I realize that everything I say in this post can be explained by confirmation bias and selective memory. But that's the part I find interesting. So here we go.

I have a hypothesis that everyone is born with the same amount of luck, possibly because we are a computer simulation, but that's not my point today. My point is that luck doesn't appear to be spread evenly across a person's life. Some people use up all of their luck early in life and die young. Some people start out life in bad circumstances and finish strong.

For example, Lance Armstrong had an amazing life until the doping allegations. Steve Jobs was on top of the world but died young. Magic Johnson was frickin' Magic Johnson until he got infected with HIV. John F. Kennedy was the fornicator in chief until someone shot him in the head. If the pattern holds, I give Justin Bieber a year before he lands in jail.

On the flip side, Halle Berry slept in her car at one point in her early life. Later she won an Academy Award. Oprah had a rough childhood but finished strong. And so on.

You can probably think of lots of people who violate my hypothesis, apparently experiencing continuous good luck or continuous bad luck throughout their entire lives. But my observation is that people who have consistently bad luck with money, for example, are often having more than their share of sex and/or love, and vice versa. And famous people have more than their fair share of depression and mental illness. According to researchers who study happiness, money doesn't change your enjoyment of life that much. People who look extraordinarily lucky might be a lot less lucky than they appear to be.

Further complicating my analysis is the fact that people don't always grab the opportunities that luck provides. Some struggling folks might also be the luckiest, but it won't show if they don't take advantage of the luck when it wanders into their lives. Other people might be aggressive about exploiting the crumbs of luck they find, making it seem as though they have extra luck. Serial entrepreneurs come to mind.

Personally, I've been unusually lucky in my career, but if you factor in my childhood, and calculate the average, my total lifetime luck would be about average.

I'm curious about whether you perceive luck the same way. Taking into consideration your entire life, professionally and personally, has your luck been about average?

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Jan 25, 2013
emily, yes, if you have access to school, and if there are any jobs available where you live other than subsistence farming. That's the luck part, many people in other parts of the world don't even have the opportunity to go to school, by the chance of where and when they were born.
Jan 25, 2013
Ok. C I R C U M S T A N C E S is not a bad word the last time I checked. Please stop flagging it.
Jan 25, 2013
Why did it flag the word !$%*!$%*!$%*!$ Is that now considered a 4-letter word?
Jan 25, 2013
Much of success is not actually luck, but hard work, as you yourself must know since you spent long hours drawing out comics by hand in the old days before you could do them on a computer. Life is about how we use the cards we're dealt. Instead of being jealous that others got dealt better hands, we need to rise above our !$%*!$%*!$%*!$ Stay in school, study hard, do the best you can at whatever jobs you get, and you will get somewhere in life. You can work your way up if you impress others and make the right connections. But sitting in your cube complaining about how boring your job is, or at the fast food place flipping burgers, even if it is boring, is not likely to impress anyone.
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Jan 22, 2013
Ryosuke, no it doesn't ring true, because probability doesn't work like that. You're basically saying that each type of event has a set number of times it can happen, so when it happens to one person it becomes less likely to happen to everyone else because one got used up. In fact probability places no limits. An unlikely event can happen lots of times in a row or all at the same time to lots of people for no reason. A likely event may not happen to you for a long time.
Jan 22, 2013
I've got a similar but more sinister theory. We live in a average world where things happen on probabilities. So, if someone other than you have something bad, your having the same bad thing ought to diminish, otherwise the probability would not be constant. It would make you a very very bad person, but does ring true, doesn't it ?
Jan 18, 2013
I could have written this post many times in my life, meaning I agree and have had the save theory. I started off with some very bad luck that would have been deadly multiple times over even 50 years earlier (I'm 39 now). But then I've had quite a run of good luck since my teens that would leave most people envious - so good that I sometimes think the world is a simulation meant to test and entertain (not please), with me at the center. It probably feels the same way to almost everyone.

Good post! Ha, confirmation bias.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 16, 2013
mhlong Nothing you described disproves the existence of randomness.
Jan 16, 2013
I don't personally believe in 'luck'. My BS is in Math, I have an MBA, and I work on databases (creating, fixing, etc) for a living, so I'm a pretty much hard numbers kind of guy, and I'm especially tuned into patterns (I was an intelligence analyst during the VietNam War in the USAF looking for patterns). However, I sincerely doubt there's a 'randomness' to life that we label as good luck or bad luck or coincidences. I drive approximately 100 miles each day for work, and have been doing so for at least 20 years for all kinds of jobs in all directions on all different types of roads. I experience approximately 70% red/30% green lights regardless of time of day, roads traveled, direction, etc. It's been consistent since I started noticing the pattern years ago. Also my wife and I become quite unemployed in late 2008 at the depth of the recession. We should have lost our house, etc, but somehow, funds or income streams arrived that were for the most unexpected or unplanned, and I noticed that pattern too, I've always been able to pay my bills on time no matter what the !$%*!$%*!$%*! (I've had debt, of course, but I've always met at least the minimum payments). I play bridge a lot with friends and I understand the distribution numbers. My average bridge hand using strictly card value count (and not suit distribution which is a variable) is about 7.5 over hundreds of hands. Any bridge player who understands numbers should know it should average 10. Why am I averaging 7.5? It's not luck, it's not coincidence. But it's not long term average. Finally, I've learned how to flip pennys (or quarters too!) from my palm, where if I know which side is up, I can predict better than 50%(around 60-70%) which side will land up. Patterns, there's more to this than some simplistic concept of luck.
Jan 15, 2013
Talk to the average orphan in India or Cambodia about how everyone is born with the same amount of luck. Then go bathe in open sewers for awhile, because that's what many of them do every day. But I suppose they have lots of opportunities they're just not taking advantage of because, you know, they like bathing in open sewers. What a self-absorbed, asinine post.
Jan 15, 2013
To the extent that I agree with Scott's hypothesis, I think it can be explained in great part by reversion to the mean, whether intentional or accidental.
Jan 14, 2013

[Actually, the baseline happiness in those 3rd world nations is about the same as ours. -- Scott]

Happiness isn't an objective metric. People can adapt to to amazingly bad situations, and I don't know that a person's happiness has anything to do with their luck. If you ask a Muslim woman whether she's happy, unhappy, or average, she might answer in the context of being a Muslim women, and say average... whereas, it's possible she's endured a level of misery rarely imagined in industrialized western countries. Sold into marriage at 10 years of age -- basically enslaved, raped, and beaten at every disagreement throughout her life. Nonetheless, I've known Arab women that seemed to think "that was the way the world is" and maintain a sense of national pride, satisfaction with her religious, and joy in her family and culture.

(My father worked in Saudi Arabia for an oil company and I lived in that country for 9 years. While I won't pretend to be an authority on the Arab world, I have had many Arab friends and an uncommon level of exposure to their world.)
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 13, 2013
Scott, just a quick logical exercise.

You do not believe in free will so we cannot make choices, they are made for us.
If everyone has the same amount of net luck, then we would begin and end in the same place, the path can be different.
We are all born and we all die, therefore we all begin and end in the same place.

Your theory is logically possible, but my unfree-will chooses to think it is total bs.
Jan 13, 2013
so in conclusion... on average, generally speaking, the life experience of most people appears to be normal.
Jan 12, 2013
My luck's been about average. Seems to be proving Seinfeld's "it all evens out" principle.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 12, 2013
I think this particular type of superstitious thinking is common enough among very successful people. Apparently Elvis got into a lot of spiritual mumbo jumbo in the 70s because he wanted to know why he'd been so successful - why the universe or God had chosen him to be 'Elvis' and not someone else. I suspect Dilbert's massive success is fueling a similar misfire in Scott's brain when he thinks back over his own life. Just my 2c of course...
Jan 12, 2013
It all depends on the definition of "luck".

If you mean what happens to us that is *completely* out of our control, then I agree: lifetime luck distribution is not even.
Jan 12, 2013
not sure what scott is trying to accomplish but i have to flat out reject the idea he actually believes what he is spreading.

the luck he describes is a combination of random external factors outside control merged with personal expectations.

i have seen plenty of dilbert cartoons mocking superstitious luck worldviews to know he doesnt think its that simple.

merging personal expectations (which fuels drive) with external things outside control into one magic "luck" factor seems more like a way to get blog hits by letting ppl swim in the dreck or point out its fallacy.

for someone with high expectations, low points in life transform them into their greatness. for someone with low expectations, low points in life set the room temperature.

the idea all ppl receive equal amounts of luck can only be satire (atleast from scott). even using the witchdoctor definition given in scotts post.

His final question "Has your luck been about average?" is more of a window into a responders soul than a erudite dialogue of some subject matter.

Once he knows your perceived luck all he needs next is your priorities. Then he sells your personal data to real estate agents or loan officers to mine your home equity based on your calculated net worth.

If you say your luck is amazing, and rate personal wealth as your top priority...

what would be a good blog subject to peer into ppls attitudes on the connection between wealth and someones value as a human being? I mean if a person doesnt have a million dollars in the bank they might as well kill themselves for being so worthless and wasting their life. Anyone with any sense and basic humanity will be a millionaire by age 30.

I wonder what an FBI team could determine about a persons blog history here. Especially someone who often gets into scrapes with other posters. I can see it now, Scott at home creating complete psych profiles on each blogger. Spinning his web of svengali magic.

Maybe today he woke up and asked himself: Do my customers think they are responsible for their own success? I have a cartoon idea and i want to be on the right side of the punchline to resonate with them.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 12, 2013
Agree. Luck/randomness plays vital part. Hindu philosophy says, Pain comes after happiness and vice versa, where as chinese says, pain and pleasure are inseperable, pain contains pleasure and vice versa. Unfortunately, we seldomly look beyond people who have some wherewithal, millions of people struggle to survive, for them, luck means survival. Context change with !$%*!$%*!$%*!$ Few outliers can always be spotted from crowd, but if you believe in theory of karma, You are supposed to work without anticpating the return, the root cause is luck. So yes, normal people in late 20th and early 21st century have higher luck as compared to the previous generations. Except biological events/physionomy/major calamity you may increase your luck by being exposed to more random event. Unfortunately knowledge to use intellegence comes from tad luck and more experience. And till the end of life, one can not determine whether he is lucky or not, only we can provide some statstical reasoning, an average or standard deviation but not certainity.
Jan 12, 2013
"Count no man happy until he's dead" (Solon to Croesus: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solon).
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