To what extent do luck and hard work play a part in leaving home successfully and settling in a new place?

Leaving home successfully and settling in a new place, in other words, emigrating, goes far beyond its meaning as it requires not only hard work, but also luck. Hard work is the effort and diligence of a person to obtain success. Luck, on the other hand, means the good fortune or the force that seems to operate for the good or ill in a person’s life. Everybody desires to be in their comfort zone, otherwise, a place where they can call “home”, but there are times where people need to leave their homeland to pursue a brighter future in a foreign place. This essay will explore the extent to which luck and hard work play a part in leaving home successfully and settling in a new place with reference to Mao’s Last Dancer, Talking Heads, A Chip in Time– The tale of Leopoldine Mimovich, and The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif.

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Firstly, luck and hard work equally play crucial roles in emigrating successfully. A balance of luck and hard work is required. In Mao’s Last Dancer, Li Cun Xin’s first instant of luck, which dramatically changed his destiny, manifested when Teacher Song pointed at him and said, ‘What about that one?’ to one of Madame Mao’s representatives (p. 105). After all these years, Teacher Song herself never knew the reason behind her sudden actions – it was simply an “impulsive moment”, where she followed the urge of her instincts (Talking Heads, p. 4). Li’s luck flourishes as he managed to meet every single outrageous criterion demanded to enter Madame Mao’s Dance Academy.

These criteria include a family background consisting of peasants, workers and soldiers, as well as no association with wealth and education as far back as three generations (p. 108). Nevertheless, pure luck can only allow a person smooth-sailing for a while. Li endured excruciating pains to pass the ridiculously competitive and abusive auditions for the dance academy. He worked extremely hard physically and mentally to survive in the academy. Therefore, luck and hard work both need to exist in equilibrium if one strongly yearns to gain such great success.

Secondly, luck must be enhanced with hard work; otherwise one will not be able to succeed away from home. Without hard work, luck is potentially useless. This is inspired by Najaf Mazari’s reflection in The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif, “It is like having a ticket in a lottery: if it doesn’t pay off, the ticket is just a piece of paper.” (p. 203-204). From A Chip in Time, Leopoldine Mimovich is lucky to have her permission to settle in Australia granted one month earlier than the norm. Nonetheless, whilst sewing collars for eight hours, Leopoldine consistently worked on wood at home. Leopoldine’s hard work created the opportunity for the forelady to show her work to their boss, Mr Colgan, who deliberately sacked her so that she was free to pursue her true dream of becoming an artist (p. 47). Moreover, was it due to Leopoldine’s good fortune to meet such a helpful employment officer, who voluntary strived hard just to get her an artistic job? Or, was it due to her hard work that convinced the man to think that helping such a dedicated talent would definitely be worthwhile? (p. 47-48). Without Leopoldine’s hard work, luck alone would not have possibly brought about such success.

Thirdly, depending on the circumstances, luck and hard work will influence the outcome of leaving home to various extents. Evidently, it depends on a person’s character. In The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif, if it were not because of Najaf’s personality, the power of his good luck would become questionable. Najaf is not only ambitious, but he is also very friendly. Despite the fact Najaf merely saw minimal potential in his job, he still diligently worked with admirable optimism. His friendly nature attracted friends that were precious to his life and success. Moreover, Najaf never took opportunities for granted and was proactive in seeking for help in an approachable manner. An example would be the first time he met Robin, an English language teacher. Najaf does not approach her in an intimidating way, but instead, lends her his trust by letting her test his cushion covers at home (p. 212). Hence, it is evident that a person’s success is dominated by their personality, which determines how they can turn their luck and hard work into victory.

Finally, hard work is necessary to a great extent, however luck seemingly plays an even more important role. Although a hardworking person can succeed in an unfamiliar place, a lucky person nevertheless possesses a higher chance of succeeding. In the film Mao’s Last Dancer, Li and his first wife, Elizabeth, were not fated to sustain as a couple as their fates contrasted inevitably. Elizabeth’s hard work and undying passion for ballet could not defeat the bad luck that hindered her from becoming the ballerina she dreamt of. Contrastingly, had it not been because of Li’s good fortune, he might have gone back to square one when the Chinese consulate kidnapped him and threatened to send him back to China. Thus, he might not have ended up as a renowned ballet dancer, but perhaps an ordinary ballet teacher. The Vice President of the United States negotiated with the Prime Minister of China to grant him the permission to stay. Was it solely a coincidence that the Vice President’s wife was the patron of Li’s ballet academy? Li and Elizabeth both once shared the same dream, however destiny dropped them off at two different destinations. Unfortunately for Elizabeth, merely doing her utmost was simply not enough for a fairytale ending.

Overall, luck and hard work both play vitally important roles in emigrating successfully. The four characters analyzed in this essay distinctly portray the impact of luck and hard work on their lives. People like Li, Leopoldine and Najaf were predestined to succeed in their lives through their accomplishment, whereas destiny had different plans for Elizabeth’s future.


Davies, W and Dal Bosco, A 2001, “A Chip in Time – The Tale of Leopoldine
Mimovich” in Tales from a Suitcase, Lothian Books, Melbourne
Interview between Peter Thompson and Li Cunxin, 2006, Talking Heads, ABC TV, broadcast 9 October

Li Cunxin, 2003, Mao’s Last Dancer, Penguin, Melbourne

Mao’s Last Dancer, 2009, film directed by Bruce Beresford, Searchlight Films

Mazari, N and Hillman, R 2008, The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif, Insight Publications, Melbourne

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