Most of us have had someone say to us, “You’re so lucky.” Sometimes we have to remind the person admiring our luck that we did the work that made luck possible. Louis Pasteur once commented that, “Luck favors the prepared mind.”
Even in a situation that appears entirely based on luck such as winning a lottery, there is an element of preparation. One cannot win a lottery without first attaining a lottery ticket.
In the end, most of our successes are a combination of our hard work and some luck. It is not about rabbit’s feet, four-leaf clovers, talismans or salt tossed over a shoulder. Our luck arrives because we worked to make it happen. There are some basic things you can do to help make it easier for luck to find you. None of these will guarantee success, but they will help you get closer to your goal.
It’s not just enough to listen, you have to learn to listen actively. Make an effort to remember details. It is in those remembered details that you will be able to leverage into lucky moments. It is not enough to have heard that May 15th is always National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day. You have to listened actively enough to have filed that fact away. When you see your calendar for May next year, you’ll remember and act on the fact. You will have chocolate chip cookies on May 15th. Lucky you!…no, prepared because you listened.
2) Take measured risks.
To change your luck, either what you are doing has to change or the situation you are in has to change. Situations rarely spontaneously change. When they do, it is rarely for the better. The easiest way to change your luck is to change your tactics.
If you want to be self-employed, you have to start producing or providing something someone wants. I am a magician. Most of the shows I am hired to do happen because someone has seen me do a show. No one was going to hire me to do a show if they had never seen me. That meant I had to take a risk and perform as a gift for a friend’s daughter. I took the risk.
Remember to take reasonable risks. Figure out what you are risking and whether you can afford to lose it. If I booked nothing from that first show, I had lost only the cost of doing the show. That cost would not leave me homeless. I recently produced a new magic trick. It will cost me $300 to get started. I have given away about half the items produced to those who have been friends and supporters. This partly honors our friendship. I hope it also gets some buzz going. If I sell the remaining items, I will break even. I could afford a $300 loss now. The worst that could happen is that I will not be able to afford to attend a seminar I wanted to attend this year.
3) Do not make it always about you.
I am a big fan of Sandra Singh Lo on NPR. She does a segment called “The Lo Down on Science.” I belong to the Academy of Magical Arts. One week they featured Rudy Coby (a.k.a. Lab Man) and several other magicians in a week themed as “Magic vs Science.” While I knew neither party personally, I reached out to both and helped them make a connection. I do not know if anything will come of it. I do know that both people were interested in making that connection. I also know that I made the acquaintance of two people I greatly admire. Doing something for others can only set me up for good stuff in the future.
Be prepared to do for others. Sometimes you give and the only reward is a good feeling. Sometimes what you give will come back three-fold, or seven-fold or ten-fold. Do it out of altruism, and not with an expectation of anything more.
4) You have to show a little trust.
You can win a lottery by yourself. Most successes require team effort. You cannot do it alone. You need the support and safety net provided by the people who know and care about you. Choose a group who will be honest with you and tell you that you are getting off target. You can choose to ignore their feedback, but honest feedback is valuable. Those people who care about you will also provide a safety net. When it’s tough getting a new enterprise going, they can provide the freedom to keep trying.
5) Play to your strengths.
Know what you do well, and do it. Know what cannot do yet, and get either help or instruction. Do not pretend to have skills you do not. Use the team of people you have around you to complete the picture. Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Work on building on what you do well, and on erasing those things you do not. Doing what you do best will help increase your chances of “lucking out.”
6) Ask for what you want.
We teach children to make a wish, but do not tell anyone what you wished for. If you do, the wish will not come true. What nonsense! The best way to make a wish come true is to communicate what you want.
If you want chocolate ice cream for dessert, your best chance of getting it is to communicate that desire to the person fixing dinner. If you want to rent a small shop near the freeway to open a new business, let everyone know. You cannot be everywhere. You never know who might see the perfect spot. You never know someone who is looking for a tenant.
On a recent trip to Las Vegas, I wanted to see a very expensive show. I could afford one ticket for myself, but not a ticket for the friend who would be traveling with me. In discussing the situation with a friend, her 15-year old son said, “Hang on. I think I can help you.” Before ten minutes were up, I had an email from the people in charge of selling tickets for the show offering me a special VIP discount. The amount was nearly 30% under the lowest price I had found for any tickets. When I went to Vegas, my friend and I sat front-row center at a show I could not have afforded a balcony seat in. I got lucky. This 15 year-old had a best friend whose brother was working for an executive in the office that arranged this deep discount.
Remember you have to communicate who you are, what you need, when you need it, and sometimes why you need it. You have to make sure you communicate your needs clearly, respectfully and entirely.
Remember that when you get lucky, you also need to communicate your gratitude to those who made it possible. A thoughtful thank you note, or a small gift of gratitude will make others more willing to do for you again.
People tend to think of “luck” as an unknown and unpredictable phenomenon. There will always be an element of chance in the things we do, but Pasteur was correct when he said that “Luck favors the prepared.” Do your homework, listen, gather information, help others, take risks, identify your strengths and create a support system. When you do “get lucky” your hard work will pay off.
Make your own decision whether or not to correct the person who says, “Good things always happen to you.” You will know that you made your own luck.