The Luckier You Are The Nicer You Should Be

An important skill – an incredibly hard one – is identifying when things in your life are temporarily too good, and preparing for the inevitable adjustment.

It’s so difficult, because most people’s willingness to put up with hard times relies on the idea that you’ll eventually be rewarded with good times. When good times come, you feel like you earned it, and nothing is easier to justify than deserved reward.

But there’s an irony here.

When most people experience bad times they consider it risk – the idea that a force outside of their control influenced outcomes more than anything they did intentionally.

Rarely is that logic turned around.

Because what’s the opposite of risk? Luck. And what is luck? The idea that a force outside of their control influenced outcomes more than anything they did intentionally.

It’s the same thing as risk, just in the other direction.

Nothing too good or too bad stays that way forever, because great times plant the seeds of their own destruction through complacency and leverage, and bad times plant the seeds of their own turnaround through opportunity and panic-driven problem-solving.

Everything is cyclical. But the way we deal with risk vs. luck couldn’t be further apart. One is instantly recognized and we can’t wait until it’s over, the other causes instant denial that it might ever end.

It happens in investing, where every decline has to be explained and blamed on someone else, but every increase is usually accepted and attributed to your own intelligence.

It happens in business – so many big tech companies are laying off workers because they assumed the Covid-19 business bump would remain permanent.

It happens in careers, where everything from cheap money to macro tailwinds can shift the gap between how much you earn and how much value you produce.

It’s been like that forever, and always will be. People are much more attuned to negative anomalies than positive ones, especially for things that impact their own lives. It’s such a hard thing to manage.

And there are no easy answers on how to manage it. There are so many things in life where distinguishing between sustainable momentum and temporary luck is only known with hindsight.

Maybe the broadest way to protect yourself is the simple rule that the luckier you are, the nicer you should be.

The more successful you are, the nicer you should be.

The better things are going, the nicer you should be.

That’s probably the best – or only – way to guard against entitlement, which is the main thing that blindsides you when luck turns the other way.

It’s like an automatic stabilizer that keeps you in check and keeps your social circles solid – both of which probably lead to sustainable, durable, non-lucky success over time.