Most of us live our lives asking ourselves the question, “What are my chances?” What are my chances of getting caught speeding on this freeway? What are my chances of being the one to win this raffle? What are my chances of getting this girl to go out with me?
We consider the probability of our success: not very good, okay, 1 out of 100, 1 out of 10,000, 1 out of a million, and we respond accordingly. The greater the probability or likelihood of us succeeding, the more likely we are to attempt it. And the lower the probability, the less likely we are to try.
But there’s a problem when we begin to make life decisions based on mathematical probability, when we allow statistics to dictate what’s possible for our lives.
First of all, we are allowing mathematical reasoning to stop us from pursuing something that we want. Now, I believe that you should go after whatever you want (assuming it’s moral and not hurtful to anyone), whether it’s a desire to learn the piano at the age of fifty (my grandma did this) or a goal of becoming a medical doctor at sixty (my friend’s mom is in the process of applying to medical school). It’s been said before, but you do only get one life. Why let a number stand in your way?
Secondly, we’re people, not numbers. We have infinite potential to match any number’s infinity. As individuals and as a race, we are constantly redefining what’s statistically possible. Grandmothers are giving birth to newborns. (Now, whether they should or not is another conversation.) New world records in track and swimming and other Olympic sports are commonplace. We can do more than was ever thought possible.
Thirdly, when we automatically assume that we won’t be the one to succeed, we are saying that we don’t believe that we could be the one blessed enough to receive the prize. Some of us believe that nothing good ever happens to us and that we never get a break. Yes, we’re magnets for all the bad stuff life has to offer. We devalue ourselves. And in the end, not a lot of great stuff does happen to us, not because it couldn’t have, but because we never even tried.
But truth be told, “it” happens to every-day people all the time, maybe even each day. Every day, a not-so-hot-looking guy asks a gorgeous girl to go out on a date, and she says yes. Every year, a student who didn’t have Ivy League school grades receives an acceptance letter from Harvard. Every week, some housewife who entered a contest for a free mini-van gets the news to come and pick up the keys to her new cherry red Dodge Caravan. And every year, some guy gets to quit his day job because he has finally become a full-time “working actor.”
Now, sometimes those who beat the odds do appear to be lucky. (Like the guy who sits on his couch all day only to win fifty million dollars in the California lottery!) And sometimes, they are. They do absolutely nothing to deserve the prize, and they get it. But usually, the one who wins worked really hard to be able to win. The college basketball player who got drafted to the NBA dedicated years of his life to practice and gym work-outs before he became a part of the small percentage of college athletes drafted. His hard work increased the probability for his success and helped him “beat the odds.”
Work it so that you can either increase the probability of your success or so that you can you can beat the odds. Either way, you gotta work it. Work hard. Work a lot. Work smart.
A mantra that I developed in high school is “Somebody’s gonna win it! Why not me?” Asking this question has led me to enter writing contests, scholarship contests, beauty contests, and the occasional raffle. And while I’ve lost more than I’ve won, I’ve won more than most people. I’ve travelled throughout California, the U.S., and the world for free because I had the audacity to hope. (Okay, not really.)
“Why not me?” It’s a bold question, and I’m excited to see where else it takes me in life.
Why not you?