Born lucky

Published on Sunday, February 26, 2017 By Brad Wardell In Life, the Universe and Everything

I'm on my way to GDC.  I write this from first class on a 752-200 from Detroit Metro.  25 years ago I lived in poverty. How did I go from having nothing to being one of those 0.1%ers? The usual, hard work, self-discipline, delayed gratification. But there's another element that rarely gets talked about: Being born lucky.

I took a political test and one of the questions struck me, "Some people are born lucky." as a True or False statement.  I remember watching a video of Sargon, a popular political YouTuber, taking this test where he answers no to this question.  Let me assure you, some people are born lucky.  I would know. I was born lucky.

There is a tendency I've seen with "rich" people I know to believe their wealth is solely due to their virtue and wisdom.  But in my experience, being "born lucky" is a pre-requisite to success.  The problem with believing in ones own virtue and wisdom when it comes to success is that it is easy to lose empathy for the less fortunate. 

Besides being born in the United States I had an advantage that even those who were born rich didn't have.  I have almost super-natural good health.  I suspect if you were to study rich people, particularly those, like me, who were at one time living in poverty (by USA standards) you will find that unusually good health is something they have in common.

As tempting as it might be to ascribe my health to decisions I made, I know that not to be true.  I eat horribly. I don't require more than a few hours of sleep per night. I brush my teeth only when my wife complains my breath is killing the plants even as my dentist tells me "whatever you're doing, keep doing it, you have exceptionally good oral health" (I've never had a cavity and tell the dentist that flossing is his job).  I never had to blow my nose until after I had kids.   I didn't have a single sick day from K-12 except for chicken pox. 

My health isn't something I earned. It was something I was born with.  My mom is a mutant as well as I'm not sure I've ever seen her sick. Ever. As in, I'm not sure she's even had a cold.

My unearned health has allowed me to do things that others couldn't do.  So many times in my career a given opportunity was only possible because I could work every day for months at a time to get it done.  So much of my success can be attributed to my unusually good health. I don't get tired. I don't get sick. Year after year. Even now, my entire family at home is sick. I try to sympathize by pointing out I have a hang nail (advice to others: don't do that, I am not immune to my wife's beatings).

So next time you hear someone ascribe some sort of moral failure on the part of the poor, remember, some of our success really is based on being born lucky.

This week, amongst many meetings, I will be reporting what I find over at Also, I trimmed that hangnail.