I’d rather be lucky…

September 24, 2018 Justin Peter Gudel

Lucky vs Taking Advantage of the Opportunity

Vernon ‘Lefty’ Gomez was known to say, “I’d rather be lucky than good.” The scrappy five-time World Series champion was, get this, a left-handed pitcher. Ha! To call him a baseball player, would be to diminish how good he really was. Between 1933 and 1939, he was selected to play in every all-star game. The man could play ball.

Yet even being at the top of his field, Lefty knew that there were times where luck was more powerful/influential then skill alone.

That phrase, “I’d rather be lucky than good,” has continued in the zeitgeist. I’ve heard professional card players using the phrase. I just read an article where a stockbroker raised it up once again. I’m beginning to use it myself.

There are a handful of studies that not only suggesting that there might be something to the adage, but that for some of the most successful people in the world, they would have never made it to where they are today without a healthy injection of luck — often on more than one occasion.

Maclom Gladwell (yes I mention the investigative journalist once again) has made the case for all of the main tech company founders stumbling onto fortuitous moments in our history of technology. That is to say, they didn’t so much create the tech that we use but had something given to them that they then elevated. He shows a similar case study for the railroad tycoons and broadcast conglomerates. In other words, you could say that they were in the right place at the right time — lucky.

We’ve all heard stories where a chance meeting produces a ridiculous outcome.

Does this mean that some people are just destined to be successful? No. In each of the cases above, the people were also talented (at least moderately) and more importantly, took advantage of the opportunities offered them.

I’m beginning to think that there is something here. I’m beginning to think that God is offering us opportunities all the time. They may not be for wealth in dollars or pesos. It might instead be in people that we can talk to. It might be in people that he is leading us to share with.

Over the past three years, as I’ve been trying to get PunkChiridion off the ground, I now realize that I haven’t always taken advantage of the blessings God has offered me. Some of it is that I don’t like asking for help, other times it’s because I feel guilty in accepting the help offered to me. Additionally, it happens when I have something I could do or a person to talk to, and I don’t follow through either due to a busy schedule or a lack of confidence, I just don’t do it.

I’ve had opportunities to go to venues as a speaker. I’ve had opportunities to ask for donations.

But I rarely take advantage of it at all. It’s easier to keep on doing what I’m doing.

I’ve asked a few of my friends who are salespeople and they know what it means to make contacts. They know what it means to make a cold call versus having an introduction. I get so many introductions, but rarely do I follow through.

So what is the message here?

The message is that…

Are you taking advantage of the luck/blessings that you have been given? Your situation might not be that you’re unlucky. Instead, it might have to do with seeing the world the way that God is challenging you to see it.

I got a phone call one night in 2013. The phone rang around midnight and I was all warm and comfy in my pajamas. If I wasn’t in bed I was on my way there. I glanced at the screen and saw that the caller was JP, a twenty-something that I had been trying to develop into a mentoring situation. It was unusual to receive a call from him at that time of night, but not unheard of.

I swiped my phone to dismiss the call. The rationale in the back of my mind was that if it was important, he’d call a second time.

He didn’t call back.

It wasn’t until a few days later when I tried reaching him that I got the story.

The first part of the tale wasn’t unusual, he was in shock because his girl was pregnant. I had already known that. We had talked about it earlier. The additional tidbit was that his soon to be baby-momma had told him that she didn’t want him in the life of the child.

That was what he was calling about.

Inbetween the hours of the call I ignored and my returned call several days later, JP had hopped a train and had become a traveling kid. Traveling kid isn’t a description as much as it is an identity. If you know anything about traveling kids, they are the modern equivalent of the hobos of yore. They will panhandle. They will migrate with the seasons. And yes, they hop onto trains to get free transportation.

They even have a book, filled with the descriptions of all the best places to steal rides. The book is somewhat secret, it gets updated as it gets printed at Kinkos across the states. They do their best to keep that information off of the internet where train stations could see it and modify their operations.

JP has been a TK ever since. Every now and then he drops some roots for a few months, then he gets the itch for a new destination and he’s gone.

It’s a hard life, but one that gives him a freedom that he was desperate for.

To this day, I wonder if things would be any different if I had answered his call. We still talk, occasionally over social media. But it’s not the same. He’s not the same.

I’ve even got to see him a few times when he’s been back to visit family.

But, did I miss an opportunity to bless this young man?

All good things come from God, or so the New Testament writer James would tell us. Good, isn’t always wealth. Good doesn’t mean happiness. Good could also be a job, a vocation, or a purpose.

That’s the thing to think about here, or where I want to leave you.

It might not feel like it at the lime, but you might be lucky each and every day. When you sit loyally next to a sick loved one, it’s an opportunity to love that person. When there is no energy left in your tank and your five-year-old wants to play, that’s an opportunity. When the person at Starbucks slips and pours their coffee on you, you have options in how you react.

Seriously! I was in line at a deli once, and a guy behind me spilled his coffee (there was a free coffee dispenser just a few feet away) all down my back. My mind didn’t understand why my back was suddenly burning. After a few seconds of concern then spinning around, another patron pointed out the offender quickly — and I’m sure embarrassedly — walking away.

When you’re starting up a 501(c)3 and someone asks if you’d talk at their church, it’s an opportunity. I need to say yes to each of those opportunities.

What has God put in your life that you have yet to take advantage of? A conversation with your child? A loving moment with your spouse? That coworker you’ve been meaning to share your faith with?

It might not always be about evangelism. Instead, it might just be you, being the best version of you. Being a DIY Christian is about that. Because who’s going to listen to you when you don’t listen to your heavenly Father?