Why Luck more than Anything Else Determines the Lives we Live

Chris Herd
5 min readApr 27, 2018


We kid ourselves, like the life we inherit is anything other than geographic serendipity as to the reason for variances between us. Things we have no control over determine significant parts of our life due to luck, or lack of. Your friends, school, interests, almost everything you form your self-image around, is determined not by conscious choices we make but the lottery of where we are born and the implications of that fact for the rest of our lives. To some that might be depressing, others might suggest that is an overly simplistic or depressing view of the world, to that I reply it simply is what it is.

This is something that we often fail to recognise, out of some misplaced understanding of who we actually are. We ignore the luck involved in what we become - like we are the directors of our own films, not inheritors of a script. If you are lucky that is what you become, or you take control quick enough for the ending to have not already been decided, but not before you have lived around the first 12–15 years of your life inheriting the consequences of decisions we haven’t made.

Take a minute to think about the implications of things we had no control over determining the life we live for the rest of our lives — if we let it. Geographic circumstance, the socio-economic status we inherit from our parents and the afflictions imposed by our nationality determine fundamental opportunities available to us. The avenues available vary greatly depending on if you emerge into a technocratic forward thinking community or an insular closed one scared of the change that has emerge during this lifetime. Our treatment from our parents hardens us or hides us from the realities of life and either prepare us for the world we will face or make us hopelessly naive. Our education determines the perspective others have of us to an overwhelming extent. Being born with a silver spoon in your mouth is as likely as emerging into a community where you must fight to find one to use, but our judgement of those circumstances are on either ends of a broad spectrum.

Only when we take control are we able to establish a route forward that suits our intention, though by that point it may be too late. Should you be born into a family that values a specific lifestyle over another, your chance to break free most likely wont come till adulthood. By that point, what you want and what you can do may be hopelessly misaligned.

My own exposure to this is typically middle class. I was the fortunate beneficiary of parents who demanded that I try my best for every single thing I was doing. They ensured that I treated everyone equally irrespective of age, gender, race, religion or any other factors you wish to ascribe. The manifestation of this was decisions being made for me with view to the future my family thought was best. The implication was that I only knew as much as my parents were able to endow me with. My parents never went to university, so going was a big deal. What they had in enthusiasm they lacked in knowledge and the limitations this imposes on us is that we don’t know what we don’t know. This naivety leads to decisions being made which appear to be a good idea, but those who have previously negotiated those waters have are able to avoid. One of the fundamental benefits of being born into a family who has been through this before, is negotiating past mistakes that set people back years. That might be through the choice of a specific degree, or it may take the form of soft nepotism.

That being said it is never too late. People like to make excuses for their limitations. It insulates our ego against the painful reality of what we have failed to achieve. Acknowledging difficulty and letting it defeat us are two different things entirely. We can be cognisant of the treacherous nature of our path to our goal without allowing it to dissuade our progress.

Ultimately we have the ability to control our future by affecting our present or we can allow inherited circumstance to define who we become. It takes a concious decision, and typically a lot of pain to pursue a future which we have simply controlled.

For me it is even easier to understand the extent to which we have allowed this to insidiously entwine itself within the fabric of our lives.

What do you drink in social situations? If you consume alcohol it is easier to determine.

If you change what you drink to appeal to another person sense of who you are, are you making decisions that make you happy? I drink red wine and I’m not entirely sure whether I even like it. Do I enjoy the taste or the external image it projects to other people? That I don’t know the answer can be somewhat worrying.

And this permeates every other part of our lives. The way we dress, how we talk, where we travel. How often do you make decision which conform to the external perception of self you have constructed? How often do you make decisions that aren’t what make you truly happy. The sad reality is that it is equally applicable to the person cleaning the streets as it is the person determining where they are built. As we progress up a ladder of perceived social status the public expectation weight even more heavily. Where you are expected to act a certain way by doing certain things at specific times.

Who is more free, the person who can do the things they way to or the person who is forced to do the things that are expected of them?

How do you become either person?

The initial path is set by luck

You may alter the route you take when you begin to recognise you are being led down a specific route.

But ultimately luck determines our fate



Chris Herd

CEO / Founder / Coach @FirstbaseHQ Empowering people to work in their lives not live at work ✌️✌