A Practical Guide to Creating Your Own Luck
You know those people who seem to have the world fall into their laps? Yeah, you know the ones. They're the luckiest people on this planet and "if I had 10 million dollars I could do that too!"
Is luck this elusive fairy godmother that only grants wishes to a few randomly selected good looking people? Perhaps it isn't as random as we'd like to think. In fact, it might be—to an extent—reproducible. I want to pull back the curtain a bit and give us a glimpse into the world of opportunity because I believe that with practice, time and a little work, we might be able to create a bit of luck for ourselves.
1. Prepare for opportunity
I read an article today about the four women who are being trained for a space mission to Mars. Their training will be taking place over the next 15 years as they build a skill set that will prepare them for a host of potential situations in outer space. Thankfully, preparing for opportunity doesn't take 15 years, but a lot of the principles remain.
a. Cultivate Relationships
Relationships are your bread and butter of opportunity. Most careers, big breaks and overnight successes happen in part because of who you know. Building and cultivating your network is not some schmoozy tactic to trick a bunch of people into liking you and helping you out down the road. It's about genuine relationships built on giving, not taking. More often than not, if you're loving on people and giving them value at every turn, they'll present you with opportunity without you having to ask because the foundation of giving is already there.
b. Expand your skill set
While some people will give jobs to their cousin's best friend's next door neighbor without checking out their resume or experience, most people won't. You can have the best connections in the world but if you can't do jack, nobody's going to give you a shot. Expanding your skill set isn't difficult, but it can be time consuming. Start with your core skill - most people have one thing that they're pretty proficient at already whether that's design, sales, writing, cooking, mechanics etc. From there, expand your skill set by branching out to adjacent skills. Adjacent skills are those skills that have a related knowledge set to your core skill but different by a few degrees. For a computer technician, it may be learning how to build and repair mobile phones. For the salesman, it might be writing sales copy. For the pianist, it may be learning to compose music. In each scenario, adjacent skills allow you to copy and paste certain knowledge sets to a slightly different skill and, with a small learning curve, increase the value of your skill set.
Related Reading: Thinking about a liberal arts degree? Think about this first.
c. Never stop creating
Personal projects are one of the most valuable assets you have to creating your own luck. With each project you take on, you're increasing the chances of someone seeing your work and connecting it with a need in their mind (aka: creating an opportunity). It doesn't matter whether you have the most secure job in the world (it's never a guarantee) or you're unemployed - pursuing personal creative outlets is an expression of your talent, creativity and willingness to work.
Related Reading: How to gain a 3-5 year head-start right out of college.
2. Look for opportunity
Opportunity exists around us in all of its glory, but it can be difficult to see if we're not trained to see it. Sadly, this is one piece of the puzzle I haven't learned well enough. I'm good at preparing for opportunities and jumping at opportunities when I do see them but I haven't mastered the seeing part just yet. Maybe you guys have some tips for me on this? Leave them in the comments below!
Looking for opportunity is like hunting - if you want to increase your chances of bagging something, go where that animal is more likely to be. Being aware of what is going on in your company, industry, city or world is a big part of anticipating where opportunity might be found. Wayne Gretzky, dubbed the "greatest hockey player ever," once quipped, “skate to where the puck is going.” Well said, Wayne. Well said.
3. Jump at opportunity
When opportunity comes, only a few people are crazy enough to take it. Why? Because opportunity is often veiled by fear, risk and uncertainty.
a. The worst-case scenario usually isn't all that bad
One of the most effective anti-fear practices is to ask yourself, "what is the worst-case scenario?" Okay, you got it? Now, ask yourself, "can I recover from it?" In most cases, the answer is yes. Things might be tight for six months. You may have to start your project over from scratch. You may have to find a new job. But you can recover. And those are just the extreme cases! Rarely is the worst-case scenario actually as bad as the picture our fear has painted for us.
b. You'll regret missed opportunity not failed opportunity
On your death bed, you'll be more likely to regret not taking a chance than taking one and failing. To regret a missed opportunity rather than an opportunity gone awry. Because even in the bad times, you're being shaped and molded into a better version of yourself.
Related Reading: How to Turn Trials into Upgrades
4. Capitalize on opportunity
Congratulations! You've made the leap and taken a chance on an opportunity. Now that you're here, the job isn't over—it's just begun. You must take advantage of the infinite sub-opportunities that spring from the first. Be prepared, watching and ready to jump at each one.
a. Cultivate Relationships
Remember, this is the very first point at the top of this article. Relationships are the bread and butter of opportunities. Take advantage of the fact that you're probably going to be near people who are either knowledgeable or well-connected in your particular industry. Ask for introductions; the power of a mutual friend will go along way in establishing credibility between you and your new acquaintance.
b. Add value
If you've been given an opportunity, don't screw it up by not giving 100%. This is your time to prove yourself but not through flashy business cards or spouting off about how much you know. Stay humble and add value. This means serving in capacities that might not be in your job description. This means coming in early and staying late. This means delivering beyond what is expected of you. This means making things easy on the people you're working with. The more you add value, the more they appreciate and notice your ability to do so.
c. Follow up
The opportunity is coming to a close. You've met influential people, had some incredible experiences and learned some valuable skills. Now you have to follow through. Update your resume and LinkedIn to reflect your new experience and skills. Write thank you notes to the people who gave you the opportunity. Write follow up notes to the people you met expressing how nice it was to meet them and your appreciation for their [fill in the blank]. Ask if these people can refer you to other individuals or organizations that might be of interest to you. Then go interact with those new contacts using your mutual connection to establish credibility. Repeat.
Opportunity is a fickle thing - it doesn't like to wait up for you, drag you along or tell you to shut up and sit down. You have to play it by ear and do everything you can to do something good for other people. But if you play your cards right... you just might get lucky.