Editor's Note: Huffington Post has teamed up with Roadtrip Nation, an organization that travels the globe to interview people who have built lives around their passions. Keep an eye out for more stories in the coming weeks for insight into your own path.
If you've ever been even semi-lucid on a St. Patrick's Day, you're probably familiar with the phrase 'luck of the Irish.' Today, the age-old expression carries a positive connotation--and considering the Irish's sexy accents, uncommonly strong livers, and storied victory in their own country-wide version of Snakes On a Plane, it seems pretty fitting. This weekend, most of us will fish out our pre-distressed Urban Outfitters t-shirts stamped with this saying, and we'll celebrate the rich Celtic culture by testing the effects of green food coloring on the fortitude of our digestive tracts. But before we honor the Emerald Isle with our most respectable behavior, let's talk about the implications behind this 'luck' business for a sec.
Obviously, we all hope to be lucky in our lives. But what is luck, anyway? Is it unaccountable good fortune that's spontaneously showered upon someone because the cosmos happened to align the right way? Or is luck actually the result of preparation and hard work, and we're only able to reap its benefits because we've laid the proper foundation? Too often, we seem to say, "He just got lucky." "She was in the right place at the right time." "I just fell into it." This overemphasis on luck as a factor of one's success serves to undermine the buckled-down effort it took to achieve something. Consider the phrase mentioned above. Today, 'luck of the irish' is printed on cheerful old-timey signs in Irish pubs, so it's assumed to be a positive tribute to a group of people who are just super into shamrocks. But actually, the saying used to be a term of discriminatory disdain during the early days of Irish immigration to the States. Back then, xenophobics deemed the Irish too dim-witted to carve out their own success; hence, any success they had was attributed to the 'luck of the Irish.' Pretty crappy, right? And now you're probably feeling EXTRA guilty about those 2 bowls of Lucky Charms you had at midnight the other day.
Fortunately, with the American appropriation of St. Patrick's Day, we can earnestly atone for those years of intolerance by dressing like leprechauns. Times, they have-a changed! But some things still remain the same: like our definition of luck. The problem is, we're still clinging to the idea that luck has little to do with personal agency. Obviously, some fortunate situations truly are the result of dumb luck, like winning the lottery, or being born into the Brangelina child army. But take one look at Roadtrip Nation's vast Interview Archive with successful individuals who do what they love, and you'll see that each person worked diligently towards their goals, which in turn allowed them to take advantage of the luck that came their way. Take Joe Quesada , seen above, who was interviewed for Roadtrip Nation's documentary TV series. As the Editor-in-Chief at Marvel comics, Joe is the commander of America's most beloved brigade of latex-clad vigilantes. But he didn't find himself discussing Iron Man movies with Hollywood directors because a Job Fairy placed him there. He had to start from the ground-up. Literally: he was working the floor at FAO Schwartz and doodling on the side when a co-worker told him to quit selling toys and start drawing comics. Realizing that he could actually get paid for his pastime, Joe decided to stop drawing just for funsies and flung himself into a period of tireless portfolio-building. Eventually, he managed to plead his way into a tenuous meeting with a brusque DC Comics editor, who, at first, barely wanted to give him the time of day. Joe knew the editor would be tough to please, but he faced his fear and actually ended up impressing the guy. At the end of the meeting, Joe was told to sketch a cover and come back when he was done. He drew it one night. The next morning, bleary-eyed but wired with excitement, Joe corned the editor outside the DC building. As luck would have it, that morning, an artist at DC had quit. Joe took over the job, moved onto Marvel thereafter, and now has his dream job figuring out whose villainous ass Spider Man is going kick next.
Did luck have something to do it? Sure. But had Joe stayed stymied at his toy store job, or had he done something unproductive in his free time instead of drawing, he never would have been in a spot to capitalize on opportunity. Not to get all Hans Christian Anderson here, but there's a moral to this story, which is: we can create our own luck. If we put in the effort, we can dictate our fortunes and make things fall into place. Not that it's going to be all rainbows and kittens; rather, it takes sacrifice and dedication to build the lives we want. Maybe that means we have to start out in a low-paying internship to get where we want to be, or take on another job while we pursue our dreams because what we love doesn't support us enough initially. Maybe it means working on our skills in our spare time instead of watching The Bachelor, which can require the strength and will of an ox. It's not easy, but at the end of the day, if we're working hard towards something we care about, the pay off will be well worth it. Opportunities will spring up, and we even won't need four-leaf clovers (except, of course, for those St. Patrick's Day decorations.) So, this Sunday, as we toast many-a green glasses to our Irish friends, let's cheers not to future luck, but to future hard work. (Which won't start until Tuesday because we're gonna be hella hung over Monday. Hey, who says you can't work hard, play hard?)
To watch more interviews from Roadtrip Nation, head to roadtripnation.com
By: Alyssa Frank