Luck, the uncontrolled variable


I went to the market the other day, trying to get some extra large, extra delicious farm fresh eggs (the extra large ones have a 72% greater probability of being double yolkers, true fact). The market runs from 9.30am till 1pm. I arrived at 12.30pm and they only had large ones left. This was bad luck for me. Or could I have controlled the variable of me arriving early enough to have my pick of the produce?


I used to buy my coffee from a local coffee shop. Somedays my americano was a delight to behold, all the powerful punch of a strong black coffee, but maintaining the subtlety of flavour that the carefully selected medium roast bean perfectly extracted could deliver. Other days it was the same dark, bitter beverage churned out by most of the big chains as if they’d never tasted what a coffee could be. This was just luck surely?

As I educated myself on the intricate art of espresso pulling, you learn of the variables that are under the control of the barista, setting the dosing of coffee, adjusting grind and tamping pressure to account for ambient conditions and the age of the bean. Then there’s the consistency of the equipment, a quality grind, pressure and temperature stability of the machine, all factors which can affect the extraction, and not to mention the flavour of the bean itself, the level of the roast and how long between roasting and brewing. A lot of variables, all completely controllable by the person in charge who knows what they’re doing. Pulling a good shot can be achieved by anyone, but being in control of fewer variables means this process becomes luck. The best barista will be on top of everything and will consistently the best drinks possible.

Nowadays, theres few people and places that I’ll trust my pre-training brew to. As an aside, filter coffee has far fewer variables in preparation and so offers a safer bet for black coffee.


Take two athletes, on the same training program, one gets injured and the other doesn’t. Is this luck?

How many variables are accounted for?

Training age?
Biological age?
Injury history?
Muscular imbalances?
Outside stresses?
Amount of time sitting?
Sleep duration and quality?

To name but a few. Even these can be delved into deeper, for example two athletes on the same diet with different gut flora may have two distinctly different outcomes. And obviously, post-birth it’s very difficult to actually control your genetics, so there always that.

The fruitlessness of diving deeper and deeper into this aside. It does seem that the deeper you consider and the more you plan, the less bad luck you get.

In a non-contact sport, is an injury ever “unlucky”?

Is bad luck just a term used by someone who hasn’t taken the time and effort to account for enough variables?

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