“The more I practice, the luckier I get.”
--Gary Player, Professional Golfer
Ask anyone what it takes to be successful in life and most lists will include some variation of the essential three: hard work, talent, and luck. Remarkably, however, as people thrive more and more, luck slowly drops from the list of one of the three key ingredients, and there is a cost to this drift.
According to Robert Frank in his most recent The Atlanticarticle--Why Luck Matters—Much More Than You Think—this is unfortunate for us as individuals and as a society. Successful and “wealthy people overwhelmingly attribute their won success to hard work rather than to factors like luck or being in the right place at the right time…. That’s troubling, because a growing body of evidence suggests that seeing ourselves as self-made—rather than as talented, hardworking, and, lucky—leads us to be less generous and public spirited.” Deeper, with the purging of the luck factor also comes the loss of genuine gratitude, which research tells us is a key quality in all measures of well being and happiness.
As I reflect on this it is immediately apparent that all of our students receiving a Brentwood education are supremely lucky, for at least a few reasons. First, the quality and depth of the education itself is a huge gift. Second, rubbing elbows daily with peers who are deeply motivated to learn embeds them in a culture of growth and excellence. Third, it means they come from a family that values education by making the necessary sacrifices to provide for a Brentwood education and reinforcing attitudes that are conducive to hard work and learning. In this regard, all of us affiliated with Brentwood are lucky.
This week our 7thand 8thgraders experienced this luck in stark relief during an assembly featuring David Batstone, one of the founders of Not For Sale—an organization designed to combat the trafficking of children and teenagers around the world, including right here in Los Angeles. He pointed out that just over 30 million children are currently enslaved around the world and these children are targeted simply because where they were born and the economic realities of that region of the world. His work, as he went on to explain to our students, is social entrepreneurship at its highest. As the assembly came on the heels of the 7thgrade Human Rights projects, every student walked out of the theater feeling both inspired and profoundly lucky—a great combination.
Reflect for a moment on the role of luck in your life. I don’t know about you, but for me it is powerful, from getting my first full-time job to meeting some of my best lifetime friends. What’s interesting to see in these types of reflections is that the role of luck in no way diminishes the amount of hard work and talent needed for these successes. Rather, luck gave these two qualities the opportunity to flourish.
As parents, therefore, it is important to share some of these lucky moments from our lives with our children. Furthermore, it is imperative that they understand, in a non-guilt, inducing manner, how lucky they are and the role luck plays in many of their various successes. This is especially true of Brentwood students and alum, as one of our stated purposes is to have them “shape a future with meaning” for themselves and the world as a whole. In other words, we expect our students to make a difference in the world, for the better.