Whether we like it or not, a good deal of what happens to us in our lives, our careers and our businesses comes down to luck and fortunate timing:
• The chance meeting with someone that led to a job and a career in the hottest growth industry in several decades.
• The positive shift in the market that takes place just as you get the top job.
All that being said, it is only the fool that sits back and does nothing, hoping against all hope that something lucky happens to them or that they win the lottery. The odds are higher that you will be killed in a car accident driving to buy a ticket to that $100 million lottery than that you will win the lottery.
So how can we manage Lady Luck in our lives and careers?
1. Remain Humble: Yes, you are talented and work hard. But luck played a factor in your success. Many other people could have gotten that great job; many other companies could have won that contract. Admitting that luck did help ensures that we remain humble in the wake of our success.
2. Practice Empathy: On the flip side, plenty of talented, hard-working people got into a bad situation or dying industry, often through no fault of their own. This does not make us better than them.
3. Be Persistent: Luck changes and situations change. If you feel that you are on the right path, then continuing to move forward persistently is necessary to make good things and good luck happen.
4. Prepare: Work hard, continue learning and be ready when you find yourself in the right place and at the right time. As Winston Churchill once said:
“To every man, there comes in his lifetime that special moment when he is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered a chance to do a very special thing, unique to him and fitted to his talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for the work which would be his finest hour.”
5. Be Opportunistic: When the right time and right opportunity do come, snatch at the opportunity with speed and hunger. As billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson said:
“Luck surrounds us every day; we are constantly having lucky things happen to us, whether we recognize it or not. I have not been any more lucky or unlucky than anyone else. The difference is when luck came my way, I took advantage of it.”
6. Acknowledge Uncertainty: With life and business so unsure, it is important to keep a strong focus on the near and midterm. Of course, we should still have a vision for the long term, but making an overly detailed long-term plan is usually an exercise in futility.
In summary, both our actions and luck matter. Or, as Napoleon once said: “I want generals who are really good and really lucky.”