On Luck

My colleague Ewan McIntosh’s post on ‘Quirkology – there is no career path just luck‘ makes for interesting reading.

I left the following comment:
‘My take on what most people call luck is that it’s where preparation meets opportunity. Hard work is (usually/often) a necessary but insufficient condition for good luck. By and large you also need to have the awareness, self-confidence and attitude to risk to make your own luck.’

I think the work of Martin Seligman is important here. Seligman writes on positive psychology and what he calls learned optimism. In the Scottish context the work of Carol Craig and the Centre for Confidence and Well-Being is also significant.

Seligman provides a great message for anyone in education, ie that we can escape from the legacy of low expectations and low self esteem, learn to be more optimistic and as a consequence be happier. The optimism that Seligman promotes is not not blind decontexualised optimism but rather a more balanced approach to life (there are aspects of life and circumstances of living that lend themselves to a healthy pessimism as well as an aversion to risk).

The strength of Craig’s work is that it is located within the Scottish cultural context, is research based, provides a narrative on how we got here and, for me most importantly, does not oversell the benefits of positive thinking.

For Scotland to prosper we need to escape from the self-destructive fatalism that was best expressed by an old school friend of mine who once said: ‘why bother eating healthy food – you might get run over by a bus tomorrow?’

Both Seligman and Craig provide insights that need to be understood and internalised across the Scottish public sector. In the educational context this means getting them embedded into the curriculum and promoted more generally as key components of a Smarter and Healthier Scotland.

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