How to Put Yourself in the Position to Have Good Luck

I remember while in college at Duke, my best friend Stu Nash and I debated the characteristics that make you successful. We thought we had a pretty good list: hard work and a good education, that sort of thing. We bounced our list off my Dad, and he said, “Son, you’ve forgotten Luck!”

You cannot avoid chance. It is all around us. It’s the ball that bounces off the rim, instead of going in to win the game. It’s bumping into my old friend Steve Schueler in San Jose when I hadn’t seen him in 10 years because he lives in Copenhagen. It’s Andrew Berg, meeting Michael Brown, the owner of Death Wish Coffee at QuickBooks Connect, and becoming his accountant, as previously written.

So, how is it that chance seems to favor some, more than others? Are they just luckier, or is it something else? I think those who we describe as lucky are actually doing something differently: they are deliberately driving more encounters, discovering more connections and cutting their losses sooner.

Let’s explore these differences:

  1. More Encounters: Whether at work or home, following your usual routines in your usual patterns will yield very little upside when it comes to luck. A single encounter has a very small probability of changing your personal or professional life for the better. So, you need to think about each individual encounter as a single step toward a complete journey. One meeting may lead to another and then another, until you have that one “lucky” encounter that dramatically impacts your life. So, look up from that smartphone and put yourself out there. Go to the event, make time for the dinner party or join that book club. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you bring your whole engaged self. And, it’s not just new encounters. Keep in touch with friends and family, and reach out to old colleagues and former bosses. Today, with social media, we now have the opportunity to go beyond one-on-one networking and create our own connected communities. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are not the waste of time they appear; when actively used, they create valuable encounters. For small businesses, the online community OWN IT is a great example of small business owners and self-employed entrepreneurs coming together to support each other in a community that aims to raise the bar for all.
  2. Discover More Connections: If you’re running your own business, life is probably pretty hectic and you don’t have a lot of spare time. But, the drive to constantly learn is one huge factor that separates the lucky from the unlucky. Networking puts you in front of those fortuitous moments, but you still have to develop the ability to discover and identify the dots and then connect them. Reading, even if it’s for just 15 minutes a day, is one of the easiest ways to gain perspective or uncover something new. There’s also many great online learning and training options, such as Lynda.com, Coursera and Skillshare, where you can learn about coding, marketing, SEO and website design – essentially anything you can think of to make you a more well-rounded business person. Lucky people are constantly learning so they can spot the new opportunity in front of them.
  3. Cutting Your Losses: Okay, this is the hard one. I’m told that if someone plays a lot of poker, they eventually will be dealt the same hands experienced by someone else. But, over the long haul, some players will win, and some will lose. The difference is that the great poker players are still in the game with chips to play when the good hand comes along. If you are in business and an approach isn’t driving the results you need, why are you still sticking with it? If you have a supplier who isn’t reliable or a client who isn’t paying you, why are you still working with them? Unlucky people travel on hope for too long, thinking these situations will eventually turn around. Instead, move on quickly and cut your losses so that you can save some chips and stay in the game. Focus your energy on pursuing that new idea, delivering for the client that pays you or building a tighter relationship with the supplier that puts you first – that just may lead to the next big thing.

Maybe all of us will “come up aces” a little more often if we take deliberate steps that increase our odds. Good luck!