Green Eyes & Sham: Is Good Luck a Wee Bit O’ Irish Blarney?

Porcelain skin, green eyes and rosy cheeks mark me as the Irish lass I am. I even speak with a bit of an Irish “r”, despite a vocal coach’s unsuccessful attempt to correct it. But looking and sounding like my ancestors from the Emerald Isle never satisfied me as a young child. What I wanted from my heritage was good fortune.

In business and life, make your own luck | KOTAW Content MarketingEvery St. Patrick’s Day — and many weeks and months in between — I lamented that the luck o’ the Irish never visited me. Sometimes I blamed my father, whose Irish blood was mixed with English and Canadian Indian DNA. Surely, it was genetic impurity that prevented me from winning Highlight contests and doomed me to getting picked last for dodge ball!

Erin go Bah!

I wore green with a mix of pride and embarrassment on St. Patrick’s Day, happy that my heritage merited widespread celebration but afraid that I was outing myself as a shamrock sham. I was too unlucky to be really, truly Irish.

So I went looking for luck. I spent many summer days searching for four leaf clovers in our lawn. On a late August afternoon, a week before I started second grade, I finally found one. But my best friend reached for it first. She deserved it, I reasoned. Her name was Kelly and she was more Irish than I.

The following March, when my classmates and I spent art class making green paper shamrocks, I cut out an extra one and stuffed it into the pocket of my jumper. I felt guilty, a not- unusual emotion for a Catholic school girl, but I also felt something delightfully better: lucky.

And I was lucky, too! Thanks to that shamrock, I won a spelling bee and a writing contest and was picked third from last in dodge ball. Ha! I had outsmarted the system. So what if luck had bypassed my genes? So what if I couldn’t find luck in my own backyard?

I could make my own!

I could make my own luck.

Luck or Pluck?

That revelation, at age 7, became part of my personal brand. It didn’t mean I triumphed at everything I set out to do. No amount of luck could make me a successful sculptor, architect or computer programmer. I lack the skills and temperament for such pursuits. But, when I stopped believing that blessings were a birthright, that you were either born lucky or cursed with misfortune, I stopped resigning myself to live according to someone else’s definition of fate.

Some remarkably wonderful — and downright awful — things have happened to me, not all of which can be strictly explained by facts and circumstance. Luck — good and bad — played a role. But, what I’ve come to believe, is that there is something in my spirit that has drawn me to exciting opportunities and helped me overcome extreme challenges.

I think that something is pluck. And that’s something to celebrate. It’s a reason to wear green and dance a jig. So I will.

And today and every day, I wish all of you the pluck o’ the Irish.

What’s your business philosophy? Can we really create our own luck in business? I want to hear what you think!


  1. Brian J Wood says:

    I’m happy that you flipped the self-esteem light switch when you were 7! I don’t know if this is true but with today’s social media it seems like a kid could post a super long rant about getting picked last for dodge ball and wouldn’t be wasting their time doing it. Warm and friendly and smart replies, especially from friends you care about, are worth more than ALL of the pots o’ gold on the planet after all. As far as creating your own luck I have always liked this quote “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” Seneca, Roman philosopher (5 BC – 65 AD) I think that something in you is more specifically a strong determination to find Seneca’s intersection

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      An excellent quote, Brian, and thank you for sharing it and your insights. And Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

  2. Katttt

    I saw your post on Facebook and immediately hurried down here to devour another magnificent piece of work! #HUGSSSS

    I am glad you decided to ‘pave your own path’ in life from such a young age. I was still eating mud :P *Not Kidding* hehe

    “I think that something is pluck. And that’s something to celebrate. It’s a reason to wear green and dance a jig. So I will. And today and every day, I wish all of you the pluck o’ the Irish.”

    A perfect ending to another perfect article. From now on, I am going to stop wishing people “Good Luck” and start saying, “Good Pluck” ;)

    Love you, my darling

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      I’ll do the same, Kit! Wishing people “Good Pluck” will become the Kit-Kat catchphrase!!

      Thank you, as always, for your lovely words. They make me feel plucky. :)

      Lots of love. Rest and heal so you can delight the world with words of your own!!

  3. Aww…Katherine. You are my sweet Irish sister. When you mentioned all that time you spent looking for four leaf clovers in your yard, I could really relate. I was probably about the same age when I finally found one, and I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. I was lucky enough to be alone when I found it, and I kept it pressed in a book for years (I may still have it somewhere – who knows). You have such a winning spirit that I just love, and your friendship has been better than finding that pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow. Thank you for another fabulous post!

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      What a sweet story, Elizabeth. And, yes, getting to know you has been better than finding four-leaf clovers and pots of gold. And someday — perhaps at the edge of a rainbow — we will meet in person and declare ourselves the luckiest people on the planet!

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