. They are pissed that some people seem to have been born with a silver spoon in their mouth and they’re jealous of it. They want those people to lose what they have in the name of “equity” and “fairness,” but so many of those same people are missing the bus.

Back in high school, I played basketball. I wasn’t any good, but I was still on the team and I knew where I stood in relation to the other talent there.

The one story I heard back then was about Michael Jordan. He was still playing in those days and he was the undisputed greatest player of all time. He was GOAT before the acronym was really a thing. Yet this story said he was cut from his freshman basketball team. The coach didn’t think he had it hat season, so he cut Mike. MJ. The man.

He cut probably the greatest basketball player who ever lived. Can you believe it?

If it had been me, I’d have gone to my room and sat there, dejected, and probably not done much else.

But I’m not Michael Jordan.

Jordan went home and started training. He played ball all the time. He shot like there was no tomorrow. He drilled. He did everything he could to make sure he was never cut again.

Michael Jordan didn’t look at those other players and complain how it wasn’t fair that they made the team and he didn’t. He understood he didn’t earn what they had, so he went out and earned it.

If you look at all the greatest success stories, what you generally find is a lack of what I call “debilitating envy.” These people don’t look at what others have and get so jealous that they can’t function in any way except to demand what those other folks possess.

No, they look at what those have and have achieved and think, “Why not me?”

But that’s the easy step.

It’s important. It’s vital and it has to be done, but anyone can do that. Honestly, they can. They can even mean it too?

The real trick is in taking all the other steps.

Now, without knowing what you’re wanting to achieve, I can’t give you all the steps. Hell, I probably don’t even know all the steps. But there’s one that’s universal, and that’s to work your ass off.

But sometimes, that’s not enough. Sometimes you have to have more going on.

Here’s the thing to remember, though. If you can control it, take care of it. If you can’t, then do what you can to work around it.


A little over seven years ago, I bought a newspaper. I don’t mean I bought a copy of a newspaper. I bought the whole damn thing. As a political blogger, I did something that apparently no other blog had ever done before. I ticked “be the first person alive to do something cool” off my bucket list.

But it failed. I failed. I worked my ass off, but I still failed. Why?

Honestly, there’s a lot of mistakes I made along the way. I can look back at all the ways we spend money we shouldn’t have or how I should have tried to find a way to keep my job and run the paper on the side for a few years so I wasn’t trying to live off of the income. I could play this game for years.

Mostly, what happened is I didn’t know crap about owning a business and I didn’t really do a good job in learning how to do any of it first.

I failed to control all the things I had the power to control and I paid the price.

Since then, I’ve tried the business route again. It hasn’t worked out all that well because I keep finding things I’m not very good at, but I also keep learning. I keep trying to find a way to control the things I can so I don’t have to count on crap that I have no control over.

This is really true no matter what you’re talking about, though, not just business. This isn’t a business lesson. I have no standing to give out advice on that front.

No, this is a life lesson.

Think about it, this basic idea applies to everything. I know this shouldn’t sound groundbreaking–and to some of you, it ain’t–but it’s true.

“I want to look like Arnold in his prime, but I don’t have his genetics.”

No, but you can train your ass off, control your diet, and come as close as you possibly can.

“I want to be a bestselling author like J.K. Rowling, but I don’t have her talent.”

Maybe not, but you can learn the craft of writing and write your ass off and maybe still make a respectable living off of your work. Believe me, I have friends who do it.

“I want to be the best baseball player alive, but I’m not all that good.”

Then practice. Get coaching if you need to. Play a lot. Practice what you suck at more until you don’t suck at it. Increase your strength so you can hit harder and throw further.

Through all of that, there are a million examples of people who want to achieve something but will be down on themselves for not having the ability to achieve it.

Well, suck it up and get your ass to work.

You can’t control the world. You can’t control your talent, your birthrights, or any of that crap. All you can control is you.

If you get off your rear and get to work. Along the way, recognize what you can control and what you can’t, then bust your ass on the stuff you can control.

At the end of the day, even if everything doesn’t come up roses, you can at least know that it was the result of things beyond your control. Believe me, that makes a difference.

Author: Tom

Tom is a husband, father, novelist, opinion writer, and former Navy Corpsman currently living in Georgia. He's also someone who has lost almost 60 pounds in a safe, sustainable way, so he knows what he's talking about.

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