Good Luck or Bad Luck? How to gain perspective during tough times

One day the horse of an old farmer ran away.

Upon hearing the news, his neighbours came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbours exclaimed. “Maybe” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbours again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbours congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe” said the farmer.

When we’re knee deep in adversity, in the eye of the storm of a crisis, it’s easy to get caught up in the ‘bad luck’ story accompanying the ‘Thing’ (whatever that THING is).

But as this parable so skilfully demonstrates, our current ‘bad luck’ may indeed turn out to be ‘good luck.’

Let’s be honest, so often when we think back over experiences which, at the time, we have deemed ‘bad’ (or downright disastrous if you’re a bit prone to drama like yours truly), in hindsight, this bad luck has often led to discoveries, better paths, better journeys; better destinations.

At the very least, if we are open to it, misfortune offers a rich cornucopia of learning. Our biggest learning comes from our biggest mistakes.

[Tweet “Our biggest learning comes from our biggest mistakes.”]

Here are just a few real life examples of this ‘Good Luck? Bad Luck?’ phenomenon:

  1. Heard of Traf-O-Data? Didn’t think so. This was Bill Gates’s first company, which was a complete disaster. But the experience was important in the creation of Microsoft a few years later.
  2. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. This misfortune contributed significantly to his determination to succeed. The rest, as they say, is history.
  3.  When faced with virtually no budget to launch their 42 Below Vodka brand into the US market (bad luck), the Kiwi company used this seeming disadvantage to think creatively. They decided to target influential bartenders in the New York bar scene to endorse their vodka. Quirky and stand-out marketing led to huge success in terms of seeding the brand within a massively influential market (good luck). Their ‘bad luck’ around a lack of resources was enormously instrumental in their resultant good luck, in gaining traction for 42Below in the US market.

So, if you’re currently knee-deep in the proverbial horse manure – The Hero in some unpleasantly personal rendition of The Hero’s Journey Myth – read this parable.

Let it sink in, meditate on its message and take comfort in the fact you don’t know what kickass and exciting outcome could be brewing during (and because of) this dark time; that could possibly, just possibly, be the best luck you’ve ever struck.


  1. Vinay Kumar on August 20, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    Your way of getting across your ideas in the minds of people is just amazing. I somehow resonated withe the whole paragraph you have written. Good luck and bad luck are just the outcomes of your work I believe. We tend to avoid the work part most of the times in these cases. And yes, what we learn from our biggest failures lead us to better destinations. I am hoping it will be the same in my case. Better path, Better journey, better destinations.

  2. Pradeep Navalkar on August 19, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    Nice article Suzi. Your article helps one to reflect on change and managing its impacts, and adapting to them.

  3. Anonymous on August 19, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    Nice article Suzi. Your article helps one to reflect on change and managing its impacts, and adapting to them.

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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