The Luck in Hard Work

Bernard - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Entered on October 11, 2015
Themes: work
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Broadcaster Ed Bradley is credited with saying the harder he worked, the more luck he had. He was partly right.

I believe being lucky makes you work hard too. One feeds the other. Perhaps the greatest luck one can have in life is to see the value in hard work and to figure out where effort is best applied.

Hard work was part of my childhood on a Vermont dairy farm. My brother, sisters, and I all had our assigned chores. But our mother was clear that our most important job was succeeding in school. She set an example by studying for and receiving her general equivalency high school degree when I was fourteen. We were all expected to go to college, and we did.

Like many teenagers, I took my family for granted. I goofed off, jumped from dangerous cliffs into rivers, and crashed a motorcycle more than once.

When I failed to work hard enough, I learned what it felt like to be disappointed in myself. I also saw enough success as a student to discover strengths and aptitude.

When I decided to study journalism in college, it wasn’t much more than a guess. My turning point came when a professor sent me to conduct random interviews on a public bus and find a story to write. I was immediately hooked on having the license to ask questions, study topics, and share what I learned. I saw this as a way to make a difference in the world.

That assignment came at a good time and led to hard work—honing my skills as a journalist. Being at the right place at the right time helped me get my first job as a reporter. That, in turn, led to my first editor job at the age of twenty-seven. My early management experience gave me opportunities to grow and eventually become a journalist in Washington, D.C.

I ended up in Philadelphia after being transferred from a newspaper that was going out of business. The new job opened up just in time. Despite some hard work and initiative, I could have easily been laid off instead.

I believe luck factors into so much—the teachers we get, the people we end up working with, the timing of an opportunity, and whether we are ready to take advantage of the opportunities that come before us. But luck is not something to wait around for.

As a father now, I teach my children that nothing is more important to their futures than the decisions they make. I encourage them to leave little to chance.

You have to be good, I tell them, but it sure is good to be lucky.