Carefully read the following quote from Oprah Winfrey: “Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.” What do you think the speaker was trying to say about the notions of luck and opportunity? Do you agree or disagree with the speaker? In a well-developed essay, discuss what you think this quote means and whether you agree with it or not. Use specific examples from your studies, personal experience, and/or observations to support your interpretation.

Oprah Winfrey once said, “Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity”. This can be interpreted as meaning that luck is more than just random chance, or being at the right place at the right time, but that it involves being ready and taking active steps to get to that right place at that right time. Many people make statements such as “I am lucky to be alive”, “I am so lucky I won”, and “I’m just not lucky” and truly believe that luck is something that is beyond their influence or control. They do not think that any amount of preparation would improve their luck since it is just a random event. Some believe that it is a supernatural force similar to a deity that does as it pleases with no method or reason behind its actions and that we are subject to its whim and desires. I disagree with those schools of thought and find my personal opinion in agreement with Ms. Winfrey’s statement.

Merriam-Webster defines luck in many different ways, but two definitions caught my attention were: “the things that happen to a person because of chance” and “success in doing or getting something”. When people hear the word luck, they often think of the former definition. Good examples of this definition in action would be a person playing poker and a person betting on a horse race. In both scenarios, though the players and gamblers do have the opportunity to achieve victory, it is completely determined by factors that are beyond their control. The poker player may have a very good hand of cards and the gambler may have bet on the favorite horse that has won numerous races in the past, but this is not enough to guarantee that they will win as another player might have a better hand or bluff them out of the game and the famed prize-winning horse may suffer an unexpected injury during the race. I do not believe that this common definition of luck is the one that Ms. Winfrey had in mind when she made her statement. If the word luck was replaced with that definition in her statement, it would not make much logical sense: the things that happen to a person because of chance [are] a matter of preparation meeting opportunity. Chance, by definition, means “the way that events happen when they are not planned or controlled by people”. If the chance is not planned or controlled, then it cannot be something influenced by preparation.

In my opinion, Ms. Winfrey was referring to the second definition “success in doing or getting something”. When we substitute the word luck with this definition, the statement is logically valid: success in doing or getting something is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity. I believe this is a true statement. Although there is a certain degree of chance still involved (hence the idea of “meeting opportunity”), taking a proactive role is key and has a positive effect on your chances of achieving success. A good example to illustrate this point is a person seeking a job. If they sit at home and do nothing, then their lack of success is almost guaranteed: since they are neither prepared nor seeking an opportunity, none will come. However, if they take the time to create a detailed resume and cover letter, post their resume online, apply to jobs that fit their level of experience and research the companies they are applying to, practice interview questions, dress appropriately for their interview, and speak confidently and clearly at the interview, they will make themselves a good candidate to a hiring manager. Although their success is not completely guaranteed, they will increase their opportunity, which Merriam-Webster defines as “a good chance for advancement or progress”.

In conclusion, if we want to better understand the meaning of a statement, we need to analyze the person who made it. Oprah Winfrey is an African American woman who grew up in extreme poverty and hardship, experienced many cases of abuse and setbacks, yet still overcame those circumstances to become one of the wealthiest and influential people in the world. Many people say that she is lucky: lucky to be alive, lucky to have overcome, lucky to be rich and famous. Without knowing much else about her, they would assume that her “luck” was due to random chance, but she is very vocal in expressing her opinions on hard work and achieving success. I would like to close with another statement that she made which coincides with and demonstrates her position on personal responsibility and action: “What I learned at a very early age was that I was responsible for my life. And as I became more spiritually conscious, I learned that we all are responsible for ourselves, that you create your own reality by the way you think and therefore act. You cannot blame apartheid, your parents, your circumstances, because you are not your circumstances. You are your possibilities. If you know that, you can do anything.” (O Magazine, January 2007).