Feeling "Unlucky"?

Is it God? Karma? Both? Neither? There was a time in my life when a series of very unfortunate, and purely unlucky some would say, events happened to me within a very short period of time. It just so happened that this was a period in my life shortly after I had told my parents that I did not believe in the God that they believed in as taught by the Catholic Church.

Although they wouldn’t say it directly, my parents would suggest that these unfortunate events were signs. That these bad and unlucky things were happening to me because I wasn’t getting down on my knees and praying to an almighty being. I told them I didn’t buy it, but it was always lingering in the back of my mind… “Maybe these things are actually happening to me because I have abandoned Catholicism.” I was thinking, “Maybe this is bad karma for choosing to believe in something different.” I also thought, “Maybe this is just clearing the bad karma out of my life, and soon I will be rewarded with good karma.”

But then I took a further step back, and remembered learning in one of my probability classes that randomness is the equal chance of all outcomes that could possibly occur. This means that every now and then, the unlikely will, and does, happen. It also means that if you were to flip a quarter ten 10 times, there’s a chance that the flips will read H,H,H,H,T,H,T,T,H,H. That’s 70% heads, with a sequence of four heads in a row. But isn’t a quarter supposed to have a 50% chance of landing on heads or tails? We automatically associate this assumption with thinking that flipping a quarter 10 times would alternate, at least somewhat, evenly between heads and tails. But the reality is that this almost never happens. Most of us think, “It might be heads two or three times in a row, but definitely not four.” We have to remember, however, that flipping a coin is random. When you flip a coin, every new flip is completely random, independent of the previous flip. If you flip a coin two times, it is just as equally likely to land H,T as H, H or T,T.

Making this connection, I started to think about the things that happen to us in our lives. If everything is random, this means that there is an equally likely chance of unfortunate event A, B, C, … or Z event happening to you, at any given moment, regardless of the last event that has occurred in your life. You also have an equally likely chance of fortunate event A, B, C, … or Z event happening to you. Of course, there are many things you can do to greatly increase, reduce, or somehow alter the likelihood of certain events happening in your life (attending college, getting a job, etc). However, for those things that seem so “unlucky” (e.g. getting a ticket, getting injured, losing something important) and that make you feel like you’re being punished by God/the universe or hit by bad karma, I think it helps if you think instead about the randomness of the universe.

Ultimately, this means that there will probably be periods in your life when things are going great, and also when things are going not-so-great. Just because something bad happened to you, doesn’t mean you should be expecting something good to happen next. Just because something good happened, doesn’t mean you should expect something bad to happen. This might not sound too comforting at first thought, but I think it is the most rational way to approach things, so that you don’t get too caught up in your emotions and let anything that might have happened to you in your life bring you down.

Keep working hard, do whatever you can to increase your chances of allowing good things to happen, and realize that bad things will happen along the way. They happen to everyone, just at different times. But good things happen too. Focus on the good things. The most important thing is to remain positive, and take on each new day as a new start. After all, when you flip a quarter 100 times, there is a much higher probability that the coin flips 50% heads and 50% tails than when it is only flipped 10 times. Maybe you’re freaking out when it’s only been 10 flips. Regardless, “bad luck,” or “bad things” happening in your life only make you a stronger person. Unless you let them take you down.

This was my latest post on a blog my friend and I started last summer (http://freshmenagain.wordpress.com/), inspired by this awesome site. We made the blog with a lot of enthusiasm but since the new school year started we kinda got caught up in our busy schedules and stopped posting. But, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately and today I just had a sudden urge to sit down and write this post. I think I will be writing more frequently again. Anyway, thought I’d share it with you all. Let me know what you think, and feel free to check out the rest of our posts if you feel so inclined.


April 6, 2013 at 9:23 pm

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Profile photo of Onafets Onafets (@onafets) 1 year, 10 months ago ago

I know it’s a bit of a read, but does anyone have any concurring/differing opinions on this subject matter?

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