As I kid, I would have told you it depends: if it’s heads up, it’s yours. If it’s tails up, leave it- unless you’re asking for trouble and bad luck.
What a silly superstition! And yet, I believed it as a boy. Fortunately, it didn’t take me long to figure out a loophole. If I ever ran across a fallen coin that was showing tails, I simply kicked it against a curb or a wall until it flipped right side up. Squealing with delight, I’d bend down and pocket the change, filling up my good luck reservoir in the process.
I thought back on that funny little superstition this weekend, and realized it is a metaphor for how we should live our lives. Sometimes you’re dealt a good hand, sometimes you’re dealt a bad hand, but you make the most of it either way.
In other words, you can make your own luck. It’s something that became so apparent during exam season. Term 1 at Darden was hard, but Term 2 was substantially harder. Need proof of that? Ask any first year how much sleep they’re got. Ask them how confident they felt going into the Decision Analysis, Marketing and Accounting exams.
Class was difficult, and the work load exhausting. This was the hand we were dealt. And yet, so many of my classmates chose to make their own luck. We attended DA workshops. We met with professors. We went to Q&A sessions. We spent hours at marathon learning team meetings. We even stayed in on Friday night to spend extra time on cases instead of heading to the bars on The Corner.
I can only hope the hard work paid off this past weekend, which was as challenging as advertised. The tests took three hours for Accounting, four for Marketing, and five for DA, with tons of studying in between. For someone with a non-quantitative background who hasn’t been in school for seven years, this was a pretty crazy four days.
And while I didn’t rely on superstitions to aid my cause, I did employ a final exam tradition that dates back to my junior year at Northwestern.
Burdened by finals, deprived of sleep, and with no one to impress, I let it all go for a full week. I didn’t shower. I didn’t shave. And, I never changed out of my pajamas.
Thus was born my finals tradition.
Eight years later, I stand firmly by my finals pajamas ritual, as the picture below proves (you’ll be glad to know I’ve made some tweaks, however- I’ve showered twice this weekend, thankyouverymuch).
Anyways, I bring up the coin on the ground and the pjs examples to make a larger observation: the line between superstition and tradition is a seemingly fine one. But to me, there’s a big difference: superstitions leave too much to chance. They suggest that luck has more to do with success than hard work. Traditions, on the other hand, feel more like a comfort thing, something you do because it feels right- not because you expect it to solve all of your problems. And boy, does walking around in pajama pants and hoodies for four days feel right!
I might be inclined to challenge superstition and embrace tradition, but I’ll make the occasional exception.
During exams, I found myself looking for any kind of good fortune, any kind of hopeful sign. On Friday night in between tests, I saw a coin on the ground while walking back from dinner at Liz and Aaron’s house.
It was heads up.
Superstition or not, I picked it up and put it in my pocket, where it’s been all weekend.
Hey, during exam week, I’ll take all the help I can get.