Why Bad Luck is Better than Good Luck

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about leverage. People talk in terms of leveraging time and money, but people don’t talk about leveraging luck. In finance leverage is basically anything you can do to multiply your gains. Just like a lever, you invest a little force on one side, and the other side rises exponentially.

Thus it make sense, that in the short term, good luck is beneficial, however in the long term a little bad luck early on can be leveraged to multiply your gains exponentially. This has been an important realization in my expat life because living and working abroad implies a certain amount of risk. (See examples below.) Thus its important to figure out how to manage it.

Just think about any painful experience you’ve ever had. In fact, I’ll grab one out of my own bucket of painful experiences:

New York, USA — 2007

At that time I was working days as an editorial assistant at an environmental magazine and nights as a retail manager. I remember with pleasure the cream cheese bagel I used to eat for dinner while waking from job to another. The financial pinch at that time didn’t really hurt. What hurt was finishing up every night after 11:00 PM flipping open my phone to zero messages. No matter what happened during the day, there was no one to tell it to. I remember thinking: Who were you expecting to call? There is no one in your life. You work all the time. I was living in a vacuum.

The funny thing is, that since then, I have been in uncomfortable financial pinches, but never have I been that lonely again. That luck has been leveraged.

Now I pay close attention to my relationships. I’m abundantly grateful for my friends, relatives, husband and son. Those gains have been exponentially multiplied, not only through the conscious of a better life at home, but through my intense appreciation of it. I put in a lot of effort. I am closer to my parents. I make sure my relationships are multigenerational and I do my best to give more than I take.

But not all instances have to be so extreme. For instance:

Bangalore, India – 2005

The first experience I had with the famous Indian train system was a single sleeper in third class on the bottom bunk. The guy who sat there just before me had been eating peanuts and thrown the shells on the floor. When the lights went out I spent the whole night crying while rats scurried over my bag, picking up scraps, a few inches below my hair.

After that I always bought seats on the top bunk and used my bag as a pillow. I never saw a rat again and I never got robbed. Luck leveraged.

A little bad luck early on can be the best thing to happen in business, travel, work and life. It wakes you up, makes you smarter, braver and stronger.

Unfortunately, when we come into some good luck, we can burn through it without noticing. But if we come into bad luck we’re forced to learn something. However it does take conscious effort to leverage it. It goes something like this:

Good luck → Burn Back to Where you Started

Bad Luck → Climb Back to Where you Started

Either way, you’re back where you started, but in the case of bad luck you’ve really stabilized your foundation. If you use this firm foundation to your advantage, it’s worth more than if had never happened.

Henry David Thoreau saw it from another angle, he said,

“If you have built castles in the sky, let not your dreams go to waste. Just build the foundations under them.”

Bad luck is often the most effecient way to fill in any cracks in the foundation of your dreams. I wouldn’t go so far as to hope for the worst, just don’t let bad luck bring you down. If you leverage it correctly it can lift you up, and lead to more success than you would have had otherwise.

One thought on “Why Bad Luck is Better than Good Luck

  1. I love the way you put this, Emily. Bumps in the road are bound to happen and having an approach where you keep your eyes open for lessons (and the big picture!) is so positive. Great post!


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