|Figure 1. Walter White in Breaking Bad?|
The author, Robert H. Frank, explains that if John Cusack and Matthew Broderick hadn't turned down the role of Walter White on Breaking Bad, the world might never have gotten the chance to see the brilliant performances that Bryan Cranston gave in that show.
Frank, a tenured professor, says that luck played a large role in his life as well, from being hired as part of an unusually large cohort of tenure-track faculty at Cornell to the success of his publications. As one proposed essay collection falls through, he submits the essay to one of the most prestigious journals in the field, and it's accepted. He extends the argument in another essay, sends it to another prestigious journal, and bingo, it's accepted, too.
Now obviously, as Louis Pasteur said, "fortune favors the prepared mind," but luck plays a significant role as well.
Maybe you send an article on, say, the aesthetics of lawn-mower blades to the Journal of Lawn-Trimming Aesthetics and the editor has just said to him/herself, "You know, we haven't done an issue on trimming tools for a while." Is that luck, or is it the zeitgeist, or maybe both?
Or you meet someone at a conference who happens to be putting together a collection.
Or your manuscript is turned down by one press only to be published by a better one.
Of course, Frank only talks about good luck, not bad luck. I still wonder what would have happened way back in 2007 if I hadn't been rushing off to class when Major University Press contacted me. About what, you ask? I never found out.
Can you think of times when luck played a part in your career?