• Timothy W O'Brien

Lucky Dad No. 1: The Introduction

Updated: Nov 10, 2020

I’ve been lucky in life; really, really lucky.

If you can’t stand to hear about someone else’s luck, then these essays might not be for you. There’s a brilliant exchange in the movie Broadcast News, where one character, for whom everything seems to come easily, says “What do you do when your real life exceeds your dreams?” His colleague, who is perpetually frustrated, spits back “Keep it to yourself.”

But before you skip to another page, hear me out just a little on what I mean when I say that I’ve been lucky.

Some of luck is pure chance. I was born in the United States of America, in a time and place where any ordinary citizen has a pretty good shot at living a life where freedom, peace, and opportunity are so abundant that most people can take them for granted. That was pure chance, and a huge stroke of good luck.

What else? I'm a white male, and as long as I am reasonably presentable in appearance, I can walk into any public space and take for granted that I will be accorded a measure of respect that others are too-often denied. Call it luck, call it privilege, call it an outrage; I am aware that this has smoothed my path in life.

Shall I continue? My parents were prosperous, and had a good marriage. I have a large and caring extended family. I have enjoyed excellent physical and mental health throughout my life. I was endowed with a measure of intelligence and a temperament that enables me to concentrate on the task at hand, and to work hard. I’m even taller than average.

But a lot of what we call luck is more than random chance. It’s what happens at the intersection of preparation, good timing, and a willingness to take a calculated risk. This is the kind of luck that shows up in the form of a good job offer, a wonderful friendship, or a happy marriage. The luckiest day of my life came when I walked up to a total stranger and struck up a conversation with my future wife. And yet, it only happened because I went into that room with the intent of meeting someone (preparation), because both of us were starting our careers in a new city and didn’t know anyone else (good timing), and because I figured I had very little to lose in approaching the most beautiful woman in the room for a conversation (a calculated risk).

Finally, a lot of luck is attitude. Do you say the glass is half empty, or half full? Or, as is the case with a few fabulous people, do you say “Hey, look! I have a glass!” When I was a little boy, I prayed every night for perfect eyesight, so that I wouldn’t have to wear glasses. It was only years later that I realized I should have been thanking God for the gift of having eyes at all, and for the luck of living in a society where a little boy could get a good pair of glasses to correct the imperfections. That’s attitudinal luck.

So, yeah, I’ve been lucky in all of these ways. Maybe, like the character in Broadcast News, I should keep it to myself. But I thought some people might be interested or entertained to hear about how lucky I have been as a father. If so, these essays are for you.

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