Have you been lucky in life? Have you been faced with the dilemma of risk vs luck?

A very good friend of mine likes to complain that I’ve been remarkably lucky all my life while her luck has always been bad. She feels that I’m living my dream simply because I’ve been lucky – not because I’ve been willing to take risks when unusual, and perhaps risky, opportunities presented themselves.

She seems to think that if she’d had my good luck, she’d be living a happier, more fulfilling life. I think she was unable to deal with the risk vs luck dilemma. She chose to be safe.

Of course, she didn’t know me years ago when I went through some dark times. She just looks at me now and sees the life that I’m leading now – a life that she thinks I’ve reached because of my good luck.

Suggested Reading: Expat Lifestyle - my previous post giving an overview of different types of expat lifestyle

Risk vs Luck

I admit that I’m very happy with how my life has turned out so far. I live overseas which had always been a dream of mine – a dream that I actually thought I’d never fulfill because my other passion was dogs. How could I travel or move overseas with my dog and cats?

Confused young lady

When the opportunity that took me overseas to work appeared, my state of mind had been a ball of confusion. Remember that song by the Temptations? Yes, that was me.

At that time, I was in my late 30’s and feeling restless. I thought I’d finally found a career that I wanted and was in the second year of a doctoral program to become a clinical psychologist. I could see my future mapped out. I’d become a therapist, set up a practice, and stay in one place for the rest of my life. Oh no – one place? That scared me senseless.

I loved my studies in psychology. I’d already finished a Bachelor’s degree in Education and had taught in Los Angeles for several years. But I disliked teaching and quit. After that, I had tried various other means of making enough money to support myself. Nothing felt right until I went into the program in psychology.

Was I Open to Change?

Now, though, I had a new problem. There was no way I was willing to stay in one place for the rest of my life. I wanted to move around and see what it was like living and working in different places, especially overseas. As a psychologist, how could I leave patients that depended on me in order to satisfy my desire to move around. At least, I hoped I’d be good enough that patients would need me.

Are you open to change?

I wasn’t sure which way to turn. Should I continue on my path to become a psychologist or should I give it up before I’d incurred a huge debt for the tuition, books, and general living expenses?

While I was in the midst of this confusion, the risk vs luck dilemma presented itself to me. I happened to see a blind ad to train people on word processing equipment in Indonesia. I figured I could bluff my way into that job. In the same newspaper was a U.S. Department of State ad for administrative jobs in US embassies overseas. I sent in my resume for the job in Indonesia and went to the open testing for the State Department jobs.

The long and short of it is that I passed all the written tests for the State Department with flying colors. The next step would be an exhaustive oral interview. Before that interview could take place, however, I’d need to fill out and submit a mountain of paperwork.

When I say mountain, I really mean it. They didn’t just want to know every job and every address I’d ever had. They seemed to require details about every time I’d brushed my teeth. Did I spend two minutes or three? Did I brush the left side before the right side? Or vice versa? How many times did I rinse?

Obviously, I’m not being serious about the teeth brushing. I’m exaggerating to make a point. The State Department seemed to want that kind of unbelievably detailed information before they’d let me proceed to the next step I the hiring process.

It was daunting, so I put it aside. I really didn’t want to be someone’s glorified secretary anyway. I’d already done enough of that over the years.

Risk vs Luck - I Had to Choose

So now you’re probably wondering about the job in Indonesia. No response, so I continued with my doctoral program. No need to buy the Lonely Planet guide to Indonesia. Grrr…..

Several weeks later when I was in the midst of final exams, I got a call to interview for the job in Indonesia. Was I familiar with the Radio Shack TRS80? I’d never heard of it, but I was sure I could figure it out quickly enough.

It was 1982. Not a lot of admin people were computer literate at that time, but I had worked on a Vydec computer. And I was still naïve enough to think that one computer was very much like every other.

The interview took place on the only day in my entire school career that consisted of three final exams in one day. I didn’t care. I could smell opportunity.

When they offered me the job at the end of the interview process, I didn’t hesitate – I accepted immediately.

Was this risk or luck? I'd been proactive in an effort to deal with my confusion over what I'd be doing the rest of my life. Luck consists of opportunities that appear from time to time. The question is whether a person takes the risk to make the changes needed to explore the opportunity.

I took this risk. I took a leave of absence from my graduate program in order to follow my dream of living and working overseas. And I never looked back.

Dreams passions aspirations hopes ambitions wishes desires

The job was for just three months. How perfect. Those three months coincided exactly with the next school quarter. I could take one quarter off, get the travel/living overseas virus out of my system, and return to grad school to continue becoming a psychologist.

When I accepted the job, I didn’t know how I was going to deal with my dog and two cats. But I was pretty sure that I could con some friends into helping out. After all, it was only three months.

Risk-free Is No Way to Live

I know a lot of people who avoid risk at all cost. You probably know people like that, too. From my personal perspective, it’s not a good way to live. I don’t expect everyone to be as adventurous as I am, but perhaps my friend who thinks I’ve have more than my share of luck could have ended up in a happier place if she’d taken a few more risks.

Happy young woman running on beach

Willingness to risk means that you’re not afraid to fail. It’s true that many of us have been taught over and over that we must succeed at everything that we try. But actually, it is sometimes good to fail. If we don’t fail now and then, it means that we’re not trying enough new ventures, and we’ll never find out what awaits on the other side of those risks.

When Einstein went to Princeton, he was asked what he needed for his study. He replied, “A desk, some pads and a pencil, and a large wastebasket to hold all of my mistakes.”

The larger the risk, the bigger the possible pay off.

And so – off to Indonesia!

Would my evaluation of risk vs luck pay off?

Please take a look at the next post in my adventure - My Move to Indonesia - Beginning the Adventure.

What kind of risks have you taken? Can you relate to my willingness to take a risk? Would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below. Thanks.

Author: Kate Benzin

Hi, I'm Kate! I believe in trusting my own intuition and common sense. I don't wait for luck to come calling at my door. Instead, I take a risk when my gut tells me that it's the right thing to do. That's how I ended up in Indonesia with 2 Dalmatians and 5 whippets - I took the right risk and found a place where I truly felt at home. Come along on my expat journey here at ExpatMojo where I'll share with you the good times and the bad times.

6 Replies to “Risk Disguised as Luck

  1. Oh, how fun! I love that you took risks and landed where you need to be. I’m a big risk taker and wouldn’t have it any other way. Playing it safe is for sissies!

    1. Thanks, Peggy. I suppose any of us who are involved in earning money online must be risk takers to some extent. Living day to day without a job to guarantee income says a lot about a person. Glad to hear you’re not a sissy!!

  2. I love this Kate. I hope you’ll post more of your life in Indonesia. Very inspiring. I can’t say I’m not afraid to fail. I am. I just don’t think about failing in my enthusiasm to try new things, but when I do fail, and it’s often, I work myself out of it. Love your posts.

    1. Thanks a million, Helen. I think you said it just right. I’m also afraid of failing, but the excitement of trying new things takes over and buries that fear – at least for a while. 🙂

  3. Love the ‘ExPat Mojo’ Title! …Great to hear more how how you grew into to being the amazing woman you are. I too did similar and from a very limited exposure prior to the world ‘out there’ beyond the humble rural ag valley I grew up in. I sought out opportunities!

    As a peer, raised by the scared-by-scarcity Great Depression Survivors (and WWII heroes)., we had an extra hurdle …

    When I ditched my local community pool ( few private ones where I grew up… we ran through sprinklers to cool off or jumped into an irrigation ditch..) lifeguard job to join a mobile dental clinic, serving children in N CA Migrant Labor Camps I had learned about, from the resident kids living in such I had taught swimming to, in Spanish, as a volunteer for the American Red Cross..

    .. Well my Mother almost had a stroke! She screamed at me ” You left that secure job to do what?!”

    Best decision I ever made. Lead me to work as a trained-on-site dental asst. & ×-ray tech that lead to similar assignments in the 1970’s in former Yugoslavia and EVERYWHERE in Israel including Gaza PLO camp… thanks to U. Of CA S.F. Mobile Dental Clinic….

    I finally got off the farm!

    Here I want young people to appreciate that our Baby Boomer generation pioneered dedication to work you love and not cling to that desperate sense of security.. that you could have a series of careers… not have to be so linear in purpose… so unknown as an option prior…

    And a nod to our elders… We, raised post WWII, WERE lucky. Our parents’generation of the 99% did not have that option… They were literally hungry pre-war… then did their duty to serve to fight tyranny and came back to prosper and live in peace…

    Also, we, born post WWII, pioneered getting the honor to vote at age 18. During the “Conflict” in Vietnam Nam, guys could be drafted at age 18 but could not vote until age 21.. We created that opportunity for the Next Generation…

    I turned down grad school acceptance completely to take up an offer to go to France to be an “au pair” , a fluke offer
    …I said yes when I heard ‘ France’ then asked ..what is an au pair?

    I was clueless, never heard the word ever before let alone met one.. Where I come from, such does not exist.. still doesn’t.. Answer by the way was “to be a nanny like Mary Poppins! ” I had seen that Disney movie! Got it! You bet I was off in a flash for this spontaneous job offer , thanks to my sister who knew this French family. That was lucky!

    Next best decision I made in my life ! Arrived there in 1974 not knowing a word of the language… cried buckets of tears in frustration to learn it as an adult… I stuck to it. Did NOT give up.

    When I currently work as a sub teacher blended with being now an International Tour Guide… I encourage students to ‘Get out there! Go see the world, learn another culture and add another language…It’s a global economy.. there’s always been one– salt, spices, silks… One needs multicultural exposure & skills & appreciation more than ever! ‘

    Learn about your roots, be grateful, master reading, writing and speaking well, , find purpose, get wings! Acquire skills… academic or otherwise, college is great exposure to difference and possibities..

    We need more skilled laborers.. such dignity in work! – the class I am proud to come from- and how we still so need plumbers, electricians, builders..more doctors , teachers! Give back to your chosen communities… Stay sharp in this competitive world.

    Yes, take risks, but not with your health..

    Here I am very conservative with no apologies.. Just say NO to drugs, any substance abuse including alcohol ( Spring break outrageous behavior? Never heard such a thing until recent years… I’d come home to help my folks and fit in babysitting jobs to earn $$ for schooll, later I got a job on campus to stay for)…

    … & weed. If need it medically? Fine. Keep it a private transaction prescription with your doctor.)

    . .We belong by contributing… and we grow by taking risks, being responsible for our thoughts, words, and deeds, embracing difference as enriching not threatening…

    Luck a factor yet maybe… acting on opportunity without entitlement attitude….. being appreciative of these opportunities always a good thing.

    I am grateful that I accepted the next unexpected offer to “drive some French people to the National Parks in the SW” because I spoke some French when asked in an elevator!!-‘ by a desperate tour operator needing to replace immediately sick guide, the group had just arrived… asking literally everyone he came into contact with ” Does anyone here ( in the elevator even!) speak French? ” I shyly replied ” Oui, un peu”…

    ..I was off the next day in my new career , still at it 36 years later.. after I said yes again on the spot and did not know the name of my job and would not for another year .. that I was a “Tour Director” …

    Thanks Intl. Tour Mgt Institute for the overview of the tour industry and where to pursue more such work- travel and stay-abroad opportunities! Meanwhile lived for some time in Toronto CN, Nice FR, Ushuaia, AR, San Jose CR.

    Tauck has offered me travel work opportunities I am also grateful for…

    .. am fixin’ to uproot in future again, time to learn something new… skills, ways to give back… take new risks..

    … I was lucky NOT to have endured a rigorous application process as you had to go through for that tech position in Indonesia.. and I am impressed that you ” let go of the outcome”… and opportunity boomeranged right back to you as a result!

    Again. BRAVA! You are an inspiration and thank you for this opportunity to reflect deeply on this issue… You really did become a physchaatrist (sp?) afterall.., acquired such skills from life experiences. . You are a good listener and ask good questions!

    I see that I need to catch up on your previous posts. Will do later…

    1. Thanks, Dixie, for reminding me of so many things. You’re a bit younger than me, but still close enough that we had some of the same types of experiences growing up, resulting in lots of the same attitudes toward life.

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