There are heart-dominant entrepreneurs, who bring purpose and passion in the business world, and smarts-dominant leaders who apply rationality and facts to build their business. After studying how guts play an important rolein entrepreneurship, we will discover today the power of luck.
Luck is random, chaotic, selective, arbitrary, and seemingly beyond our control. We can’t cook up, conjure, or dream luck into being. We’re either born with luck, or we’re not — right? If we told you one morning to go out and spend the day being luckier, would you even know where to start? Is creating luck even possible?
I believe the answer, to some extent, is yes. Maintaining the right attitude based on a foundation of humility that helps drive intellectual curiosity and optimism goes a long way toward creating the quality we call “lucky.”
Acknowledging the part luck plays in their lives isn’t easy for most people. It’s tempting to take full credit for our own successes, especially if we’ve lived through a few. Acknowledging the role luck plays in our careers would oblige us to accept that we have less control over what happens in our lives than most of us want to admit.
We commonly come across three kinds of luck: circumstantial, constitutional, and dumb luck. Although you cannot alter the latter, I strongly believe you can work toward creating or strengthening the first two.
The three kinds of luck
Circumstantial luck occurs when you’re dining with a friend who bumps into a third person — who then ends up becoming one of your most important clients. None of this would have happened if he hadn’t chosen that particular lunch-date, or restaurant, or if that third party hadn’t shown up at just the right moment.
Constitutional luck occurs when an individual’s age, cultural background, nationality, and upbringing help predispose him to a certain outcome. Even attending the same college or university can help a person out. The business world can be insular and clannish, and the fortuitous similarity of a specific hereditary or cultural background can be useful making connections. (That said, it can also backfire.)
Age can certainly make a difference, too. Consider all those technologically minded individuals who began their careers at the cusp of the commercial Internet, and who profited from an industry that matched up well with their talents, ambitions and visions.
Lastly, dumb luck will always exist, though we tend to perceive it only after the fact. A classic example is winning the lottery: Your obliviousness to risk can paradoxically lead to success. For example, you may have bet a few bucks on horse №22 without realizing that the “7” on his betting slip actually meant $7,000, not $7.00. Oops.
Your horse wins — and so do you. It’s doubtful you would have taken the chance or risk had you known how much money was at stake.
Making yourself luckier
So how can you make yourself “luckier”?
First, no matter how powerful and successful you become, retain a measure of humility. Individuals who acknowledge their own vulnerability appear sometimes able to miraculously summon those individuals who can help them achieve their goals.
All of us have chance encounters, but luck-oriented people are humble enough to believe that in some cases, they have to seize these encounters as they happen, as the world won’t easily offer up such opportunities again. In sum, they intuitively understand where their personal control ends, and the rest of the universe begins.
Second, be driven by a profound intellectual curiosity. Be genuinely interested in the lives of others. Constantly seek to improve yourself and your business. Again and again, question the norm.
Luck-dominant people read, explore, reframe, discuss, argue, sample, and discard, all with an internal resolve to better themselves and challenge, inflame, and expand the perspectives they bring to their lives and businesses. Their eagerness to question their surroundings increases the likelihood that they can grab an opportunity as it swoops past.
Third and most importantly, have an optimistic attitude — one of belief in opportunity. Be a giver of energy rather than a taker of it. How we perceive our own luckiness can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as we found out from Zappos’ CEO Tony Hsieh.
Hsieh famously asked job candidates if they considered themselves “lucky,” since studies show that people who describe themselves as lucky are more likely to see beneficial hints and clues in simple puzzles. A questing, questioning perspective allows individuals to recognize and seize seemingly random opportunities. What we often brush away as “dumb luck” is more a function of attitude, readiness, and openness.
Yes, some agency is involved with being lucky. To increase your odds of striking luck, you need to be optimistic, willing to learn, and understanding that humility and vulnerability can coax out of the universe apparently random — and lucky — forces, events, and circumstances.