Luck. Whether you’re born with it, find it in a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, or find it in a bottle of golden liquid won for brewing the best Draught of Living Death potion in Potions class, we are all aware of its existence. But what exactly is luck? Why does it seem like some people are just so darn lucky, while others can’t catch a break? Also, is luck necessary for success in competitive bodybuilding? Let’s dive in and look deeper! Oh, and whatever you do, don’t play the “Name Game” with luck if there are children around…
What Is Luck?
Type the word into your web browser and you’ll get this definition: success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.
I have a different definition of luck that I’d like to share with you and it is the definition that I will be using today:
Luck is when positive, coincidental, accidental, or serendipitous circumstances present themselves at a time and place when an individual is perfectly prepared to capitalize on those circumstances and therefore has the ability to consistently produce and perform for long-term sustainable progress.
So what does that mean? It means that luck isn’t exactly brought by chance. Two of the exact same moments can result in two completely different outcomes. Luck is similar to the process of a seed falling to the ground and taking root. The seed itself contains all of the bountiful and endless potential for life; however, all of the success of the seed is dependent on the patch of soil on which it lands. If the soil has been properly tended to in preparation for that one moment in time, the seed will grow and flourish. However, if the soil has not been prepared, the seed will not grow. Sparks happen all the time, but fires only start when the spark is fed, fanned, and nurtured. Luck presents itself to all of us; however, lucky things only come to fruition when we are perfectly prepared for that lucky moment. There is nothing innately lucky, fortunate, or unique about a seed falling on the ground or a spark forming…these things happen all the time. The catalyst of luck is the hard work and preparation prior to, during, and after that moment.
Here is a quick analogy…
Imagine a man living in an ancient village where water is scarce and rain is rare. During a long dry spell the man comes up with an idea. Over the course of a few months, he tries to make a water-collecting contraption, which collects water and funnels it into large containers around his hut. He tries and fails repeatedly, always learning through his failures. The man puts time and effort into the project with no payment, recognition, or affirmation of any kind.
He finally comes up with a system that may just work! Now he waits. One week. Two weeks. Three weeks. No rain. Then one day clouds roll in, the air gets humid, thunder cracks, lightning strikes, and it starts to rain. As the villagers scramble to collect as much water as possible, the man, instead, sits back and watches the water fill jug after jug with refreshing water. After the rain, the man shares his collected water and invention with the rest of the village, bringing him fame and wealth as a result.
Ok get to the point, Licameli. The point of the story is that luck did play a role in the man’s “success” and wealth; however, the only “lucky” thing that happened was that it rained. As a result of the hours of preparation and dedication to the craft, the man was in perfect position to capitalize…and capitalize for the long-term, when lightning struck (literally).
How Does This Pertain to Competitive Bodybuilding?
Success in competitive bodybuilding comes down to luck, but luck as I defined it above. The things that determine a placing in a competition on show day are out of our control. Bodybuilding competitions are not won or lost as a result of some objective measurement of size, symmetry, or conditioning. In reality, success in competitive bodybuilding comes down to the luck of who shows up to compete on that particular day in combination with the subjective judgments of a specific group of judges. Remember, the same physique could be brought to 5 different shows and receive 5 different placements.
This is important to understand because it makes it clear what a placing in a competition means and what it doesn’t mean. For example, my winning a pro card does not mean that I am in some way better than competitors without a pro card. There are many, many competitors out there without pro cards who would blow me away. My professional status simply means that I was the best, according to the judges, at a particular competition, with a particular lineup, with a certain number of competitors, on a particular day. Just like how having a doctoral degree or extensive credentials doesn’t always equal a quality practitioner, having a pro card doesn’t always equal a superior physique.
Does that mean that success in bodybuilding is out of our hands? No. According to my definition of luck, there needs to be hard work and preparation before, during, and after luck presents itself. For example, say there are 3 hypothetical lineups of competitors that you can possibly step on stage with: lineups A, B, and C with lineup A being the most elite, B being mediocre, and C being of little competition. If you come in decently lean, but clearly not your best, you will beat lineup C and only C. If you come in looking great, but just short of your best, you will beat lineups B and C, but not A. If you come in looking your absolute best, you will beat lineups A, B, and C. So you see? Whether lineup A, B, or C shows up is luck and out of your control. The package you bring to the stage; however, is in your hands. Putting in the necessary work and showing up perfectly prepared increases your chances of capitalizing on luck.
How to Make Luck Last
The man from the story has the ability to reap long-term benefits of his one “lucky” moment in time because he put in the honest time and effort from day one. Had he stolen the idea from someone or came upon it by some shortcut, quick fix, or undeserving way, his luck would have been short-lived and unsustainable. A one hit wonder. In other words, he would have eventually been “found out.”
Luck just gets the foot in the door. Being in the right place at the right time and seizing an opportunity is great, but it is only the first step. Much like getting drafted to the NBA out of high school or winning a pro card, it’s just the beginning. Now it’s time to perform. If that title or opportunity was undeserved or unearned, it will show on the pro stage.
LeBron James will not be remembered for the day he was drafted. Layne Norton and Eric Helms will not be remembered for the day they got accepted into a PhD program. Jeff Alberts, Marshall Johnson, Brian Whitacre, Alberto Nunez, and several others will not be remembered for the day they turned pro. These gentlemen will be remembered for everything that happened afterward. If luck played a role in getting these guys to the table, it most definitely did not play a role in what unfolded afterward.
How do you ensure that the spark of luck will lead to long lasting greatness? You put in the necessary work before, during, and after lightning strikes. You don’t fake it just to get your foot in the door. No quick fixes or shortcuts. Such situations are fleeting and you will ALWAYS be “found out.” Instead, embody authenticity, consistency, honesty, play by the rules, and have genuine concern for helping others and making this place better because you were here.
Let’s Wrap It Up
Let me be perfectly clear. I am NOT saying that luck is completely out of our control. Regardless of how prepared we are, we shouldn’t sit back and wait for a lucky opportunity to come our way. We can influence those things to happen. Put yourself out there. Ask for guidance. Work for free. Volunteer. Question. Make connections. Network. Reach out to your idols and heroes. What’s the worst that can happen? You don’t get an answer? So what? Try again.
Keep being authentic, genuine, honest, and true to yourself and you will be blessed with the opportunities of your dreams. Don’t forget that grabbing hold of an opportunity is just the beginning…then it’s time to perform. Keep being you. Keep preparing. Make those circumstances come to you and grab hold when they present themselves. Go get em! Best of…LUCK!
Nicholas M. Licameli, PT, DPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy / Pro Natural Bodybuilder
Nick believes in giving himself to others in an attempt to make the world a happier, healthier, and more loving place. He wants to give people the power to change their lives. Bodybuilding and physical therapy just act as mediums for carrying out that cause. Nick wants to be an impactful and positive resource from which his younger self would have benefitted and of which his older self would be proud. Love. Passion. Respect. Humility. Never an expert. Always a student. Love your journey.