The real reasons I am lucky

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 “You’re so lucky.”

Those three words have been the background music to the movie of my life.

For well over a decade that phrase has been trotted out in conversation with monotonous regularity.

I’m moving to London to work and travel for a couple of years.  You’re so lucky.

I’m going to Africa next month.  You’re so lucky.

I’ll be travelling for the next six months or so.  You’re so lucky.

I’ve quit my job to follow my dreams.  You’re so lucky.

Yeah, you’re right.  I am lucky.  It’s just not for the reasons people think.

I wasn’t born into money.  My father worked (and still does) at the local hospital in the small town I grew up in.  For years my mother worked at night a few hours a week in between raising four kids.  There was always food on the table and clothes on my back, but finances were tight and handouts were few.

I haven’t won the lottery.  I don’t even play the lottery – I have heard it described as ‘a tax on people who can’t do math’, and I can do math.

I’m no genius.  My grades throughout school and university were always hovering around a B average.  That’s not remarkable.  Maybe I could have done better if I’d tried harder, but I was never going to be top of the school.  My brother had to choose between taking a Fulbright or a Rhodes scholarship late last year.  I am not him.

I’m not connected.  I didn’t go to the “right” school or mix in the “right” crowds.  Opportunities haven’t fallen into my lap.  I’m not part of any of the old boy’s networks.  Any doors that opened for me were due to figuring out how the handle worked.

In many ways I am just a fairly typical thirty-something guy making his way through his time on this planet, and yet I hear all the time how jealous people are of my life.  Just how lucky I am.

Good luck sign

Why I actually am lucky

I’m white.  Racism still rears its ugly head in this world, and New Zealand and Australia are far from immune.  While I may not have had doors opened for me due to my connections, I haven’t had them slammed in my face due to my skin colour either.  It sucks and it’s uncomfortable to talk about, but I’d be foolish to believe otherwise.

I’m male.  There are still a few gender stereotypes out there that haven’t been destroyed yet, and it is still safer to travel as a guy in many places than as a girl, so I’ll throw this one in there.

I have a good family.  My family has its share of skeletons rattling around like any other, but my parents, siblings and cousins are wonderful and I am more grateful for them than they probably realise.  They support me in my crazy plans and catch me when I fall.  They are people I love and choose to spend my time with.  I ask for nothing more.

I was born in New Zealand.  Growing up in a stable first-world country that generally values the welfare of its citizens provides opportunities that are simply not available to others.  People wonder why refugees go through terrible hardships for an uncertain future in distant countries.  Why?  Because the alternative is worse.

My brain works.  I have a modicum of intelligence and haven’t managed to entirely destroy my remaining brain cells with drugs and alcohol yet.

And that is where the luck stops.

Everything else is a choice.


Don't despair

I work hard.  I recently broke up with the corporate world, but when I was a part of it I worked hard.  Now I am doing my own thing – and I’m working hard at that too.  The secret isn’t to find ways of avoiding work, it is in doing work that matters and then taking a well-deserved break.  I don’t always get the balance right, but I’m learning.

I make sacrifices.  I know the value of money and the danger of debt.  My credit card gets paid in full each month.  If I can’t afford to do that, I don’t buy things in the first place.  I have owned a house but no longer choose to do so, as paying a mortgage is too restrictive.  I have made a conscious decision to spend money on experiences that inspire me rather than possessions that will end up in landfill.  At the end of the day I can’t take either of them with me.

I choose who I surround myself with.  Being surrounded by amazing people is one of the best feelings in the world.  For the last few years I have spent my time with those sort of individuals and quietly removed the rest from my life.  Recently I realised that some of the online communities I frequented were just a negative distraction, so I’ve dropped those too and never been happier.

I worked out what I actually want.  I have spent a lot of time contemplating what I really want from my one precious life.   Freedom, travelling and enjoying great relationships are what matters to me.  Working this stuff out for myself rather than taking society’s default options was one of the smartest – and hardest – things I’ve ever done.

I don’t let fear cripple me.  People tell me that I don’t seem to be scared of anything.  It’s a nice sentiment – but it’s wrong.  I am as scared as the next guy.  I still get sweaty palms, a racing heart and all the rest – it’s just that I’ve learned how to turn fear into a motivator.  Not every time in every situation, but often enough when it matters to not let it hold me back from making the big choices.

I don’t know whether what I am doing is right or wrong.  I don’t know whether I will succeed or fail.  I don’t know much at all really.

But I do know that I am probably no more “lucky” than those who keep insisting on my good fortune.  I just make different choices.

Don’t wait for good luck to come calling.

Grab life by the balls and make your own.


[Luck image via fearthekumquat, sign image via Willy_G91, “don’t despair” image via quinn.anya]

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  1. What an awesome post, Dave. Really enjoyed your thoughts here. So true.

    You’ve put in the hard work, and you’re being rewarded. You work hard, but instead of choosing to have all the “things” you choose to spend your time on the “memories” and experiences in life.

    I for one, think that as a much better choice.

    Thank you for sharing!

  2. Amen!! I get so tired of people telling me how lucky I am. My response is always, no I’m not, I just decided and took action and made sacrifices. That is all and really pretty easy. Anyone can do it.

    I do like how you presented reasons you are lucky. I think this is also important. I know that I have more opportunity to travel than my friends in Thailand, merely just because of where I was born. For this I will always be so so grateful

  3. One of my favorite quotes: “I’m a big believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” I know that in some ways, I’m pretty lucky: I was born into a white upper middle class in the United States. But I recognize that my lifestyle is a byproduct of the choices I’ve made, not what I was born into. I chose to go to a less expensive state university so that I wouldn’t have to take out student loans and I graduated with savings instead of debt. But I work hard and I save my money, and I choose to travel instead of buying mindlessly. I guess I’m lucky, but as you stated–it’s more of a conscious lifestyle choice than random coincidence. Brilliant post, really enjoyed it.

  4. Thank you Dave! I have a similar voice in my head whenever people say the same to me before a journey. Usually followed by the thought “what’s stopping you from doing the same?”

    I have always thought that the greatest luck of all is being born in a country where you are free, safe and have access to quality health care. Only by travelling can we see how valuable that initial stroke of “luck” was.

    Great post!

  5. I really love this post Dave. When I started reading it I was feeling the same and thinking – ‘I’m not lucky – I work damn hard and made my own luck’.
    But when I read the second section, I realised that I am really lucky. Like you, I don’t come from a particularly wealthy family and I’m not connected to any who can give me a leg up anywhere but I do come from a good family, I had the option to study and I live in the Western world where I have options and choices than I know what to do with.
    This made me appreciate how lucky I am.

  6. We also get tired of hearing how ‘lucky’ we are. Our response used to be “Yes, we are”, but now it is “If you want it enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen. We just made it happen”.

    Unfortunately, the response usually turns to all the reasons they can’t live out their dreams: they have a job, a family, debt, a dog, etc. (Cue my rolling of the eyes because we had those too). All the usual things that some minds anchor in.

    “Lucky” people are those that know what they’ve got and are grateful for it.

  7. This is a very inspiring and really quite life-affirming post. Its like a mini travel version of the nature vs nurture debate.You’ve made some really significant observations. Really, really good stuff.

  8. Most of us who work in travel, or as in my case travel photography, can relate to your poignant words. We all hear just how “lucky” we are and the next time I hear it I’ll I just tell people to refer to this post.

    Luck has nothing to do with it, it’s a matter of hard work, preparation, planning, perseverance, and taking advantage of opportunity when it comes your way.

    “Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.”
    ~Thomas Alva Edison

  9. Amen to that Dave! I’m only just beginning in the whole ‘luck’ department 😉 but it’s good to know that I’m following the right kind of people!!

  10. Hey Dave ……great thoughts well expressed. If people spent more time thinking about what makes them happy and working towards it rather than waiting for someone else to magically make them happy……then the world would be a much happier place. You make a great example.



  11. Good post and I agree with lots of things. Sometimes being a female is not a good thing when I’m traveling, born in Asian country is definitely not a good thing, and my family is not supportive of my life choice. But the important thing is I am walking and working on my own and actually enjoying it. That’s the most important thing.
    Good post Dave!

    PS. As a love of your home country New Zealand, I have to say you are luck to be born in NZ! 🙂

  12. Well said. One of your best posts and you are only limited by space when describing why you are so lucky. That is really the wrong word… you have been given many advantages but the real secret is how you use them. And it looks like you are.

  13. Awesome post, Dave. Loved how you put this: “Any doors that opened for me were due to figuring out how the handle worked.”

    People seem to confuse luck and choice often, you cleared it up well!

  14. Love Love Love Love this post Dave.

    Reaffirms my own life choices and makes me feel normal 🙂

    Thanks again for putting down the words that most of us feel.

  15. Thought provoking and inspirational. You have managed to put into words what so many are feeling. Well done and thank you.

  16. agreed to all points… most people that i know always dream about something but fails to act on it… this is really inspirational.. sharing it now. 🙂

  17. I am brown, female and live in a developing country. I may not have 3 out 5 reasons why you are lucky. I still say I am lucky, too! 🙂

  18. You are exactly right my friend. Being born in our little part of the world does give us much more opportunities than others… but compared to friends with dead-end jobs, loads of credit card debt, mortgages, and stuck in a rut… we are not lucky. We choose our own path.

    I’ve had so many people say “I wish I could just quit my job and travel, but I need the money”..
    “Yeah man, I need money too… but you just have to reorganise your priorities. Sell that car, sell all that crap you don’t use. Reduce your lifestyle to a backpack.. then get a working visa, and buy a one-way plane ticket. It’s that easy.”
    …then the truth comes out…
    “But I’m scared. What if I can’t get a job when I get back? What if I get in trouble in a foreign country? What if I run out of money? What if…”
    “Dude. Settle. You don’t think I have these fears. You just have to learn how to live for right now, and not think too far ahead. Have yourself a 3-day plan, and you will be pretty sweet. It’s worked for me for 10 months… Just do it. They don’t write books, websites, and songs about working hard for 40 years and retiring…”

  19. I frequently say the same thing about being a well educated white woman born to a middle class family in the United States. There are very few places in the world where women have the same freedoms.