On screwups
A giant jigsaw puzzle

On luck, future, and control

[ 4 min read ]

A woman called Rosemarie commented on my answer on Quora to the question I’m 25. What should I do with my life?

She wrote “Study, learn in order to be the best that you can be and secure a comfortable future for yourself.”

I wrote her back “Study, learn in order to be the best that you can be — yes.
Secure a comfortable future for yourself — in my opinion we can only hope that the future will be awesome. No matter what we do we will never be able to secure a comfortable future for ourselves. Besides, what if a comfortable future sucks? :-)”

To which she wrote me again “It is sad to read your response, especially where you say; “No matter what we do we will never be able to secure a comfortable future for ourselves”, and then you say “what if a comfortable future sucks?” I can only say that all of us are responsible for (our) own lives and we can either create a comfortable future for ourselves according to our choice of such. Anyone’s future can be awesome, it is up to each one of us and the choices we make and how far we are prepared to go in order to secure that future which is most suitable for ourselves and thereby, a comfortable one for ourselves too. This is just my simple way of looking at life in general and my understanding has always been that only I am responsible for the type of life I wish to exist in.”

And my response to that was the following “I understand your intentions Rosemarie, but tell it to those millions of Jews and other people who died in WWII for example, or to those who jumped out of the World Trade Center, or who died inside on September 11, 2001, or who live in North Korea (just three examples out of a gazillion). In other words, we can’t be 100% in control of our lives. Those who tell people that they are / can be (100% in control of their lives) don’t know what they’re talking about. I don’t know if it’s sad. It’s the way life is.”

And she replied “Well, I was not at all aware that your question was based upon such atrocities. It is a very sad history, but it has taken place and we cannot change this fact, but hopefully, learn from the past, but we can change our lives for the better and make choices that perhaps, help us to have a better life. Bad things happen on daily basis to good and innocent people around the world, so many people, Children, Men and Women today, have the most traumatising experiences imposed on them in their own lives, and some of them choose to tackle these kind of issues in a hope for a better existence, while others do not possess the same strength. Yes, I have good intentions for other people.”

And I concluded “I would say one can hope for a better existence, but better existence is not solely dependent on your actions. It is not guaranteed as long as you do everything right, which is the opposite of what most people’s believe. They believe that if you do everything right the future will be good. That’s a lie adults with good intentions have been preaching to them since kindergarten. Why? Because they believed this bullshit.
It would be awesome if it would be that way, but it isn’t. Those who preach that one only needs to work hard, be ambitious, learn, etc. and the future will be fucking awesome for them (as opposed to the future of those who are lazy and don’t like to work on themselves) are, unfortunately, wrong.
It’s not enough to want a better future and to work towards it. I know many successful people believe that it works that way and that’s exactly what they preach. And many so called unsuccessful people eventually buy into this bullshit that the only reason your future will suck shit is when you don’t work hard, learn, aren’t ambitious, etc. Of course, it is a factor (this whole thing about being ambitious, learning, working hard), but by no means is it the only factor.
The point I’m trying to make here is Shit will happen anyway, and we are not (never were and never will be) able to eliminate its occurrence. So if you’re 19 and happened to be in the Balkans when the Balkan war was a fact, sorry. That’s called life. Life will not adjust to your hopes and dreams (definitely not always).
Can we really assume / say that those who died in some terrorist attack, or in a plane crash didn’t work toward a better future for themselves? I bet many of them did. Who doesn’t want a better future for themselves? And? Was their future better? Was there a future at all (for them as human beings living on earth)?
The words you used in your latest response — ‘hope’, ‘hopefully’, ‘perhaps’ — are the right words. Unfortunately (or not — isn’t surprise a good thing sometimes?), they contradict the notion you advocate — that we are 100% in control of our future. We never are.”

If you eliminate luck as a factor in your life (in everybody’s life), if you deny the existence of pure chance, because you’ve been sold by some guru on some dumb notion of being 100% in control of your future, sooner or later you’ll have a rude awakening. Because that’s not the way life is. Life doesn’t work that way. Luck is a tremendous factor, whether we like it or not. Of course, we may always try to do something about it (about the shit that happened in our lives and is a fact), but another shit might be round the corner.

So the notion that we can, through our actions and attitude alone, secure a better, fantastic future for ourselves is bullshit. We can always try to do something about the shit, but we will never be able to eliminate it from our lives through things like hard work, ambition, dedication, sacrifice, mindset, etc.