You’re watching a professional golf tournament, and a player sinks a seemingly impossible shot. The announcer might attribute it to luck, but I beg to differ. That golfer has probably worked thousands of hours to perfect that shot.
Having been in that situation, Gary Player, one of golf’s all-time greats, observed, “The harder I practice, the luckier I get.”
Luck seems to have a peculiar attachment to work. So my best advice is to work hard to develop your skills.
There are several types of luck, according to Dr. James H. Austin in his book “Chase, Chance, and Creativity.” The first is “Blind Luck,” which is like winning the lottery and requires mostly no action on your part. You simply are in the right place at the right time.
I prefer to focus on the three other kinds of “luck” where you can improve your odds, such as Dr. Austin’s second type of luck – “Motion.” Here he is referring to hard work, persistence, hustle and motion.
Or as Benjamin Franklin said, “Diligence is the mother of good luck.”
Abraham Lincoln is often quoted as saying, “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”
Certainly, hustling can be developed and cultivated. I’ve always felt that it doesn’t take any special ability to hustle, just a deep-down burning desire to get ahead. Anything you lack in talent can be made up with desire. People who hustle never quit. They have grit. They love to practice and get better each day.
Dr. Austin’s third type of luck is “Preparation.” Luck is definitely a factor in business, but most of the successful people I know say that luck was only a small percentage of their success. A much larger percentage came from hard work and preparation.
Canadian author Malcolm Gladwell explained that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in something. People thought “The Beatles” were an overnight success. Not true. They perfected their craft all over pubs in England.
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. And the best way to seek out opportunity is by networking – online or in person now that most of the country has opened up after Covid. Attend conferences, industry events or even community events. Volunteering is a great way to meet people. Don’t forget social media such as LinkedIn or Twitter. Bottom line is to become more sociable.
As Woody Allen famously said, “Eighty percent of success in life is just showing up.” So to increase your luck show up in places more often.
When I speak to corporate audiences, I say our lives basically change in three ways – the books we read, the people we meet and the places we travel to. It’s nice to hear speakers, but trust me, the person on your left, right, behind you and in front of you are way more important over a period of time in building your network. You never know when you will come across that opportunity that can change your life.
One such example of this is Joseph Pulitzer, the famous reporter, newspaper owner, congressman and namesake of the Pulitzer Prize. When he arrived in the United States from Hungary at age 17, he had no money and no job prospects. However, one day when playing chess at a local library in St. Louis, he met the editor of a local German-language newspaper who gave him his first job. The rest is history.
The last type of luck identified by Dr. Austin is “Luck Unique to You.” This is all about cultivating satisfied customers who are willing to recommend you and building a reputation for excellence. All it takes is one career-changing customer, and there you have your luck.
Return on Luck (ROL) is a concept developed by Jim Collins in his book, “Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck.” His research showed that great companies were not generally luckier than average companies, rather great companies got a higher ROL by staying focused on core values and processes.
If luck was just a hit-or-miss proposition, every organization would be on an even footing. But I firmly believe you make your own luck. Wishing doesn’t make it so. The most complete business plan doesn’t make it happen – unless you carefully execute that plan and make adjustments as necessary. Sure, you might get a break or two, but that won’t sustain your success. Good luck always starts with you.
Mackay’s Moral: The harder I work the luckier I get.
Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.
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