"Good luck!" My Mission to Rid the World of This Timeless Phrase

"Good luck!"  People have been saying it forever.  Job interview tomorrow?  "Good luck!"  Big game against your rival?  "Good luck!"  Test in the morning?  "Good luck!"  If you're involved in any kind of sports or competitive field at all, you probably can't go a week without hearing someone say, "Good luck!"

A phrase that I used to view as basic coaching language has become blasphemy for me as I've become more and more heavily involved with sport psychology.  What do I have against it?  I hate the connotation that luck has that much to do with your performance and its outcomes.  Do you want to do well on your job interview?  Then you should think through the questions you will be asked and practice, you should dress well, and you should arrive early.  You should trust that your life and experiences have prepared you for tomorrow.  Do you want to do well on that test in the morning?  If you have paid attention in class, study, and know the material, then you will.  Want to play well against your rival?  Then trust your ability and preparation, and execute.  Hopefully you have earned it through hard work.

Am I saying that I do not believe in luck at all?  No.  I do believe in luck, to a degree, but I do not believe in giving that much power to luck when approaching something.  The reason I do not is it takes away from the feeling of power and control that you have earned.  I know that both as a player and as a coach my best performances have come when I feel in control.  That sense of control comes with an ease and flow to the game.  My worst performances were when I felt out of control and let things that should not have any impact have power over me (negative thoughts were a big one for me!).  Only when I was extremely down would I walk up to the plate with a feeling of, "Oh, well maybe I'll get lucky and run into one."  Usually that resulted in a helpless walk back to the dugout.  As a teacher, it bothers me when a student says a test was easy.  I always respond with, "Well, did you know the material?"  They undoubtedly say, "Yes," and I respond with, "Well, then you are the reason it was easy."  Taking responsibility for performance, whether in sports or in life, can be a very powerful decision.  While it may lead to you blaming yourself for a poor performance, that can be avoided by being rational about what went wrong and made the performance bad.  In other words, take responsibility for performance without making it personal.

There is a quote by Dr. Louis Pasteur that says, "Chance favors the prepared mind."  For me, this is true.  It is amazing how people who do what they are supposed to do to prepare seem to have things work out in their favor.  You may have heard some other variation like Ernest Hemingway's "You make your own luck," or Seneca's "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity," but I like Pasteur's plug for sport psychology well ahead of its time!  If you are only preparing physically, you are cheating yourself out of a major part of preparation as an athlete or coach.  Prepare your mind by buying into the mental side of your sport, and luck will have a way of favoring you even more.

In closing, I would like to invite you to join my grassroots effort to rid the world of the phrase, "Good luck!"  I've been challenging myself to say, "Good skill!" instead.  I like skill because skills are learned, and "Good skill" implies you have put in the work to acquire those skills.  It doesn't quite roll off the tongue yet, but I'm getting there.  Do you have another suggestion for a replacement phrase?  I'd love to hear it.  Email it to me or tweet it out to me, and I'll gladly give you credit for helping to exterminate us all from luck's control over our thoughts about performance.



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