How’d You Get So Lucky?

I spend a bit of time on various forums and some posts are thought provoking and I try to be honest and thoughtful about my responses.

I pulled into a gas station and parked her under the canopy to wait it out. A guy in a wheel chair, missing both his legs, and looking totally homeless had pulled up under there as well. We just kinda nodded at each other. My wife went inside to hit the girls room and grab a bottle of water. After minute or so the old guy rolled over to where I was and started talking to me about the bike. Nice dude, but seemed worried about something, so I asked him if he was ok.

He said he wasn’t. Said he’d been living with a friend, but he died, and since he had no income and couldn’t keep the place by himself, he’d been put out. He didn’t seem like he was all there.

He then looked really conflicted, and said he hated to ask (staring the ground the whole time), but did I have any cash I could spare. I asked him if he needed something to eat. He looked even more embarrassed, held up a little plastic bag, and said “No, I still got a little food left. I really need to buy a hat. I need a hat bad.”

So I gave him $5. About that time my wife came back out, and the weather was clearing. He said “it’s been pretty bad today, y’all be careful on that thing”.

I said “we’re headed out of it. Looks pretty blue over that way”. He said “yeah, yeah it does”. As I was climbing back on the bike, he was looking really hard at me, my wife, the bike, and the blue sky off to the west. He said “can I ask you one more thing?” I said sure, man. He said “How’d you get so lucky?” and started to cry.

It’s a though provoking question. How did you get so lucky?

I have to believe there is some childhood prep involved. Mom exposed me to Science Fiction and Fantasy at a very young age so I’ve been a big big reader for a long time. Even in school, I’d be far ahead of the other students in my reading.

As a Navy Brat, we moved quite a lot (I have 44 addresses recorded). I guess you could become one of two types of people when you move a lot. My brother, who made friends quickly, or me, who was quiet all the time and spent most of my time in the Library reading.

My Dad would play games with us. I remember Battleship and Chess mainly. I played Chess with Dad until the day I beat him. He put the chess board away and never played me again. But to continue playing, at school I became Chess Champion two years in a row.

Chess led me to Wargaming and then into Role Playing games (Dungeons and Dragons to start) when I was in the Army. D&D was appealing because I read fantasy books like Conan The Barbarian and of course Wargaming already had me playing games with others.

At school I moved into Mechanical Drafting. Moving to a new school (and new state) had me taking Architectural Drafting for two elective periods in High School (I changed High Schools 4 times).

I joined the Army after high school and became a Graphic Artist. From there to a Typesetter on a typesetting computer. From there to buying a personal computer (Timex/Sinclair Z80). I loved working on computers and spent a lot of my time poking at it and inputting programs, then writing my own programs. It just so happens I was in “at the beginning” around 1980 and just kept on being paid to play with computers. As a “loner” and hobbiest, I continued to learn. My first programming job (part time), the owner had no problem with me taking home the computer I was coding on so I’d drag it, a monitor, etc home, and continue learning how to program. Opportunity. A friendly boss that saw a benefit of me taking a computer home. At my first full time job, I was good enough that I got raises every 6 months plus when I was leaving, they offered an additional raise.

I do wonder at times what I could have accomplished had my Dad actually motivated me. His requirements were “Astronaut or Ditch Digger”. Nothing else in between. And in retrospect, no apparent effort to lead me on an Astronaut path.

It seems I coast. I found something I like to do and I get paid reasonably well to do it. This past weekend and the weekend before that I read up on some technology we’re moving towards at work. Last year I used up three weeks of vacation to write some programs. Ultimately I have sufficient funds to buy motorcycles, guitars, games, and computers. Not all at once of course 🙂

So I don’t know if it’s luck or just upbringing or just right place at the right time. Does reading a lot really provide that much benefit to being “lucky”. Does reading increase curiosity or does curiosity lead to reading? I know gaming, and Dungeons and Dragons specifically led me to exploring and reading about things like Medieval times (like how a town is created) and being thoughtful about how to be entertaining (running the game for others).

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