The Meaning of Luck – Stories of Learning, Leadership and Love by Steve Waugh – reviewed by Celine
Publisher: Sams Marketing
Date of publication: 2013
ESPN Profile of cricketer Steve Waugh
Please note this review is the personal opinion of the Reviewer. Feel free to cross-check Reviews of this book with other reviews.
This book is 305 pages long in hard copy with 51 chapters. It is easy to read and well written and is the 14th book authored exclusively by Steve Waugh. I like the fact that there are black and white and colour photos sprinkled throughout the book, however I think that this book is too long. To be honest in giving my opinion, half way through the book at the end of Chapter 25 (which was the end of Section 4 “Role Models)” I would have been happy with the book nearly finishing there.
Go to Amazon if you want to see the Table of Contents (click on “Look Inside”).
Why am I saying this? Well I think that this book does meet the brief or fulfil its theme, which is captured in the book’s tag-line “Stories of Learning, Leadership and Love” and it is just my thoughts that “the meaning of luck” to Steve Waugh, being that hard work and will-power and a positive attitude is what brings about good luck (and according to him, that there is not much good luck and bad luck but rather there are “elements of good fortune” and there is fate, the latter of which he does not define) is well described in the book, but the concept of LUCK is perhaps not fully analysed in this book.
The Introduction to the book gives a definition of “Luck” from several dictionaries, and notes the most widely accepted one is:
Luck – that which happens to an individual or team, either good or bad, as if by chance
His introduction also states that it is true some people appear to be luckier than other but nine times out of ten luck is earned. So is he saying that 1% of what is perceived as “luck” is really luck, and that 99% is fate? He talks about bad luck following you around because of bad habits, and touches upon the “elements of good fortune” in his personal life of which he says, he is proud of himself, for making good use of those.
My opinion is that the Introduction itself and approximately 27 chapters would have been sufficient for this book. The last half of the book, all 26 chapters give more anecdotes about real life experiences of Steve’s revolving around learning and leadership, many of them based upon his sporting experiences. The last section titled Olympic Spirit covering Chapters 44 to 51 does not add anything new, in my mind because it reiterates the ethos of the preceding sections – that people who get ahead continue the best they can because of a good positive attitude and by not giving up.
Some of his personal experiences certainly show how well organised and competitive that Steve Waugh is, and how he has high expectations of himself and of others. There are two areas of the book that I would like to mention – and this is a warning of some of the book content to follow, so if you don’t want to know about some of the explicit content of this book, please read no further.
As the aim of my book reviews is to give curious readers and would be readers of the books that I am reviewing enough information about a book to help decide if they will read it or not, and if they will, when they will (e.g. one has to allow a long time to read this book “The Meaning of Luck”), here are some of my thoughts.
The Introduction and the first section “A Stroke of Luck” touch upon the sudden illness of Steve’s wife Lynette and the fate of children in Calcutta abandoned because they have leprosy, a curable disease which it seems that the authorities have largely not chosen to prevent or to cure when it comes to these children.
Along the lines of Michael J Fox in his book “Lucky Man” (which I have reviewed), Steve says Lynette “called her stroke a stroke of luck.” She had a sudden stroke but 98% recovered from it, and said herself that it was lucky that she learned about courage, friendship and the human spirit, and that the elements of surgery and the aftermath went well. I can well understand that it was “lucky” (or fortunate let’s say) that all the elements of a successful surgery and recovery happened, however was it “bad luck” that the stroke happened in the first place, or was it “fate” because of a predisposition toward it? Steve does not say. Neither does he define “fate.” Also if a person does not recover from an illness, would Steve call it “bad luck” or just fate? He does not say.
In 1998 Steve began sponsoring a girl’s wing of Udayan a home for children with leprosy, in Calcutta, and an organisation that promotes education and welfare for children in India. He talks about this experience in Chapter 9 “Resurrection” and in this chapter and the Introduction he touches upon his viewpoint that he does not see these children as being unlucky because they themselves do not see themselves as unlucky.
This is quite revealing I think. It seems to sum up a philosophy of “Luck is what you make of it.” I don’t know if he or anyone literally asked all of these children that he first met in 1998 “do you consider yourself unlucky” or tellingly “do you consider yourself lucky?” as he does not elaborate how he knows they don’t think themselves unlucky.
Here are 2 excerpts from Chapter 2 “True Perspective”.
I’ve seen numerous instances of “lucky people” achieving amazing things. That’s what this book is about. It’s a personal collection of stories that together offer something of a guide to what I think winning is about.
The only way our luck won’t continue is if we stop working at it.
He goes on to say that by “winning” he doesn’t necessarily mean literally winning a race or a competition but that it is about seizing the moment, having integrity and never giving up. In Chapter 11 “Red Rag” Steve mentions the origins in 1993 of his famously known red rag, a square piece from a red towel, that he carried around with him since that day. He refers to it as making him feel strangely secure and safe, and to outsiders this could be regarded as a talisman or a lucky charm.
Interestingly Steve Waugh is considered to be “one of the most superstitious of great sports players” according to the press. They say that “he still wears an old, baggy green cap which he refuses to throw away.” He has only ever accidentally not taken his lucky red rag to one competition. So what does this say about his meaning of luck? Ask him if the baggy green cap and the red rag are for good luck, and he will probably say they are signs to him that so long as he continues as he is doing, his luck will continue.
After I finished the book and absorbed the content and the theme or the stated purpose, to explore the “meaning of luck” and “stories of learning, leadership and love” I concluded that Steve Waugh may think that the definition of “LUCK” is a moot point. It is a debatable question, an issue open to argument; and maybe even an irrelevant question or a matter of little importance. He does not touch upon people who have faced adversity and continue to do so, despite their own wishes or behaviour to get themselves out of those sad situations. If asked if those people are unlucky, I wonder if he will reply with the following? “That is their fate.”
The topic of FATE is a whole new issue, and to me both luck and fate are made or occur from moment to moment, so are changeable and malleable. Hopefully the fate of all children who are oppressed or starving will change. I totally get what Steve is saying about “making your own luck” in terms of making the most of things, being positive and open-minded, and working hard and having a spirit of determination; but from a purist point of view he does not fully analyse luck (good luck and bad luck) or fate, so “the meaning of luck” seems really to be about “how luck and hard work come across to me.”
Altogether I liked this book for Steve’s outlining of his relevant cricket experiences, and for his explanation of his personal meaning of luck, but I would have liked it more if it had been a lot shorter. I say this not because I was too busy to read it all, but because some of the later chapters made repetitive points, and it was like (to me) the author just didn’t know when to finish the book.
Links to Steve Waugh’s books
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