Luck...or Sacrifice?

As a student from elementary school up through to high school, I was mostly an A student (with a few fairly egregious exceptions).  As an undergraduate student, I had almost exclusively As, and as a graduate student, I have had all As.  I have a fairly exemplary record as an employee.  In many areas of my life, from my health quotient to my credit score, I am doing pretty well.

Throughout my life I have had the opportunity to deal with numerous people who chalk all of this up to luck.  I have had friends and coworkers alike tell me that "these things just come more easily to you."  I do not think people realize when they say that how belittling and insulting it is.

I worked with a woman not that long ago who used this as an excuse all the time for why I was getting my work done and she was not.  I was newer in my role, had less tools at my disposal, but at the end of the day I was succeeding and she was not. "This comes more easily to you," she would say.  She did not take into account that I spent the majority of my day in my chair, actually doing my work, whereas she was wandering around, socializing, always talking about her work but never doing any.

It is true that I have had some great blessings in my life that have contributed to my ability to be successful.  My parents were loving and supportive of me, though they never did my work for me.  They told me I could achieve anything, but they set an expectation of me that I do it myself.  I do believe some skills in life are inherent to our nature, and I am naturally an intelligent, driven, determined person, and I thank God for giving me those qualities.

But at the same time, I have limitations as well.  I have mild dyslexia, and as a result, I am a slow reader.  As a child, I limited my reading to what was required.  I have had bad knees since I was a kid, having had a tumor on my left knee that was removed when I was 18, but my knees were bad prior to and have been worse since.  I have two conditions - hypothyroidism and PCOS - that contribute to hormonal imbalances that make maintaining my weight and health more difficult.

When people say things to me like "it comes more easily to you" what they are failing to see is the effort behind the things I do.  I have had other women I know with PCOS and hypothyroidism (a surprising number of them) express to me how lucky I am that I have been able to manage my weight.  What they fail to see is that I get between 100-120 minutes of activity each day.  Is that easy?  Is that not an exhausting sacrifice that I make in order to invest in my own health?  Is it not everyone else who is so lucky that they spend those 100-120 minute in idle time while I am sweating?

I make the same argument about my grades or my work evaluations.  The hours that I have spent going above and beyond, taking on additional work, putting myself out to help someone else, and the additional hours it takes me to read through the materials that others skim much faster than I this easy?  I cannot remember the last time I skated by, doing the bare minimum, procrastinating or letting deadlines slide.

This is a problem I have seen for others as well, my sister being one of them.  She is also a high achiever, and a fit person despite having PCOS.  She also finished her master's degree with honors and is widely celebrated by her team at work.  Not because she is lucky, or because things come easier to her, but because she is committed to her health and to her work.  It is insulting to me to think anyone could assume she achieves all of this through luck.

People who say that are blinded by their own insecurity, unwilling to acknowledge that some people persevere beyond what is comfortable, and sometimes beyond was it even reasonable, in order to achieve their goals.  It is easier for them to believe their own circumstances are a lack of luck, rather than a lack of effort.

"Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get." - Ray Kroc


  1. I do think everyone has natural strengths and abilities, like how you are with looking at a messy pile of raw data and instead of getting a migraine like I would, you're brain can pick out the patterns. It's a skill you're naturally better at than me. I could work my ass off to get to where you are naturally, and you could never use that skill and over time become as bad at it as me...but the smart people USE their natural strengths and abilities, they bulk them up and then they use the success of those to push themselves to achieve similar levels of skill and success in other areas as well. So yes, finding patterns in data is easier for you than it is for me, but that's because you saw that it was a natural skill for you and you worked hard to build it up and make the most of that skill and to use it to build other skills up around it. You didn't just sit there and say "ya, I'm awesome at this so I never have to try to be better" like so many people do.


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