A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from May 26, 2011
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”

"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” is often credited to Seneca the Younger (4BC-65AD), but there’s no evidence that he ever wrote anything like this. The first credit of this phrase to Seneca the Younger is from 1999—and without any attribution to any particular writing.

“He is lucky who realizes that ‘luck’ is the point where preparation meets opportunity” has been cited in print since at least 1912, but the author of the phrase is unknown. The saying was popularly used by banks in the 1920s (with luck occurring when you’re prepared with money in the bank). More recent uses of the saying have been in the sports field, with coaches telling their players that luck comes from preparation. Oprah Winfrey has been credited since the early 1990s with the saying, “Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.”


Wikiquote: Seneca the Younger
Lucius Annaeus Seneca (often known simply as Seneca, or Seneca the Younger) (c. 4 BC - 65 AD) was a Roman philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and humorist. He was son of Seneca the Elder.

Wikiquote: Talk:Seneca the Younger
You mean the phrase: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” I’m pretty sure it’s not by Seneca (either of them). The oldest book on Google Book Search which ascribes this saying to Seneca is from 1999! Some earlier books ascribe the saying to either Darrell K. Royal (former American football player, born 1924) or Elmer G. Letterman (Insurance salesman and writer, 1897-1982). Both men probably made use of the saying, indeed Elmer Letterman seems to have written a book entitled “Elmer Letterman’s Book of Useful Quotations” (1972). But this saying pre-dates Darrell Royal, and predates Letterman’s professional career. The oldest instance I can find of a quote like it is from the 1912 Youth’s companion: Volume 86, where we find written “HE is lucky who realizes that “luck” is the point where preparation meets opportunity.” I doubt that’s the earliest instance of the quote, but I can’t trace it any further back. Singinglemon 19:32, 30 September 2010 (UTC)

Google Books
Youth’s Companion
Volume 86
1912
Pg. 222:
HE is lucky who realizes that “luck” is the point where preparation meets opportunity.

Google Books
Bankers Magazine
Volume 113
1926
Pg. 671:
Some are inclined to call it luck, but we can only agree if we define luck as that thing which happens when preparation meets opportunity.

17 February 1927, Salamanca (NY) Republican-Press, pg. 4, col. 6 ad:
True—He Is Lucky
But first let us define luck as that which happens when preparation meets opportunity. Its foundation will be sound in a growing bank account.
(First National Bank—ed.)

12 January 1928, Fayette County (IA) Leader, Supplement, pg. 6, col. 1 ad:
AN UNBEATABLE COMBINATION
When preparation meets opportunity, that’s “luck”—providing you have some available cash stowed away in a constantly growing Savings Acount to take advantage of the combination.
(First National Bank—ed.)

16 July 1928, Van Wert (OH) Daily Bulletinm pg. 6, col. 1 ad:
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
(The City Loan—ed.)

Google Books
Guidance Methods for Teachers in Homeroom, Classroom, Core Program
By Clarence Clifford Dunsmoor and Leonard M. Miller
Scranton, PA: International Textbook Co.
1942
Pg. 205:
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.

Google Books
How and When to Change Your Job Successfully
By Walter Albert Lowen
New York, NY: Simon and Schuster
1954
Pg. 78:
Nine times out of ten, LUCK IS WHERE PREPARATION MEETS OPPORTUNITY.

Google Books
Lift Up Your Life;
A personal philosophy for our times

By Morris Goldstein
New York, NY: Philosophical Library
1961
Pg. 12:
As has been so well stated, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

Google News Archive
18 September 1970, Ocala (FL) Star-Banner, “Scribe Picks Area Choices” by Jack Clayton (Sports Writer), pg. 3B, col. 1:
But there’s an old proverb which says, “Luck Is When Preparation Meets Opportunity.”

Google Books
Making the Most of Today:
Daily readings for young people on self-awareness, creativity, and self-esteem

By Pamela Espeland and Rosemary Wallner
Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Pub.
1991
Pg. 274:
Oprah Winfrey (herself a great success story) says, “Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.”

Latin Language
Seneca: Luck - Preparation - Opportunity
tb Sun Mar 18, 2007 1:35 pm
Hi,

there is a quote from Seneca that I first found in an English version:
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

However, I’ve also seen an Italian version, that says:
“La fortuna non esiste: esiste il momento in cui il talento incontra l’occasione.”
(Luck doesn’t exist. There is only the moment when talent meets opportunity.)

Those two versions are clearly different.
Does anyone know the genuine (Latin) version and where it can be found?

Google Books
The War Within:
A Secret White House History 2006-2008

By Bob Woodward
New York, NY: Simon & Schuster
2008
Pg. 330:
He (U.S. General David Petraeus—ed.) remembered the Roman dramatist Seneca the Younger’s adage that “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CitySports/Games • (1) Comments • Thursday, May 26, 2011 • Permalink


From a translation of Seneca’s Essays, Book 3 linked in the url of the comment:

“the best wrestler is not one who is thoroughly acquainted with all the postures and grips of the art, which he will seldom use against an adversary, but he who has well and carefully trained himself in one or two of them, and waits eagerly for the opportunity to use them”

There is no mention of luck/fortune but it definitely suggests that readiness combined with preparation is superior to a more advanced preparation.

Posted by Alan  on  06/17  at  04:09 PM

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