"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
from Alice in Wonderland
Mumbai. Touchdown in ten hours. Here’s what I’d like to do:
Buy an elephant at the Sonepur Mela (Asia’s biggest livestock trading fair).
Spend time with Ganesha.
Attend a wedding.
Dance in a Bollywood movie.
Bathe in the Ganges.
Meet Sharukh Khan.
Most of these things are at the very least improbable. The Ganges is filthy with sewage and human remains. It’s illegal to trade in elephants. I don’t know anyone in Mumbai, let alone anyone famous or well-connected.
But I packed my party sari just in case.
In the shuttle on the way to the Detroit airport, the other two passengers and I chatted about our lives and destinations. The PhD student headed home to Germany was pleased I liked Berlin, and the retired Home Economics teacher vacationing in San Francisco had been there before the wall went up. One said, “You’ve been so many places!” and I said, “I’m really lucky.”
My father—whose ashes are in a cocktail shaker in my carry-on—said to me when I was sixteen or seventeen and in the newspaper for the umpteenth time, “You know, some people go their whole lives without ever having their picture in the paper.”
When the magician asks for volunteers, I raise my hand. I do the same when the flight is overbooked and someone gets to stay an extra night in the city (and often upgraded on the new flight). My longtime friendship with a tour manager, leading to backstage time at a lot of concerts, began when I figured an event was sold out and went anyway, went early, to see if I could get a ticket. When I was acting, I got my first commercial, filmed at my high school, when the girl who got cast skipped class that day. Guess who had the lines memorized and a signed release in her hand?
I’m going to the Sonepur Mela with cash—I don’t know what I’ll buy, but I know they don’t take Visa. And I understand the Bollywood casting scouts hang around Leopold’s Café in the Colaba area—a lot of scenes that are supposed to take place overseas need white extras.
“Lucky” means being at the right place, at the right time…and being prepared. It means believing you can take advantage of an opportunity if it arises, that you have the tools, the smarts, enough know-how that you’re not going to make an ass of yourself and enough humor to handle it gracefully if you do. I’ve wept and been booed on national TV in two countries. They’re good stories.
It also means actively looking for your chance. It means being willing to speak first and loudest when someone asks for volunteers, being willing to politely and quickly step in front. Being, yes, a little bit pushy.
You can pay back the blessings of the universe with a helping hand to the people behind you, but you have to step in front first.
What impossible thing do you want to be ready for?