You have heard people say,”I’m waiting for my ship to come in.” Fortunes brings in some ships that are not steered. People may say what they will about there not being any such thing as luck, or chance, but we all say there is such a thing. We must all concede that things over which a man has no control, unforeseen happenings, or events with which he has had nothing to do with and on which he had not calculated, often change the whole course of his life. Good positions do not always come by merit, or as the result of one’s own direct efforts. It is how a poor laborer or day worker who falls heir to a fortune by the death of some relative, or, again it is a poverty stricken person, who is suddenly raised to wealth and what the world calls high position of a woman who marry a man of rank or fortune. Every person knows that there is a great advantage in being in the right place in just the right time, and that being there is often a matter of chance.
Men are constantly being moved up into positions which they did not get rightly by merit. Their elevation is due, perhaps, to a accident, a stroke of paralysis, or the death of a person in a high place. Everyone knows that men are constantly being put at the head of large corporations because of kinship with the owners of the business, when perhaps a score of those who are working in the establishments, at the time, are much better fitted to fill the positions. But, after all, who will be foolish enough to say that man is the instrument of chance, or that true success is the result of accident or fate? No, luck is not God’s price for success, nor does He tinker with men. When we consider the few who owe fortune or position to accident or luck, in comparison with the masses who have to fight every inch of the way to their own success, what are they, in reality, but the exceptions to the rule that character, merit not fate, or luck, or any other thought of the imagination controls the destinies of their life?
The only luck that plays any great part in a man’s life is that which inheres in a stout heart, a willing hand, and an alert brain. What has chance ever done in the world? Has it invented a telegraph or telephone? Has it laid an ocean cable? Has it built a ships, or established universities, asylums, or hospitals? Has it tunneled through mountains, built bridges, or brought miracles out of the air? What did luck have to do with making the career of Bill Gates, of Ted Turner, of Steve Job, of Bill Clinton, of Barrack Obama, of George Bush, or of John Kennedy? Did it help Edison or Marconi with his inventions? Did it have anything to do with the making of the fortune of Henry Ford ? Many a man has tried to justify his failure on the ground that he was doomed by the cards which fate dealt him, that he must pick them up and play the game again, and that no effort, however great, on his part, could materially change the result.
But, the fate that deals your cards is in choosing your own resolution. The result of the game does not rest with fate or destiny, but with you. You will take the opportunity if you have the superior energy, ability, and determination required to take it. You have the power within yourself to change the value of the cards which, you say, fate has dealt you. The game depends upon your training, upon the way you are disciplined to seize and use your opportunities, and upon your ability to put grit in the place of superior advantages. Just because circumstances sometimes give clients to lawyers and patients to physicians, put commonplace clergymen in uncommon pulpits, and place the sons of the rich at the head of great corporations even when they have only average ability and scarcely any experience, while underprivilege youths with greater ability, and more experience, often have to fight their way for years to obtain ordinary positions, are you justified in starting out without a chart or in leaving a place for luck in your plan?
What would you think of a captain of a great liner who would start out to sea without any port in view, and trust to luck to land his precious cargo safely? Did you ever know of a strong young man making out his life-plan and depending upon chance to carry out any part of it? Men who depend upon luck do not think it worthwhile to make a thorough preparation for success. They are not willing to pay the price for it. They are looking for bargains. They are hunting for short cuts to success. We hear a great deal about Roosevelt’s luck, but what would it have availed him if he was not ready for the opportunity when it came if he had not trained himself through years of persistent drill to grasp it, if he had not been prepared to make the best use of it? You probably have never known a man to amount to much until he cut out of his vocabulary such words as “good luck” and “bad luck,” and from his life stream all the “I can’t” words and the” I can’t” philosophy.
There is no word in the english language more misused and abused than “luck.” More people have excused themselves for poor work and mean, stingy, poverty-stricken careers, by saying “luck was against them” than by any other claim. That door ahead of you, is probably closed because you have closed it, closed it by lack of training, by a lack of ambition, energy, and push. While, perhaps, you have been waiting for luck to open it, a pluckier, grittier fellow has stepped in ahead of you and opened it himself. Power gravitates to the man who knows how. “Luck is the tide, nothing more. The strong man rows with it if it makes toward his port, he rows against it if it flows the other way.”