The email came from a former colleague, one who has struggled to find her footing since being downsized several years ago.

“You’re one of the lucky ones,” she wrote. “I’m glad to see things worked out so well for you.”

I read the wistfulness in her words. The longing for her own luck.

And the falsehood.


Things “worked out so well”?

Let me get real for a second here…

There was a time not that long ago when I would have said I was the UNLUCKIEST person around. That NOTHING was working out well.

In fact, things had worked out so poorly that I had to ditch the entire plan and start all over again.

I hit low points I didn’t think could go any lower. Only to discover I hadn’t yet bottomed out.

I was overworked and overweight, under-utilized and under-enthused, beat up and burnt out, disappointed, disillusioned, disengaged and more than just a little “disagreeable” about all of that.

I toiled tirelessly at work and came home to complain to those I’m supposed to care for.

And then I berated myself for being a bad mom. A bad employee. Bad at everything. I listened to people who affirmed my absolute worst beliefs about myself.

And then, as if to prove otherwise, I worked harder.

I stubbornly stayed steadfast even when all signs showed that Work was No Longer Working.

Like my downsized colleague, I felt I deserved better.

Luck, it seemed, was never on my side.

And it turns out that was a very lucky thing.

Only now can I say I’m thankful to have been so unlucky.

Only in hindsight can I see how well things actually worked out by not working out well at all.

It took a boulder-sized mess for me to finally act on the idea that pebbled in my mind. Could I try something new? Could I make it work? Could I walk away?

I wanted to, but I was afraid of straying from a prescribed path. Of making a mistake.

It was only when things went so WRONG that I really had no choice. I had to try.

Without a string of bad luck, I would not have had the bravery to step outside my comfort zone. I would not have met a terrific new Cast of Supporting Characters. I would not have felt failure – many times over – and been thankful for the opportunity to try. I would not have learned the impact I could have from building something from the ground up.

It has been hard, for sure. It has been scary.

It has also been energizing and inspiring and confidence-building. I’m not only cautiously optimistic for the year ahead, I’m feeling kinda lucky.


So, I agree with my colleague, the one who wistfully noted how lucky I am that things have worked out so well for me.

By being unlucky and by having things not work out, things worked out well after all.

Those are ridiculous redundancies, I realize. But both are true.

Sometimes you are grateful for what goes wrong rather than what goes right. I wrote about this last Thanksgiving in The Beauty of Bad: 6 Unlikely Things to Be Grateful For.

That list holds up. What’s on yours?

Closed doors and frustrating dead ends detour us elsewhere. And the new landscape, while at first frightening and unfamiliar, is full of amazing twists and turns and surprising beauty if we take the time to look for it.

Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Start with a Single Step.

Where in your life do you feel unlucky?

What in your life is not working the way you feel it should?

Use that knowledge as clues and motivation.

Luck may be guiding you away from something that’s not working and towards something that will.

I hope you feel some of that unluckiness in the year ahead. And that when nothing works out it’s because it’s not supposed to.


  • Valerie Gordon

    Commander-in-She - helping clients harness the power of their stories

    Valerie Gordon is a 10-time Emmy winning TV producer whose work has been seen on ESPN, HBO Sports, CBS News, Weekend TODAY and Lifetime. Now the founder of Commander-in-She, a communications and career strategy firm, Valerie combines her background in storytelling with her passion for the important conversations and skills women need to harness the power in their stories and create satisfying and successful next chapters. Commander-in-She offers presentations, group workshops, team-building and individual coaching.