How To Be Lucky

A few years ago, my mother was the first person to point out to me that I led “the life of Riley.” I had never heard the term before, and I’m still not too sure about its origins or exact meaning. But, I take it to mean that things come easily to me; it seems like I can achieve the same things as other people with less effort; I’m generally blessed with good fortune and serendipity; God gives me better treatment than many people think I deserve.

Guilty as charged.

Like the time I was 5 and I won a huge jar of jelly beans in a contest. Every student in kindergarten through eighth grade guessed how many were in the jar, but I had the closest guess without going over–sort of. I remember (yes, I remember a lot from age 5) giving a guess of “seventy hundred.” That sounds like a perfectly reasonable high number to a 5 year old. They must have written down “seventeen hundred,” because next thing I knew, I was walking home with a jar of 1723 jelly beans. It was by far the greatest moment of my life up to that point. Mom was there to ration them out–otherwise I would have eaten them all in a day. In fact, I thought that’s what I thought I was supposed to do.

On more than one occasion as a kid, I walked up to a vending machine, pressed a few buttons, and snacks came out without putting any money in.

Or back in 2005, when I was a purposeless bachelor roaming the earth, Isis literally walked into my life, I fell head-over-heels, and got married to the greatest woman in the world less than a year later. Priceless.

There have been a lot of situations like that through my whole life; enough that most people who know me agree with the “Riley” tag. Even in the times when I have gotten in trouble, it’s just never been that bad.

Anyone can enjoy this sort of dumb luck. No one wins every time, and there are plenty of moments when even I feel like I just can’t catch a break. But over all, luck can be cultivated. Here’s how:

-Expect good things to happen. I was playing basketball once, and I heard a guy say before a shot, “there’s no way I’m going to make this.” Guess what happened. He missed. Don’t be that guy.

-Celebrate other’s good fortune.Some of the people who call me “Riley” say it with just a twinge of resentment. You might as well be as happy for someone else’s good fortune as you would be for your own. Wish people the best and the best will come to you–that’s one interpretation of the Golden Rule.

-Don’t be afraid to try. Once you’re convinced that you’ll never make the shot, you figure you can save the effort and not even take the shot. The fact is, when we roll the dice in any aspect of life, we never know the outcome–but that’s why it’s so important to try. Besides, we are more likely to regret the things we never did more than anything we attempted to do.

-Express gratitude often.Paraphrasing one of my favorite scriptures, Jesus said people who have will get more. The question is, what, in your opinion do you have? Problems, debt, bad luck, illness? Prepare for more. Look instead at some of the other things you have, like family who loves you, talent, food, a comfortable home, and great taste in blogs. Focus on the great things you have, count your blessings, and more will come. Gratitude is a major key to happiness and luck.

-Persevere. Back when I sold Kirby vacuum cleaners, my boss used to say, “the harder you work, the luckier you get.” Every now and then, dumb luck hits everyone. But I have found that the people who enjoy the most success are often putting in the most work. It’s work they enjoy, work they were born to do, but real, hard work nonetheless.

Even if you weren’t born living the life of Riley, you can make it happen for yourself if you want. And when it does, I want my share of your jellybeans.


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