Find a penny…

I find money on the street. Like, all the time. Sometimes I find a dollar or two, other times I find entire wallets or people’s paychecks (both of which I always return). For one, six-week stretch, I found $11 three different times, and each time in a different denomination. On vacation in Rome a couple of years ago, I was running back to my hotel during a rainstorm when I looked down and saw a soggy five Euro note at my feet.

I’ve had this gift since I was a child. But for the last couple of years, I’ve been finding money at least once a month. I started to wonder why… and then the simplest reason came to me:

I always pick up pennies.

I grew up with the phrase “Find a penny; pick it up, then all day you’ll have good luck.” I’d carry these “lucky” pennies with me (and would eventually spend them when I had enough for, say, a sticker). But I realize now that it’s not the penny that’s lucky. Rather, the act of picking the penny up is what brings me luck.

Think about it – how often do you see a penny and not pick it up. If you rarely do, you’re not unlike most people. But when you start picking up pennies, you start seeing them everywhere. Soon, because you’re looking out for loose change, you start seeing nickels, then quarters, then dollar bills. Before you know if, you find an endorsed paycheck for $2200 (which, of course, you promptly return, via mail to the payee. You may even get a Peet’s gift card as a “thank you.”).

If you think that I’m working my way to a metaphor, you’re right. Pennies are metaphors for opportunities. Opportunities come into our lives so often, but most of us don’t notice them. Or if we do, we don’t seize them. They’re often small and look insignificant. But the secret (not “The Secret” – even I’m not that New Age) is that you won’t be able to notice the big opportunities until you start looking for – and seizing – the small ones.

What I’m trying to say here is that we make our own luck. Yes, sometimes bad things that are completely beyond our control happen to us. But often the path to the good stuff we want to come into our lives is already there. It’s just not obvious. We’re not looking in the right places, or we’re not looking at all.

I’ve had a lot of amazing opportunities come my way lately -I was asked to contribute to a book, a big retailer asked about buying my 2011 calendar, I’ve shipped my work to buyers all over the world. But these things didn’t just happen to me. I did a show and met someone who referred me to an editor. I created a 2010 calendar that, to my surprise, sold so well I could barely keep up with demand. I did a little bit of advertising for my Etsy shop on a couple of sites.

The point is that when you’re looking, you see things. And when you take advantage (in a good way) of what you see, you get a little reward. Or, sometimes, a big reward. But you have to do and look. In the end, luck isn’t really just luck. It’s a reward for doing, for being aware, for moving forward.

I need to remember this as much as anyone else. It’s easy for me to get caught up in the drama of my (day) job, or the limited free time of most of my days. But it’s Monday, and the start of a new week. Let’s all go out and make our own luck this week!

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