Bad Luck – A Springboard for Success

In a previous post about adversity, I talked about how the bad luck of being injured and not able to run fast led me to take some good photos. Here is another story about how bad luck led Finbarr O’Reilly to win World Press Photo of the Year.

A picture can be worth a thousand words when it comes to inspiring people to get involved in foreign aid. Photographer Finbarr O’Reilly was shooting in Africa to show the world the plight of people suffering from famine and starvation. Unlike them, he had food, but it was not good food and he was struck by food poisoning. It made him so sick and weak that he was unable to travel out to villages and take photographs, and he ended up crashing in an emergency-feeding tent. He says, “I spent about 2 or 3 hours in this tent, where there were a dozen women and their infants who were all severely malnourished. I didn’t have the strength to go out, so I sat around in this tent for much longer than I would have otherwise.”

But Finbarr didn’t just sit there feeling sorry for himself. He kept his eyes open, observed the women and children, and empathized with them. A mother sat down across from him, holding her malnourished child. The boy raised his tiny, emaciated fingers to his mother’s lips. Finbarr says, “I felt like there was an interesting moment that was about to happen.” He found enough energy to pick up his camera and click. Later, that image won World Press Photo of the Year, in competition with over 83,000 others. So, the bad luck of getting food poisoning led Finbarr to an award for best in the world – and gave the world a haunting image of the famine to help mobilize relief efforts.

There’s a myth that successful people have good luck. But interestingly, success often results from bad luck, because it can push us to problem solve and take us in new directions. So, when we’re hit in the face by adversity, sure we can sit around complaining and feeling sorry for ourselves. But only for about ten minutes. Then we need to get up, take action, and do something that might turn the bad luck into a springboard for success.

Finbarr O'Reilly © Reuters