A few posts back I introduced the concept of ‘luck’ as a principle of entrepreneurship but also reflected that in my experience that my own ‘luck’ as a blogger has in part arisen out of decisions I’ve made.
I’m fascinated by the idea of people making their own luck – or creating a lifestyle that perhaps enhances their luckiness and thought that in this post I’d unpack 13 factors that I’ve seen in my own experience and the stories of others that might come into play when it comes to luck.
1. Put yourself out there – Warning, Tangent Ahead – I met a guy at a conference a few weeks back – a nice guy, a smart guy, a reasonably good looking guy…. and a lonely guy. We were having a beer and the conversation got around to ‘girls’. I was talking about my partner ‘V’ and he was lamenting (four beers later) that he couldn’t seem to meet girls. Hi comment: ‘There are no good chicks left’. To cut a long (and slightly slurred) conversation short I asked him a few questions that basically identified that he never puts himself in a position where he ever meets ‘chicks’. His life consists of work (in a male dominated workplace), playing football (in an all male team), playing video games (alone at home) and watching TV (sports – with mates or alone). Even at the conference he was hanging out with ‘the boys’. In short this ‘nice, smart, reasonably good looking, lonely guy was not putting himself in a position for a chance meeting with that ‘chick’ he was looking for to happen.
As I reflect upon the ‘lucky relationships’ that I’ve started in the last year in my business I would say that the main reason that every one of them happened was because I put myself in a position where it could happen. I’m a pretty shy guy and don’t always find it easy to meet people – but I know that the more you put yourself out there and present yourself as an approachable and contactable person the more people will approach and contact you. The more people approach and contact you the greater the chance of that lucky relationship that could emerge into something more profitable. So put yourself out there – present yourself as someone who is interested in meeting people and give them a way to contact you and you’re one step closer to a lucky encounter.
2. Know what You Want – One of the wisest pieces of advice I’ve had over the last couple of years was to think about the future and create some goals and objectives. I’ve written pretty extensively about strategy as it relates to blogging in recent months but I’d widen some of those concepts to ‘life’ also. You see when you know what you want and where you would like to be in the future – if an opportunity presents itself to you you are in a position to judge pretty quickly if its a good one or not.
Part of being lucky is knowing which opportunities to take as they present themselves to you. Goals and objectives will give you a filter to run the opportunities through.
3. Ensure Others know what You Want – Knowing what YOU want is important, but you can increase the chances of opportunities coming along that fit with your objectives when others know what you want and send opportunities your way.
Tangent Time – When I was young I collected Football Cards (cards with Australian Rules Football players on them that came with terrible bubble gum). My objectives was to collect the whole Carlton team (go Blues!) each year. Most of the team were easy to collect but every year there were always one or two elusive players (the card makers knew what they were doing) that were difficult to get. However I made sure my whole class knew that I was in the market for Carlton players – and would make a point of telling people which cards I still needed. As a result when one of them was trading cards with someone else in the school (or outside of school) and they saw a card I wanted they would generally know that and let me know of the opportunity to trade. I got the full set every year pretty easily – not because of my own connections – but because others in my social network knew what I wanted and sent anything that fitted with it my way.
The same is true in business (and life). Be clear of what you want and find ways to communicate it to those around you and step back and let nature take it’s course.
4.Know Your Stuff – It’s amazing what opportunities are served up to people who are perceived experts in a field. One of the things I love about blogging is the way that it gives ordinary people a voice on topics that they’d love and how through just creating spaces for conversations around these topics that they can become ‘go to people’ within their niche.
I’ve experienced this many times personally in the past year here at ProBlogger. While I never present myself as ‘the expert’ on anything – this blog has demonstrated that I do know some things about certain aspects of blogging. As a result many opportunities have come my way that I’d not dreamed of before – purely because people believe I know my stuff.
5.Expect the Unexpected – Most ‘lucky’ people that I know have a real knack of spotting unexpected opportunities from a mile off. These sorts of people are not just observant (this is part of it) but also always asking themselves how what they see happening around them could potentially impact them in a positive way.
Of course being this type of person means creating space in your life to actually see what’s going on around you. Sometimes in my busiest times I wonder what amazing opportunities are passing me by simply because I don’t allow time to see them.
6. Be an Optimist – Seeing what’s going on around you is not enough on it’s own. Lots of people watch the world pass them by and are paralyzed by it because it all just seems so overwhelming. Lucky people have a knack of finding the gold specs in the grit of life.
My wife is a little like this. There’s something about ‘V’ that just seems to attract good fortune – but the more I’ve got to know her over the years the more I realize that she’s just on the look out for good fortune in life and when she sees it she grasps onto it and rides it for all it’s worth. In a very humble way ‘V’ almost seems to expect good things to happen to both herself and those around her and, almost spookily, good things do happen.
7. Be a Skeptic – Optimism should always be balanced with a healthy level of skepticism. One of the things about ‘putting yourself out there’ is that you will get approached, sometimes by a lot of people and sometimes by people with ideas that are just not good. Overdo it with the optimism and you could end up choosing the wrong opportunity and ‘luck out’.
A healthy level of skepticism (or perhaps discernment is a better word) can help to filter out the good from the bad and leave you with the true gems to go after.
8. Relax – I read somewhere (some time ago) that unlucky people are often more tense than lucky people and that anxiety disrupts ability to see and take opportunities. I’m not sure who did the study (or how) but this fits with my own experience of luck also.
While I think being single minded and focused can be a good attribute to have, too much of it can actually mean that you focus so much upon one thing that you can lose sight of the big picture and the opportunities that might exist around the edges.
9. Be Flexible – You can do all of the above and identify some great opportunities but be so enmeshed in different aspects of life that it’s impossible to maneuver to yourself into a position to take advantage of the ‘luck’ that comes your way. Being able to change directions quickly enough to ride the waves of luck that do come along from time to time is something that many businesses (and people) are unable to do.
10. Notice the Little Things – I chatted with one aspiring Web 2.0 type recently who was complaining that all the big ideas were being worked on already and that there was nothing left to do. As he talked I realized that he was talking about projects that others were doing that seemed so grand and large. I began to toss around with him where some of these ‘grand ideas’ must have come from and we came to the realization that in most cases they probably didn’t start with a massive plan or project but rather started by trying to solve a simple problem.
This is the impression I get when I read about the early stages of companies like Google. I’m pretty sure that it’s founders didn’t have the goal of organizing the world’s information (all of it) as their primary goal when they started – instead they started with a series of smaller problems (problems are potential opportunities) and issues and grew from there.
Most of what I see happening in the Web 2.0 space at the moment seems to emerge from this principle.
11. Turn Bad Luck into Good Luck – Perhaps one of the main skills that lucky people have is in dealing with bad luck when it happens (and it does happen to us all). When things go wrong, when obstacles get in our way and when it feels like time to give up – some people do in fact give up while others persist and ask ‘how can I turn my misfortune into a positive?’ Perhaps this is just another way of saying ‘be an optimist’ but I think it goes deeper.
12. Mix things up – While I’m all for establishing a rhythm or routine in one’s life (I find it helps me work better) I am very aware that one of the problems with routines is that they often lead people to become comfortable, content and safe. They also can lead to a life where ‘new things’ become uncommon. As I look back on some of the lucky things that have happened to me in the last couple of years I realize that most of them have happened as a result of exploring something new.
Routines are great – but Introduce an element of randomness into your life and you might be surprised by the chance encounters and new discoveries that you might make as the world as you know it bumps into new things.
13. Listen to your Gut – I’m a big believer in listening to my gut reactions to things. I don’t really understand why or how it happens but intuition is a fairly big part of the way I operate. For me it’s almost a spiritual thing at times and at other times it’s just a vibe or a feeling of resonating with or reacting against something that happens to me. Whatever it is I’m learning to listen to it more and more and find that when I do it often leads me in the right direction.
I’m sure I could find more things to talk about where it comes to talking about luck but 13 points seems an appropriate place to end. I’m sure others will share their own tips on how to be lucky in comments below – so feel free to add your own experiences.