You lose your job.
A relationship ends.
That thing you had high hopes for falls flat.
Something, anything, goes wrong.
“Ugh, just my luck.”
You wonder, “Why does it always rain on me?”
But wait. If you look around, you’ll see plenty of other people are getting wet too.
No, not just your luck – just everyone’s luck. Just Fate.
“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong” is Murphy’s Law. Whatever can happen at any time can happen today, was how Seneca put it in Moral Letter 63.
I may sound pessimistic so far, but I’m not saying everything always goes wrong all the time. Just that we should be a little less surprised when it does, a little less disrupted. A little more resilient, a little more accepting of Fate.
Cursing our luck changes nothing after all.
We can dwell on our rotten luck, stew in bitterness and make ourselves unhappy. (How absurd a notion that is when you think about it – that we’d actually choose to make ourselves unhappy! And yet we’ve all done it.)
Or we can accept what has happened, find the positive angle and keep moving forward. There’s good in every bad if we look for it, if we just turn the problem around in our mind a few times until we find the right perspective.
Losing your job is an opportunity to get new experience, to find something better.
A relationship ending is an opportunity to work on yourself, to find something better.
Get better then find something better.
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.
The cost of valuable experience was simply a period of difficulty. You came out the other side stronger, wiser, ready to go on to better things.
The quote often attributed to Seneca is, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” It sounds like advice on how to make your own good luck, but it can also be a formula for turning bad luck to your advantage if we think of the bad luck as the opportunity:
Preparation (the acceptance of Fate, the knowing that things will go wrong) +
Opportunity (bad luck)
Good luck (self improvement, increased resilience, something better)
There’s a nice moment at the beginning of the movie The Fall of the Roman Empire in which Marcus Aurelius has the following exchange with his deputy, Timonides:
Marcus Aurelius: When I was a child, Timonides, I had a secret fear that night would come and would never end. That we would live out our lives in total darkness. It was a small fear, then.
Timonides: Yet, my lord Caesar, the sun always rises – and will again.
Marcus Aurelius: So you say.
Moments later they watch the sunrise together, just as it always does. And will again.
We can come to expect the bad with certainty, which is a huge part of being able to deal with it when it arrives. But we can also be certain of its transitory nature. Just as darkness perpetually gives way to light every day, so bad will give way to good. This too shall pass.
And if we still insist on the existence of luck, then we can consider ourselves lucky that we have the strength within us to deal with what comes our way:
“It is my bad luck that this has happened to me.’ No, you should rather say: ‘It is my good luck that, although this has happened to me, I can bear it without pain, neither crushed by the present nor fearful of the future.’ Because such a thing could have happened to any man, but not every man could have borne it without pain. So why see more misfortune in the event than good fortune in your ability to bear it?”Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 4.49