With the inevitable impending doom (for some) of finals and conclusion of 2016, it is a perfect time to reflect upon how far we've come and where we're headed. If the past two weeks of your life were anything like mine and you were legitimately seeking divine intervention to bolster your chances of getting those coveted grades, you may understand where I'm coming from when I ask, what ultimately determines where we end up? Besides the purposeful actions we take everyday and all the work we may do, are our successes solely subject to us or is it a combination of luck? Now, this isn't a cop-out or an excuse to leave your life up to chance, but rather an acknowledgement of something we don't usually factor into our daily lives. In fact, if we could determine how luck, chance, coincidence, opportunity, divine intervention or anything else you may believe in has changed our lives, it would be absolutely terrifying.
Malcolm Gladwell outlines in his 2008 novel "Outliers: The Story of Success," a rather blunt interpretation of the underlying factors in the success stories of a variety of influential people. Referencing everything from their parents' occupations to their nationality, the decade they were born in, and the economy of their country of residence, Gladwell almost formulaically outlines the necessary factors in becoming successful. While most reviews rave about his groundbreaking conclusions, I personally see them as startling realizations that we may not actually be the sole captains at the helm — aka Jesus, or the like, may have really taken the wheel. Perplexing, right? Even more so when this text was a staple reading in my biology course this semester. Logically, if this was the case and we were all just subject to chance, we could say that there really was no point in even reading that assigned text and showing up for class because we would only amount to as much as we were allotted by luck.
However, it's not that easy. Coincidentally, just like you have come across this article, I stumbled upon this exact video on Facebook that brings together both hard work and 'destiny' in the same context. Truly gripping and inspiring, Oprah addresses how failure following hard work may be purposeful. Rising out of a very rough start to life and unsteady family relations, Oprah defied all odds and become a larger-than-life talkshow host, TV producer, author, and philanthropist all while preaching humility. While her view can be consoling for those who worked hard and failed, she also encourages those who want to be in control of their lives to keep plowing forward. If you're anything like me and you started making a mental list of potential setbacks revolving around factors out of your hands, before you write Mr. Gladwell a certain type of letter, remember the old adage 'mind over matter.' Even though some things really do happen for a reason, a combination of ambition, motivation and hard work will always prevail in a tug of war with chance.
Luck may be a terrifying mystery, but it's not always negative. In fact, on a small scale, those little things like finding that $5 bill on the sidewalk or driving through that line of green lights on your way to work are all just fleeting moments of happiness, so similarly, those little moments of inconvenient coincidences shouldn't be made as weighty as we make them out to be. Like yin and yang, there's a balance to everything. While our lives are dictated by a huge mess of factors, we ultimately make our own fates. Talk about responsibility. But if you're still studying for finals, this probably wasn't as enlightening as Oprah's message because now you have to keep studying. However, everything is bound to turn out just fine. On the grand scale, a tanked test is a miniscule detail incapable of producing truly life-altering effects, so feel free to exhale, weary warrior.