I was attending a meeting of my local photography club where each member brought three recent photos to have them critiqued. One of my photos was this image of Rome. I was daydreaming as I gazed out the airplane window as my aircraft made its descent into the Eternal City. As I watched, the clouds parted, and this dreamy image of Rome appeared. The early morning light and shadows in the background made for a unique opportunity.
I always travel with my camera as a carry-on and keep it under the seat in front of me. Quickly I pulled my favorite toy out of its padded bag, pointed it out the window and grabbed three frames of this scene before the clouds closed back in and it was gone.
When I explained this backstory to the audience, one man in the crowd groused, "Don't you hate it when people just get lucky?"
I was a little taken aback and not sure how to respond. Fortunately, I didn't have to. A well-respected member of the group stood up and addressed the audience. He asked, "Was it luck that he had his camera with him? Was it luck that he knew how to set the camera quickly to get this shot before it was gone? Was it luck that made him push the shutter?" He paused for a moment for dramatic effect and then answered his question, "No, none of that was luck." Then he went on to point out that there were hundreds of people on that airplane and although many of them could have seen what I saw, I was probably the only person on that flight who had created a photo.
As I reflected on that encounter, I realized that what the elder statesman of the photography club was saying is that luck is not a random thing. Instead, luck is a combination of preparation and opportunity. Others on that airplane may have had the same opportunity as I did, but only I was prepared to see the potential in that opportunity and skilled enough to capture it in the brief moment before it was gone.
So in response to the curmudgeon in the third row, it was luck if by that you mean it was the combination of preparation to build skill and opportunity.
Without preparation, an opportunity is as fleeting as magenta and golden clouds on a hazy morning in Rome.
How many opportunities pass us by because we are not prepared? Work on building your skills, and you will see more opportunity.
"Good luck is when opportunity meets preparation, while bad luck is when lack of preparation meets reality."
-- Eliyahu Goldratt