Make Your Own Luck

Mar 14, 2024

When the right opportunity unexpectedly lands in our laps, seemingly out of nowhere, we often attribute that to luck.

If you believe in Fortuna, the Roman goddess of fortune, or Tyche, her Greek counterpart, then you have your answer and can stop here. If not, then you should find this interesting. A lot of what we call “luck” can be attributed to a set of concrete factors, some that are out of your control, others that you can influence. Simply put, “The less you leave to chance the luckier you're likely to be” (ps: we’d love to credit the author of this, so let us know if you know!).

What philosophers say

The idea that luck is often intertwined with personal effort, preparation, and perspective is something that many thinkers throughout history agree on. Seneca (Roman Stoic philosopher) famously said "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”. Thomas Jefferson had a similar take on this "I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it."

What scientists say

Richard Wiseman is a psychologist and the author of “The Luck Factor”. He conducted several experiments around luck and came up with the idea that luck isn’t an independent variable but increases super-linearly with more surface area. We’ll touch on that more later on.

Another commonly quoted or paraphrased concept was introduced by Dr. James Austin in his 1978 book “Chase, Chance and Creativity” where he posited that there were 4 kinds of luck (blind luck, “persistent tinkering” luck, “prepared mind” luck and “perfect storm” luck). This ties in neatly to our view on the matter.

Let’s dive in and explore what you can do to become luckier.

What do we say?

We like to think of luck as a combination of being at the right place and time, having the mindset to see the opportunity, and being in a position to act on it.

Factors you can’t control

“Blind Luck” as James Austin calls it, features heavily here. We can’t control where or when we’re born. Yet, geography, history and socio-economics factor heavily into what is perceived as luck. If you’re not born with a financial safety net, you’re not in a position to easily make risky investments, for example. If you’re born without access to basic needs then you can’t necessarily explore diverse topics of interest or pursue various hobbies. Similarly, access to diverse networks and experiences as well as risk-tolerance is often directly correlated to your socioeconomic starting point.

These are things you can not change, that is the unfortunate truth. So let’s not linger here, but rather look at the other factors.

Factors you can control

It all starts with effort and persistence. You have to put the time in. Whether developing and honing a set of skills, staying curious and investing time to evolve those skills, or constantly tinkering and trying out new things, putting in the time and effort will inevitably put you in a better position and give you more shots at getting lucky.

This relates partially to the “persistent tinkering” luck mentioned by James Austin, but even more simply, hard work pays off financially which gives you more resources to take advantage of when an opportunity arises.

Diversification is the second factor. By getting out of your comfort zone, you expose yourself to new ideas and sources of inspiration. Whether it’s adopting an interdisciplinary set of interests, exploring new places or meeting different people, the wider your net, the higher the chances are that you catch something.

And finally, you need to adopt the right mindset. How you go about your day matters more than you can imagine. If you’re not looking for opportunities and receptive to them, you will inevitably miss them. So be on the lookout, adopt a positive, “lucky” mindset, and create the space necessary throughout all you do and the opportunities will follow.

How does your network factor into all of this?

Earlier, we mentioned Richard Wiseman’s notion that luck isn’t an independent variable but increases super-linearly with more surface area. One way to increase your surface area is through growing and nurturing your network. When you do that, you meet more people, make more connections between new ideas, discover new patterns.

Furthermore, proving your trustworthiness and expertise and developing a positive reputation within your network will inevitably lead to opportunities serendipitously popping up. The more people you help, the higher the possibility that people will reach out to you with an investment opportunity, an idea with huge potential, a talented potential employee or a priceless piece of information.

A strong professional network makes you luckier.

You shouldn’t factor luck into your planning, but you can definitely have a plan to maximize your chances of getting lucky. Now that you understand what luck entails, you can start today by simply adopting the right mindset and investing in your network.

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