Life Is One Big Chance until It Finally Happens

Bill Abbate

Photo by Simon Billy on Unsplash

I have always found it fascinating how some people, as if by chance, wind up succeeding wildly. It happens to artists, musicians, inventors, writers, and many others in a wide variety of professions. How much of it actually happens by chance? Was any preparation involved beforehand?

Many of us learn in life there is far more to what most people see as chance than chance alone. What are your thoughts about chance? Do you see it as its definition describes the word? Or do you see it as something more? According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of chance is:

  1. Chance – noun - a possibility of something happening. - the occurrence and development of events in the absence of any obvious design.
  2. Chance – adjective - fortuitous; accidental.
  3. Chance – verb - do something by accident or without design. - INFORMAL do (something) despite its being dangerous or of uncertain outcome.

By definition, chance looks somewhat straightforward. But is there more to chance than appears on the surface?

How much of life is chance?

Many people equate chance with its acronym happenstance. Something that just happens with no rhyme or reason behind it. Is that a realistic way to see what happens in life? Some believe nothing in life is chance or coincidence. They believe if it happens, it was meant to happen. Others believe little is predictable, and the unexpected can happen at any time. Who is right? What if each is?

What about those who take a chance? And those who take a calculated risk? Is that not a form of taking a chance too?

When I look at my life, I find it was full of chances. Some I took, and others I missed. Nonetheless, each chance either passed by or turned into something tangible.

What is the chance of us being born? Considering we are here, which is a fact, it would seem no chance was involved at all. But that is only because it is after the fact,

How about the chance of being born in a certain place at a certain time to certain parents? Again, since it has already happened, how can it be chance?

Chance denotes uncertainty. Once something has happened, it has become certain and can no longer be considered chance, can it?

Since you were already born, what chance was there in the decisions or actions made by your parents. Your parents, by chance, lived in the country you were born in at that specific time. Right?

What chance is there?

As its definition says, chance is about something happening in the future. A future potential, unexplained now, but that will be exposed. A future that could turn out in more than one way.

Chance appears to be nonexistent in the past since what has already happened is no longer subject to chance and is an established event.

Chance may exist in the present in some form, such as when you flip a coin. The chance is half the time it may wind up heads and the other half tails. But since that is quantifiable, it removes some of the overall uncertainty, so is it really chance?

To sum up, there appears to be no chance in the past, some chance in the present, with real chance existing in the future. Let's take a look at chance under the guise of the probability of future events.

  • There is a 1 in 11 million chance you could die in an aviation accident.
  • There is a 1 in 500,000 chance of getting struck by lightning.
  • Worse yet is there is a 1 in 103 chance you could die in an automobile accident!

I do not like any of those odds, especially those in an automobile. Will I stop driving? No way! Some things are worth the risk (taking a chance), don't you think?

Now let's look at some even greater chances of dying:

Yes, for those of you who like percentages, there is a 100% chance that you will die one day! No one gets out alive, so why not take more chances in your life if that is what they really are?

Do you think bungee jumping off of a bridge is chancy? To me, it is just plain lunacy! I have never liked heights! There is a high probability you would be okay. A great deal of preparation occurs before you go over the edge to ensure you are safe. That greatly lessens the chance that you can be hurt. But it is not a chance or risk I will ever take. Not because of potentially dying, but because I don't like heights!

Doesn't the same principle of preparation apply to every other chance you take in life? The more you prepare, the less chance something bad or unexpected will happen.

What about doing other things that are chancy? A car seems pretty chancy with 1 out of 106 people dying in car accidents, but we still do it!

In reality, life is one big chance until it happens, so why not take more chances? Personally, I don't think chance has a chance of standing up to serious scrutiny.

I prefer to see life as equal parts chance and certainty, depending on how you define the two terms. If everything is a chance, it will become a certainty once it has happened, even if it happened by chance. Is your brain starting to hurt yet?

I'm glad my parents took a chance when I was born. I took a chance when I got married. I took a chance on every job I worked, day in and day out. In fact, I have taken so many chances in life I couldn't count them all.

I prefer to think I made a conscious decision to marry and to take each job. The only thing left to chance was, well, nothing. If my marriage had failed, it would have been due to one or both of us doing or being something the other didn't like. Where is chance in that? There is always something behind what we call chance. Is there a chance that chance has no chance other than being based on chance perchance?

"Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved." William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925)

Final words

Back to the original question of this essay – of all of the wildly successful people, was it chance or preparation that made them "suddenly" become famous? I can assure you, more often than not, a great deal of preparation occurred.

A concert pianist doesn't have sudden fame without years of preparation. The same can be said for anyone that has achieved success or fame. We may not have seen the preparation, but you can be sure it occurred.

As an old sage once said:

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." Seneca (4BC– 65AD)

I do not pretend to have answers to all of the questions I have asked here. My intention has been to give us something to think about. Something to rouse our curiosity. Something to discuss. Each of us can make up our own minds as to what we see and how we make meaning of it.

I leave you with the words of another wise man to consider as you think about chance:

"Chance favors the prepared mind." Louis Pasteur (1822-1895)

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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