Newsletter – Telling Good Luck from Bad

Telling Good Luck from Bad


  1. You Can’t Tell Good Luck from Bad Luck When It’s Happening
  2. Quote of the Month – from subscriber Larry Martin


Opportunity disguised as disaster

Did you ever have opportunity conk you on the head? I mean something which initially appears to be a setback–or even a flat-out disaster–and later turns out to be extremely fortuitous? At the time, it can seem to be the worst possible luck, another sign that you are cursed, and further proof that you must have a “kick me” sign on your rear. In hindsight, however, this minor roadblock proves to be a blessing in disguise: You would have never gotten that salary raise if you hadn’t been laid off, or would have never started your own consulting practice if your company didn’t go belly up, or would have never met your significant other if you hadn’t missed your plane connection in Chicago on a wintry night.

If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all

That’s the problem with luck–you can’t tell good luck from bad luck while it’s happening. I’m reminded of the story of a farmer in ancient China who was considered very wealthy because she owned a single horse. One day the horse broke through the corral and escaped. The people in her village lamented, “What bad luck,” to which she replied, “We’ll see.” Several days later her wayward horse returned accompanied by a dozen wild stallions, which the farmer craftily corralled with her original horse. The neighbors exclaimed, “What good luck!” to which she replied, “Perhaps.” The next week her son was trying to break one of the horses and was thrown, badly injuring his leg. When the villagers heard this they remarked, “What bad luck,” to which our farmer’s now predictable response was, “We’ll see.” Well, as you might have anticipated, the next day the military was passing through the village conscripting all able-bodied men of 18 to 24 years of age, of which her son happened to be. However due to his leg injury he was of no use to the army, and they left him behind. Once more the villagers cried, “What good luck!” . . . “Perhaps . . .”

The road to opportunity is paved with potholes

When I heard this story, I was told that there are actually 500 verses; however, brevity demands that I leave the remaining 496 for you to discover elsewhere. The point, though, has stuck with me. I can recall several experiences in my own life that seemed to be whopping disasters or spectacular failures at the time. Although these events were incredibly painful, they stand out in my mind, not because of the temporary grief they caused, but rather because they led to unthinkable possibilities and positive outcomes that would have never been possible without this or that bit of “bad luck.” The first time I was laid off, my next job came with the biggest pay raise of my life thus far! When a company I was working for went completely out of business, I ended up creating the ideal dream job, the one for which I’d been searching for well over a decade.

What about you?

What bit of “bad luck” in your own past has led to an opportunity that might never have happened without it? What is it about your career, or your life in general, that seems to stink to high heaven just now? And what does this bit of rotten luck make possible that would not have otherwise been possible?


“I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” -Isaac Newton

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