Tag Archives: learning

People tell me I’m lucky…

…but I’ve noticed the harder I practise, the luckier I get

So said Gary Player, golfing superstar.  And he should know, because he’s had plenty of success to reflect on in order to spot the pattern (check it out, he’s won a ridiculous number of competitions).

This quotation features above a doorway in my local golf range and is also one of a selection pinned on the wall in my office for inspiration.  I went hunting through the online quotations websites one day, looking for words of wisdom on success, confidence and related topics.  Try it some time, it’s quite a life-affirming activity!  Not all the contributors were familiar names, so I looked some up to get a bit of background and discovered they came from a wide range of countries, times, places and settings: sports, politics, science, industry and people listed as ‘motivational speakers’ on Wikipedia (very disappointed Zig Ziglar turns out not to be his real name) as well as a significant number of ‘unknowns’. 

Though the style and form of these brilliant one-liners varies hugely and the great and good throughout history express themselves very differently, these quotations do have a lot in common.  The themes I’ve recognised are making the most of situations (even bad ones), being proactive and independent, taking a brave step to get what you want and, just as Gary suggests, the importance of being prepared to make an effort.  Luck is only ever part of the story (let’s give Planned Happenstance another plug, because I really think that’s how things work in real life).

Each of these probably merits its own post, but it’s good to share and I don’t want to ration out diamond-chips of genius too meanly, so here are a few more:

  • I couldn’t wait for success, so I went ahead without it (Jonathan Winters)
  • One important key to success is self-confidence.  A key to self-confidence is preparation (Arthur Ashe)
  • You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great (Joe Sabah)
  • Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are (Malcolm Forbes)
  • When you want what you’ve never had, you must do what you’ve never done (unknown)

It’s important in academic life to get your sources right, and colleagues would be justified in criticising my casual cut-and-paste attitude and shameful reliance on Google and Wikipedia.  In fact, I can’t be too sure the quotations are entirely accurate or even attributed to the right people.  Nevertheless, I have a good excuse on this occasion.  If I’m honest, it doesn’t make much difference to me who’s coming up with these clever, catchy combinations of words, as long as they make a good point.  When searching for inspiration, the crucial factor is what it means to YOU.

Nobody can deny that “luck” plays a part in many of life’s ups and downs, but perhaps the important thing is not how the fates treat you but rather how you feel about it.  Our thoughts and perceptions tend to lead our actions.  This explains how different people respond differently to similar challenges.  Here’s a great article from the Guardian Careers section about the relationship between attitude and career success.

So if you’re ever feeling down in the dumps, unsure of where to turn and wishing your Fairy Godmother would put in an appearance, remember there’s always a first step you can take, even if it’s just giving yourself a good talking to.


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