Dawn Bradley

Good Luck, Bad Luck. Who knows!

Today I’d like to share a fascinating story with you. There is a lesson for us – how to reframe our daily problems. Known as the ‘Good luck, bad luck, who knows’ story.

An elderly, hard-working Chinese farmer, and his son had a single horse. They used the horse to plough the field, sow the seeds, grow the crop, and transport it to market. The horse was essential for the farmer to earn his livelihood.

One morning, the horse broke the fence and ran away into the woods. When the neighbours found out that the farmer’s only horse had run away, they came to solace him. They said – “Your only horse has run away just before the planting season. How will you till the land? How will you sow the seeds? This is unfortunate. This is bad luck.”

The farmer replied “Good luck, bad luck. Who knows?” 

The wise farmer was unwilling to label this incident as either good luck or bad luck.

A few days later the farmer’s horse returned from the woods along with two other wild horses. When the neighbours found out the news, they said, “Now you have three horses! You can work the land much faster with three horses. Maybe you can buy more land, sow more crops, and make more money. Or you can sell the other two horses. Either way, you will be a rich man! This is good luck! “

The farmer replied “Good luck, bad luck. Who knows?” 

Next morning, the farmer’s son started training the wild horses so that they could help work the land. While attempting to mount one of the wild horses, he fell down and broke his leg. It was just before the sowing season, and the son would not be able to help the farmer with his broken leg. The neighbours came once again and commented “This is really unfortunate. This is bad luck.

The wise farmer replied “Good luck, bad luck. Who knows?” 

A few days later, the King’s men started to visit each village in the kingdom. A war had started between their kingdom and a neighbouring enemy state. The King’s men were enlisting the eldest son from each family to join the army so they could defeat their enemy. When they came to the farmer’s house, they saw the son with the broken leg. He would not be of much use in the army and so they didn’t take him. He was the only eldest son in the entire village who was not forcibly taken by the King’s men to fight the war. The neighbours, some of them with teary eyes, came once again to the farmer and commented “Your son breaking his leg was really fortunate. He’s the only one who was not taken. What a stroke of good luck.

The farmer calmly replied “Good luck, bad luck. Who knows?”

The lesson from the ‘Good luck, bad luck’ story

Every single time the neighbours thought what had happened to the farmer was bad luck, it turned out to be good luck! And just when the neighbours thought the incidents had brought the farmer good luck, it turned out to be bad luck!

However, the wise farmer was unwilling to label any of the events as either good luck or bad luck.

Have you had similar experiences in your own life?
What you thought was a setback turned out to be a blessing?
And what you thought was unfortunate turned out to be beneficial?

However, in the interim, we go through an emotional roller-coaster of happiness and sadness based on how we label the incident!


As human beings, we have a tendency to interpret any and all events as either good luck or bad luck. Often, we do it unconsciously. When we interpret events as good luck, we are usually happy and vice versa.

However, most events, like in the story, are beyond our control and are just events! There is nothing we can do about these events that are beyond our control, except accepting them and moving on.

Adding our interpretation and the emotional drama into the mix is usually counterproductive and stops us from moving forward.