Ask incredibly successful entrepreneurs – ask people who are incredibly successful in any pursuit – and ever one of them will say luck played an important role in their success. Talent, expertise, determination, perseverance, all those qualities and many more are certainly important. But so is luck: meeting the right person, being at the right place, making a snap decision that turns out so much better than you ever expected…
I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it. –Thomas Jefferson
It’s easy to assume successful people are just luckier than the rest of us. Take Bill Gates: Lucky enough to go to one of the few schools with a Teletype connection so he could learn to program. Take Paul Allen: Lucky enough to stumble across an article which led to the idea to convert Basic into a product that could be used on an Altair computer… and lucky enough to be friends with Bill Gates… who was lucky enough to then be at Harvard and with access to a PDP-10 computer to use to develop and test the new operating system.
But were Bill and Paul simply lucky? Of course not.
Luck isn’t just a random gift from the universe. (Winning the lottery is, but that’s a different kind of luck.) Luck actually has less to do with what happens to you and more to do with how you think and act.
Luck does involve an element of chance, but “lucky” people respond to circumstances by spotting the opportunity and then acting on that opportunity. In fact, lucky people create their own luck by actively seeking to put themselves in the right place at the right time – and being in the right frame of mind to seize “lucky” opportunities.
So how can you become incredibly lucky? How do you manufacture luck? Do what other “lucky” people do:
1. They meet more people.
Think of someone you know who got lucky and met the right person at just the right time: The hiring manager your friend met at a party, just days after she had lost her job; the angel investor your friend met at a fundraiser just days before his startup would have run out of operating capital; the CEO your met at a school play who became his company’s biggest account.
Luck? Yes… and no.
You can’t luck into meeting the right person unless you meet a number of people: The more people you meet, the more your odds of getting lucky increase. If what you need involves people – to buy, to connect, to mentor, to advise, to anything – then you can only “luck” into the right sale or relationship or partnership if you actively try to meet the right kind of people.
Get out. Meet people. Talk to the guy beside you on the plane. Talk to the woman behind you in line. Send a complimentary note to someone you don’t know who did something awesome. You never know whom you might meet, especially if you assume good things will happen.
Fortune favors the brave, but fortune also favors the prepared. When you assume good things will happen you will be primed to seize the opportunity when you meet – and in time, you will – meet the right people.
2. They try more.
You would love to sell to bigger customers. You never will… unless you try. A lot.
You would love to connect with influential people in your industry. You never will… unless you try. A lot.
You would love to land a better job. You never will… unless you try. A lot.
Most incredibly lucky people are incredibly persistent. They try, and try, and try some more. Many of those efforts don’t pan out.
A few do. Is that luck or is that persistence, and a willingness to learn from what didn’t work so that next time you are even more prepared, more skilled, more talented… and therefore more “lucky”?
Take chances. Reach. Try. When you succeed, others will think you were lucky. (You’ll know you weren’t; you’ll know you made your own luck.)
3. They expand their boundaries.
Doing the same things day after day typically yields the same results. Take on a side project. Learn a new skill. Open up to different experiences. Do something you assume (but don’t actually know) you won’t like.
The more you do, the more likely that good things will happen.
Quick tip: Next time you’re at the news stand (real or virtual), pick a publication that you normally wouldn’t read. Something out of your immediate industry. Read the articles and the ads.
4. They give.
Birds of a feather do actually tend to flock together. Mediocrity tends to flock with mediocrity; exceptional tends to flock with exceptional; only fools tend to suffer fools gladly.
And giving people tend to associate with other giving people – and by giving, they make each other “lucky.”
Giving creates relationships. When you’re sincerely generous, other people respond in kind: With advice, with connections, with assistance… with everything.
When you give out of sincerity and without the expectation of reciprocity, you won’t have to hope you’ll be lucky in your friends.
You will have earned your friends – and the luck that comes with them.
5. They ask.
Luck often comes down to the right person saying, “Yes”: To your idea, to your startup, to your pitch, to your proposal, to your request.
No one can say yes until you ask, though.
Unlucky people wait to be discovered and given what they want. Lucky people discover themselves and ask for what they want.
Want the job? Ask for it. Want the sale? Ask for it. Want the investment? Ask for it.
Many people will say, “No.” A few will say, “Yes.”
Other people will assume you got lucky. You will know you made your own luck.
Another confession: I’m terrible at asking for things. Really, really bad. If you’re like me, another thing to try is instead of asking, try to give more.
Here’s the bottom line: Luck, true luck, is something you can’t control. Luck, bad or good, happens to us.
What we can control is how we respond to circumstance or chance, and more importantly how often we put ourselves into positions where we can be “lucky.”
You know the old phrase, “It’s better to be lucky than good?”
I disagree: It’s better to be good… because then you will also be lucky