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Saint Patrick’s Day

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Saint Patrick’s Day is upon us, and with that comes green mint Oreos, Lucky Charms, four-leaf clovers, and a celebration of all things Irish. The history of Saint Patrick’s Day goes back to the 5th Century, centering on the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick. St. Patrick was a Roman Briton man brought to Ireland as a slave at just 16 years of age. He later escaped Ireland and returned to Briton to join his family profession in the church, only to return later in life as a Christian missionary.

Saint Patrick’s success and notoriety rapidly spread, as he incorporated Irish traditions into his Missionary work. St. Patrick’s Day as a celebration did not gain much momentum until after the mass emigration from Ireland during the mid-19th century as a result of the potato famine. The immigrants brought their cultures and feast days with them to their new homes United States, Canada, and Australia among others.

Today, Saint Patrick’s Day is celebrated in many fashions and themes throughout a variety of cultures across the globe. As this feast day approaches, we can explore one particular concept that is often connected to this holiday prevalent in daily American culture—luck.

Phrases such as “Luck of the Irish,” “Luck be with you,” and “Lucky Jack” are uttered to show support for this feast day, yet expressions regarding luck are heard on an almost daily basis. Before a competition, test, or big event, we wish folks “good luck,” and if we narrowly escape disaster, we “consider ourselves lucky.”

While well-meaning, luck has little to do with it. Assignments and PCS opportunities becoming available, the weather during a sports game, and which troops are in our units are all factors beyond our control. As humans, and especially military members, we’re trained to lead and to do all we can to accomplish the mission and take care of folks.

When we lose that ability to influence an outcome, chalking it up to luck is simply our way of reconciling a lack of control. This point highlights a certain human frailness and limitation that lends to keeping us humble, but is also the crossroads that separates true leaders from the rest of the pack.

I have often heard you need to create your own luck. What does that really mean? I would define creating luck to mean learning to accept what is outside of my control, while focusing on those items I am still able to influence.

Physical fitness, job performance, sports & athletic training, lifelong learning, and time with family & friends are all aspects of our lives we directly control. We may not be able to influence the timing of deployments and assignments, but we can control what we do with the time we have prior to those deployments. Putting in the required time to study for promotion is in our control and removes luck from figuring into the equation. Rather than resorting to luck determining our course in life, let us resolve to make our own luck, to accept a measured lack of control in some areas, and to set priorities to focus our energy to where we are able to influence the desired outcomes.

Saint Patrick was not able to control his fate of being captured by invading forces, but he was able to escape and return to serve the Irish of his own free will. Rather than consider himself unlucky, Saint Patrick devoted his life to his faith, expended his energy toward what he could, and found peace in accepting those things in life beyond his control.

As you are surrounded by St. Patrick’s Day holiday reminders, think about a deeper lesson St. Patrick demonstrated - selflessly serving others and taking positive actions to affect desired outcomes….and not relying solely on luck.

“You just don’t luck into things as much as you’d like to think you do. You build step by step, whether it’s friendships or opportunities.” – Barbara Bush