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Lucklifting

“But when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money–booked a sailing to Bombay. This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

          Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
          Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

– W. H. Murray in The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, 1951.

“In my experience, there is no such thing as luck.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars: A New Hope

“You can’t win if you don’t play.” – California Lottery ad campaign.

Is good luck just randomness that happens to benefit us?  Is the same true of bad luck?  Is there anything we can do to influence our luck, or is it by definition random?  Doesn’t it seem that some folks just make their own luck?  Aren’t there folks who never have anything but bad luck?  What if there was a way to change your luck?

First, let’s look at how different systems use luck.

There is a great misconception that entrepreneurs are risk takers.  In fact, entrepreneurs are risk averse. They research every risk and mitigate it and plan around it as best they can before committing their own money into a new venture.  They establish tolerances of success and failure, and contingencies and exit strategies.  They go to great lengths to eliminate random error and the need for luck.  They know what they are getting themselves into.  But the difference between them and ordinary folk is they do act.

Another hugely misunderstood concept is the role randomness plays in natural selection in evolution.  If genetic changes were in fact random, then every change in one direction would eventually be cancelled by a change in the other direction.  But evolution is not a zero-sum game.  Changes made put the organism in a new survival paradigm where subsequent changes affect it differently than if the subsequent changes had happened first.  A subtle artifact of this ongoing change is how a genepool pre-loads options in anticipation of environmental changes.  When the environment changes and puts survival stress on a population, those with the right stuff to survive already have those traits in their genetic makeup.  Options build in a genepool all the time, by random mutation.  Most mutations don’t show.  But if they are needed, then they are there to use, for those lucky individuals that have the right ones.  Geneticists track how this reserve of options builds up, and they have successfully predicted when a change in the manifested phenotype will appear.

Praying to God is an attempt to change the luck that one faces.  If you have formulated a desire and thought about the consequences and gone ahead and asked God for assistance, then you have also arranged your mind to see answers that you wouldn’t have seen had you not gotten your thoughts together.  Our Pagan and Mystic brethren do the same thing to their minds when they cast spells.

3000 years ago, the Vedic sages of India figured out that what you do in the world affects how the world treats you.  The concept of Karma was then picked up and adapted by several Eastern religions, including Hinduism, Confucianism and Buddhism.  If we look at the unseen consequences of our actions as a pre-loading of options that await us, much like the pre-loading of a genepool, then it follows that our actions will “come around” to affect us in the future.

But no matter how good we are, we still only encounter what life puts in our path, which has a large random component.  It is that random component that still leaves us at the mercy of luck.

Entrepreneurs act where others do not.  And all those potential survival mechanisms only evolve to usefulness if the environment changes.  And praying or casting only prepares you to see answers once you have acted upon your desires.  So does acting, committing to a path, eliminate the randomness of what you will encounter going forward?  Committing means you will try harder, and work harder to overcome obstacles that arise.  You will learn skills that will make you more effective and efficient.  You will put yourself in the path of people who can help you.  But can we view the changes in opportunity that arise from action as an actual change in the universe brought on by our actions?

The perception is that once we take action, the universe will respond with options we could not have seen had we not taken that first step.  What if this perception isn’t an illusion?  If Karma is the cosmic equivalent of Conservation of Energy, then why can’t there be a cosmic equivalent to Conservation of Momentum?  If putting good into the world really means good will come back, then why shouldn’t action into the world change the opportunities encountered on that path? 

I propose a new concept to explain this momentum effect, this magic Goethe (and later Murray) spoke about.  “Lucklifting” is when the universe seems to open up new possibilities for you once you have committed to take action.  As described above, there is an actual cause and effect – the only question is whether it is just in ourselves.  This is not just a subjective or delusional phenomenon.  It is experienced subjectively, and is often attributed to luck.  I propose this kind of luck is actually changeable.  By taking that step and committing to action, by moving your plans into the world, you change your luck going forward.  Just as a boat’s prow lifts the boat higher in the water with forward motion, your luck lifts as you push ahead.

Motivational speakers make much of the power of positive thinking.  This is a good start.  And this fits with the concept of Karma.  But I think the key that eludes all those folks who take those high prices motivational seminars is that lucklifting only happens once you commit real resources and start spending real time moving ahead with your plans.

How many times have you been told the only thing standing between you and your dreams is your own inaction?  Didn’t that seem a shaming, unfair thing to be told?  Until we take action and trigger the lucklifting, high goals do seem out of reach.  Those goals become more easily reached once you start reaching.  Maybe the goal wasn’t as far off as you originally thought, and once you are committed to it, you can more clearly see how near or far it really is.  But you won’t know that unless you start.

Of course there is no substitute for properly researching a venture before starting it.  Take a tip from the entrepreneurs, and eliminate risk whenever you can.  However strong the lucklifting effect may be, charging off unprepared is still likely to be met with failure,

I’m sure the Vedas thought of this a long time ago and there is no doubt a word for it in Sanskrit.  But I haven’t seen it given a name in English.

Karma gives us a reason to always do the right thing.  Lucklifting gives us a reason to move ahead with our dreams.

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