The Obligation of the Lucky

The Obligation of the Lucky

Continuing with more thoughts on wealth, charity and empathy, here’s another great essay on the matter by Michael Lewis, delivered as his commencement speech to his alma mater, Princeton University, in 2012.

You can read the transcript here, or watch the speech here.

It explores the role of luck in his own career and the lives of other successful people. Those who have both good luck and success, he goes on to say, are obligated to pay it forward. The speech is short and well worth the read.

Here are a few choice excerpts:

“…Success is always rationalized. People really don’t like to hear success explained away as luck — especially successful people. As they age, and succeed, people feel their success was somehow inevitable. They don’t want to acknowledge the role played by accident in their lives. There is a reason for this: the world does not want to acknowledge it either.”

“…Recognize that if you have had success, you have also had luck — and with  luck comes obligation. You owe a debt, and not just to God. You owe a debt to the unlucky.”

In my own life, I think of the luck Lewis refers to not as pure chance or the result of random events. I think of luck as blessing.  I can’t always explain the blessings I receive, but I can practice gratitude in my daily life for them.  Whether you call it luck or blessing, the desired end result is gratitude. That approach leads me to a mentality of abundance instead of scarcity, and thinking like a steward of wealth rather than an owner of it.

The scarcity or hoarding mentality is one that can plague both the rich and the poor, this tendency to insist on ownership of wealth and fixating simply on accumulating more. I wrote about the concept of owner versus steward in a previous post. Evidence and intuition tell me that focusing on abundance, and being a good steward is the truer path to happiness.

John Christianson
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