Luck and Secrets

When people I haven’t seen in a while notice I have lost weight, the inevitable question I get asked is, “What’s your secret.” When I say, truthfully, “There is no secret; I gave up everything I craved and walk three to five miles a day,” I get skeptical looks. “But what is your secret?” they repeat, unable to believe that there is not a smoothie, a pill, garment, or a new exercise behind  significant weight loss.

Create your own luck

Create your own luck

If I’m feeling brave, I’ll say, “Self discipline. Self control. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done so consistently.” That doesn’t work, either. “You have to treat yourself sometime, or you will quit,” they assure me. “It’s not good to have all that discipline.” I try to change the subject. I’m uncomfortable talking about discipline and success. It’s not the answer for everybody. But it has worked consistently for me–not just in changing my relationship with food, but for most things in life that I have relentlessly pursued.


“All that we are is the result of what we have thought.” –The Buddha

It reminds me of how often I was told, after I landed a book contract, that I was “lucky.” Well, perhaps, but it also involved a lot of hard work and, ummm, discipline. I did research, I wrote the book proposal over again at least six times, I changed the idea of the book slightly when it wasn’t focused enough, spent hours doing research to find a publisher who specialized in the kind of book I wanted to write.

The need for “luck” and “secrets” comes because discipline and hard work are not fast and easy.  And no one (except the Little Red Hen) wants to say, “I worked really hard for this and I made it work.” It sounds conceited and self-satisfied. But I don’t know anyone who has lost a lot of weight and kept it off who had an easy secret. Same goes for people who have accomplished something big in their lives. They seemed to have given up a lot and worked hard for a long time.

Thomas Edison had it right when he said, “The reason too many people miss opportunity is because is goes around dressed in overalls and looking like work.” Followed by another good quote from Thomas Jefferson, “The harder I work the more luck I seem to have.”

Quinn McDonald is going to bed. It’s almost 1:30 a.m. and she has to get up to go teach in four hours. She is looking forward to being lazy when she gets back from class tomorrow. No, wait, she wants to do a book review and giveaway on the next blog.


25 thoughts on “Luck and Secrets

  1. Oh how I wish there was a secret, but I am only too aware that what I need is self discipline. The Edison quote is one that I came across a few weeks ago and have been using to inspire myself ever since.

  2. We make our own luck, by perseverance and hard work, and the harder we work, the more likely we are to be in the right place at the right time for someone to notice us, and I’m not talking about that frantic, illogical, scurrying around pretending to be busy kind of behaviour. Sometimes something marvelous will happen out of the blue, but thats not luck, its being in the right place at the right time, and having the skills to take advantage of what is offered us. Its also a state of mind. If we are positive, it affects how others see us and good moods are contagious, but if we are negative, it puts people off.
    As for the secret of being skinny – if there was a single secret it would have been worked out years ago and someone would have made a fortune! There is what works for us, and is the result of our own energies and hard work. If people have problems with that, its their own problem for wishing for a magic bullet, instead of doing the hard yards. More power to you!

    • I agree about being in the right place at the right time. And people who risk more get around more and are in more places at more times. (I’m waiting for Pete to come back and explain to me that’s I’m wrong about that.)

  3. Agreed! Luck has very little to do with all sorts of things . . . sometimes just a little. Courage to take a calculated risk does, along with perseverence as you point out. People often said I was lucky when I was working overseas in International Schools and travelling to all sorts of wonderful destinations for holidays but I don’t think luck had much, if anything to do with it: I was a hard-working teacher and took a risk leaving my home country, on my own, for something far different.
    On the weight issue, I have a friend who is naturally very thin – she is works hard at maintaining her weight (keeping it up) through exercise to gain muscle and healthy eating. She is constantly being accused of being lucky or questioned about being anorexic however she’s neither, would love to weight more, have breasts and hips, be able to by ‘real women’s clothes’ (sic) rather than shapeless juvenile clothing. As an extreme ectomorph, she doesn’t feel lucky when people, can’t keep personal comments to themselves.

    • That last sentence is very powerful. When I weighed more, perfect strangers would offer me their opinions, unasked. And I think that for some people, risk is safe and the worst risk of all is being safe.

  4. Quinn McDonald is a remarkable woman. She knows who she is, what she can do and doesn’t give up. I think Quinn McDonald loves life too.
    I hope she got enough sleep to teach a dynamic class today!

  5. This conversation hits at the core of all of us. Why do some people seem so lucky compared to others? Because others don’t always get to see the hard work behind the scenes that goes into the lucky person’s “luck”. Some people seem perpetually unlucky and consequently, are forever jealous of the “lucky” ones. That other person is just “luckier” than they are.

    I think it has to do with what you focus on. If you focus on what is wrong with your life, you keep having things go wrong. If you focus on what’s right in your life, more things seem to go right and you build positive momentum and good karma. I try to spend my time around people who see the things that are right with their lives and who work to move past the bad things that happen to them. I feel incredibly lucky! Which luckily, feeds into feeling happy and satisfied.

  6. another saying i learnd in school.. the heights by great men (women apparently were not in the picture then!!) reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight. but they, while their companions slept were toiling upward, onward through the night. I think of this when I am stitching at midnight!! I just have this feeling I WILL be famous if I keep on keeping on enough

  7. Individual effort, luck, motivation, discipline — these are all parts of a puzzle I often think about. At the moment I’m pretty sure that the most puzzling thing about all of them is that none of them exist.

    Taking myself as an illustrative case, I am extremely disciplined and work very hard. Watch me over any arbitrary set of days and you’ll probably agree; lots of people have. I approach problems in a structured way and solve them efficiently and reliably. I pursue deferred goals in that the projects I work on involve the efforts of hundreds of people over months and years. Now *that’s* some hard work and discipline, right?

    Except it seems to me like I barely work at all. I just do things that come easily to me and to solve work-related problems is exactly the same as solving puzzles that exist purely for fun.

    Sometimes I think this is spectacular luck. Not the “you make your own” sort of luck, but the “I was born in the right place at the right time with the right physical characteristics of my nervous system” sort of luck. Winning the lottery kind of luck.

    I really did win a state lottery years ago and a relative — one of the kind that comes to family gatherings but you’d be hard-pressed to explain exactly how you’re related — who loved to talk about racing and betting and schemes and the like asked me how many tickets I typically bought. He didn’t like my answer (none); even up to the present I’m pretty sure I’ve bought fewer than 20 lottery tickets. Ever. He said, sort of accusingly, “so you don’t trust your luck”.

    It’s not that I don’t trust luck. The kind of luck he meant — the kind where a statistically unlikely outcome resolves to your personal satisfaction — doesn’t exist. It’s a construct of human perceptual and cognitive errors. Statistics tells us that picking one item out of ten thousand identical ones assigns a probability to each item. If *you* happen to be associated with one of them? Statistics is silent on the subject of you. And as an aside, what about randomness? Randomness is a particularly elusive quality. As far as anybody can tell, it’s “something unpredictable”. So there has to be a prediction, which means there has to be somebody doing the predicting…anyway, randomness is very tricky. It clearly exists (just flip a coin) and yet it also doesn’t seem to. Excellent, another puzzle. What luck!

    • I’ve been around a while, and sometimes what looks like luck turns out to be something else. Maybe random weirdness. I’ve also seen pretty gross injustice, and just plain meanness. I don’t believe that everything that happens is God’s plan, either. So I’m back to taking the reins and setting a course.

  8. I totally agree….hard work,focus,determination and a belief in what you are doing and what you are trying to achieve is the key to success . I feel the more good energy you put out,then the angels start sprinkling a bit of fairy dust and luck and syncronisity begin to add to the mix….but you have to get off your backside to earn it.
    We are all capable of amazing things ,but it’s knowing what you want is the hard bit. Have a wonderful day with magic added….you deserve it! I am a skinny person who has just returned to uk and relishing fish and chips and pies and cakes…and all naughty stuff I have missed while living in a field in Spain for ten years! trying to balance it with long walks! After first week I am not allowed anymore!!xxx

    • Yes, the Jefferson quote is really a good one–the harder you work, the more luck you have. And I think a few angels around can’t hurt, either! You sound so happy to be home, I’m delighted for you! A few pounds you can walk off.

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