I never thought of myself as lucky. Like everyone else, my life has had ups and downs, but I’ve always just taken the bad with the good without a second thought. And that is precisely what makes me lucky.
Bad Circumstances Can Lead To Good Things
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “lucky” as: “Favoured by chance; successful through causes other than one’s own action or merit.” I couldn’t disagree more. Think about a major challenge you’ve faced in your life. You may not have had a choice in the circumstances, but you did have a choice in how you reacted to them. You can either let bad circumstances defeat you, or you can choose to get back up again and again. When you do that, you become more and more resilient, which eventually leads to positive outcomes. You create your own luck.
I was born in Ukraine and grew up in Russia, where conditions were harsh and I faced a great deal of anti-Semitism. I’d often come home from school with blood on my shirt because I’d been in a fight with anti-semitic bullies at a school where I was the only Jewish kid out of 1,500 students. But instead of feeling sorry for myself, I thought about my grandparents who marched from Moldova to Uzbekistan to escape Hitler in World War II with nothing but the clothes on their backs and felt lucky that at least I had a spare shirt to put on for school the next day.
When I immigrated to the United States at the age of 18, in many ways I was starting my life over from square one. I had to learn English as a second language and work menial jobs to put myself through school. At times, it was an uphill battle, but my tough upbringing had prepared me to move through challenging situations with determination and resolve. And so I never let other people’s judgment or condescension bother me, nor did I dwell on my lost status and income, because I was willing to do whatever it took in order to have freedom.
Eventually, I graduated from UCLA with an MBA and founded my own multi-million dollar company. Some people might look at what I have now and call me lucky, but I think I was lucky to have experienced difficult circumstances that taught me how to be resilient in the face of a storm.
Pain Always Has A Silver Lining
Luck isn’t served on a silver platter, but sometimes it can be a silver lining. When I was in my thirties, my mother passed away from breast cancer. Seeing her suffer and losing her was one of the most painful experiences of my life. While we were still fighting for her life, one of my friends from business school turned to me and said, “Lou, you are so lucky.” What could she possibly mean? My mother was seriously ill with a terminal disease. When I asked her about it, she explained, “you are so lucky that someone you love needs you, and that you are able to be there for that person.”
I realized that she was right. It didn’t take away the pain of watching my mother go through her battle with cancer, or the grief I felt when we lost her, but I could appreciate my mother’s legacy and the connection I had with her while she was alive. I understood that I was lucky, lucky for having such an amazing mother for so many years with whom I was so close, lucky that I was in a place in my life where I could be there for her and my father during those dark times, and even beyond that, lucky that I could subsequently choose to take my experience with my mom’s illness and create purpose and meaning.
Luck Is In The Eye Of The Beholder
Pain is part and parcel of life, something that we all have and something that in fact, can be used to our advantage. As an entrepreneur, I’ve failed more times than I have succeeded, but my resilience keeps me going and makes me appreciate my successes so much more.
When Covid ransacked the world in 2020, many of my competitors struggled and some even closed their doors for good. My business, Opus Connect, produces events and conferences to create valuable relationships in the M&A community. Obviously, we had to make some big changes to our business plan. After our last in-person event on March 15, 2020, I sat down with my team and said, “Let’s assume COVID is the best thing that has happened to us. What do we do?”
That perspective changed everything. Instead of crying over spilled milk, I saw an opportunity and quickly set contingency plans into motion. Instead of trying to fit our current business model into Zoom, I made Zoom improve our current business model. We actually increased our revenues during the pandemic and had our highest revenue year ever in 2021. Even as we begin to bring back in-person events, some of our virtual programs are now here to stay.
Of course, I do not think we are lucky to have experienced a pandemic. However, I am lucky that as a result of my resilient attitude, I was able to weather the storm. If there is one thing I’ve learned, it is that the bad always comes with the good. Covid was just another season in the cycle of ups and downs, and it won’t be the last.
Luck isn’t what happens to you, it is a choice you make. And it is up to you to choose to look at your biggest challenges as opportunities. You are lucky to have them.
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