Success, Luck & Humility

The other day, I was reading a short piece in the New York Times titled Stop and Acknowledge How Much Luck Has to Do with Your Success. As the title suggests, the column talks about luck and the role it plays in the lives of the very successful, as well as in the lives of everyone else.

It’s interesting to note that some of the most successful and hardworking people we know, including the likes of Warren Buffett, acknowledge the role luck has played in their success. The writer emphasizes the importance of a sense of humility in acknowledging luck, and how it should go hand in hand with success.

While the column was generally very well written, what really struck home was the antepenultimate paragraph where the writer makes an interesting argument. He says that if people are willing to blame bad luck for something that was not their fault, they should also be willing to acknowledge and give credit to good luck when something has nothing to do with their efforts or actions.

“If bad luck exists and it is not your fault, so does good luck that has nothing to do with your efforts or actions either. And that is O.K. too.”

–Carl Richards

While the author talks about luck as an independent event that requires no real preparation (for example, buying the winning lottery ticket, or this news item from 2014 ), I think it is also important to acknowledge when luck and preparation/hard work go hand in hand (for example, acing a test, or getting a promotion at work). The following quote, often attributed to Roman philosopher Seneca, sums it up best: “Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.”

The column concludes with a related piece of wisdom that is often lost on most of us in our daily lives. I highly recommend you take a few minutes from your day to read and reflect on this wonderful piece.

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Travelling with Tom Hanks

Let me preface this blog by telling you that we love Tom Hanks and his movies. He is a great actor and an even better person. We simply observed an interesting trend and decided to make some light-hearted humor of it.

We recently saw the movie Passengers, after which we came home and turned on the television. As luck would have it, another space movie was on: Apollo 13. As we watched, we got into a discussion about Tom Hanks’ movies. We talked about how the vast majority of his most memorable movies in the recent past have tended to involve a combination of him, some form of transportation and bad news.

Upon combing through his filmography, I found even more movies that fit this theme than I expected. Here is a cherry-picked list, ordered chronologically, that makes my point. It is also interesting to note that most of these movies are either based on, or adapted from real life stories.

Forrest Gump (1994): Tom Hanks is on a boat. Upon seeing an old friend and colleague, he jumps off his boat and swims to the shore, leaving the boat to crash. In another scene he is sailing with the same friend when a fierce storm hits, tossing the boat around dangerously. Later we find out that they survived, but all the other boats around them sank.

Apollo 13 (1995): Tom Hanks flies in a space shuttle on a mission to the moon. En route, it develops serious technical problems that jeopardize its return to Earth.

Cast Away (2000): Tom Hanks flies in an airplane that is going thcathrough a violent storm and experiences an explosive decompression. The plane crashes and he is stranded on a deserted island for a long time.

Catch me if you Can (2002): Tom Hanks plays a police officer who finally managers to arrest the evasive Leonardo DiCaprio in France and has him extradited to the US. On the plane ride back, he delivers bad news to DiCaprio telling him that his father passed away.

Road to Perdition (2002): Tom Hanks is travelling on a ship and poisons a co-passenger.

The Terminal (2004): Tom Hanks has flown into JFK and upon landing (safely) finds that his passport is no longer valid due to the outbreak of a civil war in his home country Krakozhia. He is therefore nationless and not allowed to leave the airport. The movie deals with how he spends 9 months living at the airport as a stateless person.

Angels & Demons (2009): This movie makes it to the list because near the very end, Tom Hanks boards a helicopter with an explosive canister. The helicopter flies straight up and explodes, saving the population below but destroying the helicopter.

Cloud Atlas (2012): Tom Hanks plays a nuclear scientist that is flying in an airplane that blows up soon after take off.

Tom Hanks stars in Columbia Pictures' "Captain Phillips."Captain Phillips (2013): Tom Hanks plays the Captain of a container transport ship that is sailing near the Somalian coast when it is attacked and hijacked by pirates. Later, he is taken hostage by the same pirates on a smaller lifeboat. Twice in the same movie!

Sully (2016): Tom Hanks plays the Captain, Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, piloting an airplane taking off from New York’s LaGuardia airport. Soon after take-off, the plane suffers a series of bird hits that render the engines inoperative, forcing a crash/controlled landing on the Hudson River. So, not only does he not make a good co-passenger, but his luck rubs off when he plays the pilot too!

There you have it folks. I think this is proof enough that this is not simply a mere coincidence. Tom Hanks, and forms of transportation just don’t mix well. So the next time you find yourself on the same boat/ship/plane/helicopter/space shuttle (and maybe even at the same airport) as Tom Hanks, you might want to think twice, and get the hell outta there! 😛

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100 Word Review of Passengers

Set far in the future when humans have started colonizing far-flung planets, this sci-fi production understandably takes some liberties. But that doesn’t take away from the mind-boggling visuals and great performance delivered by Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt and Michael Sheen. A funky sense of humor and constantly evolving story line keep you glued to your seat and you won’t even want to blink, out of fear of missing out. In flirting with various ethical dilemmas, the movie provokes thought and debate about how you would’ve dealt with the situation.

To wrap it up, a definite must-watch on the big screen.