“I never win anything.”
Sound familiar? I feel like I’ve heard just about everyone I know say that. In fact, for a really long time, I was one of those people who lamented the fact that I never won a big prize at company parties, or online giveaways, or even the cereal box contests I entered as a kid. No matter how much I hoped and wished and really, really wanted something…I never won.
That changed in December of 2013. On a whim, Sam and I decided to go to a showing of the latest Warren Miller film as a fundraiser for our local ski club. Neither of us are downhill ski buffs, but it was a typical winter night in northern Michigan and we were looking for an alternative to hunkering down in our house or going to the bar.
We’d never attended a Warren Miller film screening, so we had no idea what to expect. In addition to watching a thrilling documentary, they do random giveaways of ski gear, lift passes to ski resorts, and even a grand prize giveaway to ski some big mountains and deep powder out west. As attendees at the event, we were each given a free entry form for a change to win prizes. There was a big round of giveaways at the end of the movie and I heard my name over the microphone. Shocked, I went to the stage and claimed my prize: a yellow Analog beanie hat and a pair of ski socks. I stared at them in disbelief, still uncertain that I actually won. But I had! I won!
Sam inherited the socks (way too big for my feet), but I claimed the beanie as my own. I call it my Lucky Hat and I love it. It’s the kind of hat I’d never pick out for myself but it fits on my head perfectly and somehow matches any outfit I wear. It’s uncharacteristic and yet a formative part of my identity.
Every time I wear my Lucky Hat, I’m convinced that nothing bad can happen to me. It’s not that I’m floating in a bubble of naïvety (though I’m sure most of my friends would disagree). It’s a state of mind, and it helps ground me in the present moment and appreciate everything that’s good in my life. Awesome things happen in my life all the time—like winning a yellow beanie—and I need to do a better job at recognizing it on a daily basis. Every time I wear my hat, it cues me to look around and appreciate the beauty and joy around me, even if I’m having a bad day.
Two weeks ago, I went to go see a live screening of Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance in Hamlet. It was the first time I’d ever done something like this entirely on my own. I need to get more comfortable being by myself, and this was a mini test for me. The show was incredible, and I was so glad I took the time to see it and try something that was new and difficult for me (as if understanding Shakespeare after a four year break isn’t difficult enough). By the end I was exhausted from the beautiful and emotional show, and I reveled in the timeless beauty of William Shakespeare and Benedict’s depiction of a classic Hamlet that is still relevant today.
After the final bow, Benedict Cumberbatch gave a little speech about the terrifying refugee crisis in Europe. He recited part of a beautiful poem (one I’ve heard many times in conjunction to the refugee crisis) and asked people to donate to the cause. I processed the whole night and the refugee crisis, and thought about donating to the cause online when I got home. Then I put on my coat and Lucky Hat and shuffled out of the theatre with everyone else, back to reality and the safety of my hometown.
I called Sam to chat on my walk back to the car, and then hung up and walked in silence by myself. No one else was around—it was late for a Thursday night— and there was a stillness in the cold air. Something caught my eye on the ground. I recognized it immediately as a wad of cash. I looked around but there wasn’t a soul in sight. I reached down, picked it up, stuffed it in my pocket, and kept walking. When I got home, I counted it: $118. Some people would call it luck, but I recognized it as karmic quality of my Lucky Hat.
Immediately, I knew I had to donate the money to the refugee crisis (after telling others my story they convinced me to only donate half the money). There were too many signs pointing to this cause, and the very least I could do is give it to those who needed it more than I do. People are dying from war, disease, a gun aimed at their head. There is so much pain and suffering in the world, and all the “problems” I think I have are insignificant compared to what the majority of people in this world deal with on a daily basis.
As a strong believer in karma, I try to do good things, take care of people in need, and appreciate my life while I am lucky enough to be living it. There are people out there dealing with issues infinitely larger than my own. Every day I remind myself how incredibly fortunate I am for the hand I’ve been dealt in my life. My life is down-right awesome, and taking it for granted is a waste of my existence.
My Lucky Hat doesn’t make magical things happen, but I use it as a cue to appreciate what I have and not lusting after what I lack. Being lucky isn’t a hereditary trait, it’s a state of mind. Winning isn’t about acquiring physical things or money, it’s a perspective highlighting the great things in my life and downplaying the bad. So go out there and make your own luck today…and along the way, generate some luck for someone else, too.