“Here’s to those who create their own luck!”
Of course there are quite a few people out there right now who may beg to differ as to whether or not it’s possible to “create” your own luck. In today’s economic climate luck seems to be more along the lines of “the luck of the draw” rather than anything you can control to the extent of creating the kind of luck you need or want. And among those “quite a few people” are quite a few small business owners who find themselves “down on their luck.”
The Luck Factor
Many of us think that some people are just luckier than others. Luck, after all, is arbitrary with no rhyme or reason. Luck is something that happens by chance, not something you can create.
Psychologist Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire has done some research that counters the perspective that luck is synonymous with chance. He decided to study the “lucky” versus the “unlucky” to see if he could discover anything that could “cause” good luck. And he did.
Wiseman didn’t pull his findings out of a hat – Wiseman conducted a “A ten-year scientific study into the nature of luck has revealed that, to a large extent, people make their own good and bad fortune. The results also show that it is possible to enhance the amount of luck that people encounter in their lives.”
In other words, it is possible to create your own luck. According to Wiseman’s article “The Luck Factor” that provides a summary of his findings, Wiseman presents four principles that those we may have formerly considered “born lucky” use to create their own luck:
“Principle One: Maximize Chance Opportunities. Lucky people are skilled at creating, noticing and acting upon chance opportunities. They do this in various ways, including networking, adopting a relaxed attitude to life and by being open to new experiences.
Principle Two: Listening to Lucky Hunches. Lucky people make effective decisions by listening to their intuition and gut feelings. In addition, they take steps to actively boost their intuitive abilities by, for example, meditating and clearing their mind of other thoughts.
Principle Three: Expect Good Fortune. Lucky people are certain that the future is going to be full of good fortune. These expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies by helping lucky people persist in the face of failure, and shape their interactions with others in a positive way.
Principle Four: Turn Bad Luck to Good. Lucky people employ various psychological techniques to cope with, and often even thrive upon, the ill fortune that comes their way. For example, they spontaneously imagine how things could have been worse, do not dwell on ill fortune, and take control of the situation.”
The Difference Between Luck and Chance
Lewis Schiff, executive director the Inc. Business Owners Council has a slightly different perspective on how you can create your own luck – but he is in complete agreement with Wiseman that luck is different from chance. When Wiseman was asked if there was a distinction between luck and chance in an interview posted on fastcompany.com he responded:
“There’s a big distinction. Chance events are like winning the lottery. They’re events over which we have no control, other than buying a ticket. They don’t consistently happen to the same person. They may be formative events in people’s lives, but they’re not frequent. When people say that they consistently experience good fortune, I think that, by definition, it has to be because of something they are doing.”
Schiff’s research for his book Business Brilliant found out something really interesting about “super successful” people:
“Super-successful people believe in luck. They believe in it more consistently than they believe in education, creativity, investing, and a lot of other things commonly associated with building wealth.”
He goes on to say that his data indicates that 80% of self-made millionaires say luck was an important contributor to their success, while only 42% of ordinary, everyday middle-class people admit to “believing” in luck. This might sound as if Schiff’s research “proved” that luck does indeed happen by chance and isn’t something we can create for ourselves. However, Schiff’s research indicated that, in fact, the very belief in luck contributes to “increasing the odds” of being lucky. Schiff offers up five “attitudes and habits” (versus Wiseman’s four principles) that the belief in luck fosters which, in turn, work to create our own luck.
“Narrow your goals and focus. Lucky people and wealthy people both commit to their goals and make their own luck in the process. Having a specific objective makes it easier to recognize a “lucky” opportunity when it comes your way because luck always favors a prepared mind. On the other hand, if you hedge your bets on a disparate set of goals, you can end up feeling lost and unlucky. As the ancient saying goes, “For a ship without a destination, there is no favorable wind.”
Play to win. The lucky and the wealthy go at their objectives full bore, with a positive, winning attitude, and in doing so, they maximize their abilities to profit from chance. For instance, in my book I describe how the most skilled and successful negotiators are always those who investigate the other side’s positions the most thoroughly. The better prepared you are in any business dealing, the more ready you are to deal with bad surprises that a less-prepared person might deem as “bad luck.”
Tighten up your network and recruit the right people. If you associate with people who consider themselves lucky, the studies show your luck will improve. Business Brilliant tells how friend-of-a-friend connections often produce opportunities for successful people that appear to be lucky when they are, in fact, the result of good network design. I found that self-made millionaires have smaller and tighter professional networks comprised of highly-networked people whom they know very well, and represent a wide range of fields. Develop a network of that kind, seeded with “connector” personalities who are familiar with you and your goals, and you will see your “lucky” opportunities multiply.
Work at your strengths. Super-successful people consider their ability to work doing the things they are skilled at as a major contributing factor to their success. Not coincidentally, working at your strengths is also how you develop such deep expertise in your work that you can pick up on patterns others don’t see. You are also more likely to trust your gut in decision-making. Both are defining traits of lucky people.
Be persistent and seek value in your failures. The two most impressive findings in my survey reveal how deeply the super-successful believe in the benefits of failure and persistence. Self-made millionaires, very unlike the middle-class, go right back at the things they fail at and are determined to learn from their mistakes. Surveys of lucky people show similar traits. Lucky people say they see the positive sides of their misfortunes, don’t dwell on the ill effects, and take corrective steps to avoid misfortune in the future.”
Stay in the Game No Matter What Hand Your Dealt
Luck may indeed have a lot to do with the “luck of the draw.” Certainly recent events in economic, social, and political spheres demonstrate the truth to the notion that there are things we cannot control. Things do “just happen.”
However, even the best card sharks in the world aren’t always dealt a winning hand. Instead, they leverage any chance opportunities that get played, listen to their hunches, expect the fortune of winning, and somehow manage to turn their bad luck to good. They also play to win, tend to associate with like-minded people, play their strengths, learn from their failures, and (perhaps most of all) persistently stay in the game.