Getting lucky. How to maximise luck

Luck can’t be manufactured but you can increase its odds.

What are the three words successful people say when asked how they achieved their success?

“I got lucky.”

Whether they actually attribute their entire success to luck or not isn’t the point.

After all, no one with a natural talent wants to come across as arrogant.

Equally, no successful person ever considers themself unlucky either.

But even a God-given talent will only get you so far.

Success requires not just talent but hard work and luck.

There are many talented-yet-failed musicians, artists and athletes in the world and that’s why success and luck are so intertwined.

Luck is a nebulous term and something we weave into conversations without explicitly stating it.

“I met my wife because I was in the right place at the right time.”

“This new client came to use through a chance meeting last week.”

“It was perfect timing that we caught the boat.”

The dictionary definition of luck describes it as a force out of your control and which causes good things to happen.

You can’t manufacture luck but you can increase its odds.

My life thus far has been a lucky one. From where I was born to everything that has happened to me since.

I can’t take any credit for my upbringing but for everything else I’ve taken action to increase my odds of luck.

University, travelling, moving to London, writing a blog, meeting new people, taking care of my health, improving my knowledge and skillset all increased my luck factor and thus chances of success.

If I didn’t do this I’d still be stuck on a building site working in the freezing cold.

Your definition of success may differ from mine but I tend to subscribe to Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s definition of success.

If you can look yourself in the mirror every evening and know that your 18-year-old self won’t be disappointed, you are successful.

So how do you increase your odds of luck?

You can’t expect luck to come your way without being proactive and taking action.

This is how to do it.

Do what you’re good at (and don’t follow your passion).

In the book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport makes the case that the advice “follow your passion” is flawed.

Passion is a fleeting emotion but having an in-demand skill increases your chances of luck.

Why? Because it opens new doors to people and places that wouldn’t otherwise be open.

Newport found that the people who love what they do for a living didn’t have a pre-existing passion for it. Instead, it developed as they honed their skills and began receiving recognition for their work.

In today’s market, you need to develop a multitude of skills, what is called a talent stack, to remain competitive rather than “following your passon.”

Go for the talents that you’re good at and are in demand and watch the luck follow.

Be a creator not a consumer.

There are hundreds of millions – if not billions – of content created each day.

It’s easy to go on a YouTube binge or read a ton of articles and think you’re being productive.

While knowledge acquisition is important you have to be a producer of content more than a consumer of it.

If you’re not creating content you’re not opening yourself up to the possibilities of people discovering you.

You’re not capitalising on the network effect of social media or being found in search engines or having people sharing your content among their friends and family.

When I say “create content” I don’t mean ranting and whining on Facebook or Twitter. Leave that to the losers.

Create digital content like articles, podcasts, videos, and ebooks. Over time the accumulation of your body of work will begin to compound and grow traffic exponentially.

Content that provides value to people will create opportunities and introductions that otherwise wouldn’t happen.

The future of media is with people not the large institutions. Find your niche and claim your stake.

Meet new people.

Good people are bringers of good luck.

In life, you’ll find there are some people you connect with from the get-go.

If you’re a positive person you’ll attract positive people. Likewise negative attracts negative.

If you’re into travel and adventure or health and fitness, people who share the same interests will gravitate towards you.

In our era of ‘the self’ many people in business tend to treat other people as transactional.

“Before I meet this person for a coffee, what can he do for me? What are my objectives from this meeting?”

It’s flawed thinking and you can spot these people are mile off.

If you’re not making new connections, you’re losing them. As we get older our friends die, move away, settle down and get too engrossed in their work.

If you’re not connecting with new people your network begins to weaken. Why do you think so many old people are lonely?

Friendships are a network that require strengthening and nurturing.

This could mean striking up a conversation with someone in public which happens much less today because we’re all glued to our phones.

Our current culture of political correctness doesn’t help because we are told we shouldn’t speak to someone unless spoken to. But someone has to make the first move and I refuse to allow the PC brigade dictate my life.

You can become more lucky by helping other people achieve success than you can ever be by getting other people to be interested in your own success.

In other words, be useful and figure out how to help people to bring more luck in your life.

Read Never Eat Alone to find out the best way to do it.

Get out of the routine.

People are creatures of habit and while having a routine is good for productivity it doesn’t increase your odds of luck.

Why? Because a routine consists of doing mostly the same thing week in week out.

There are no opportunities for something out of the ordinary to happen.

Getting out of the ‘same old’ routine widens your chances of new encounters and possibilities.

The word ‘routine’ derives from the word ‘route’. I walk a lot in London and occasionally change my route to increase my odds of discovering something new.

A routine is not strictly about the physical world. Many people are stuck in a routine when it comes to the media they consume.

Understanding viewpoints from multiple sources can open up your ways of thinking which can give you a different perspective and send you on a completely new path.

Routines are great for getting things done but not so great for increasing your odds of luck.

Live life in the big city.

When you live in a big city like London there are more ways to meet new people, to discover new things and, from a work perspective, there are more opportunities to advance in your career.

There aren’t as many opportunities living in a smaller town, although some people feel lucky they have the closeness and sense of community it brings in comparison to a city.

If you’re looking to increase chance encounters and take part in new activities then a city-based lifestyle is the only way.

Always be learning.

Warren Buffett’s right-hand man, Charlie Munger, says to become successful in life you have to become a learning machine.

Munger says the multi-billionaire Buffett would not have been as successful if hadn’t committed to being a “lifetime learning machine.”

The skills that Buffett acquired to make his company, Berkshire Hathaway, successful in the seventies are not the same skills that made it successful in the eighties, nineties and onwards.

Buffett and Munger’s thirst to become smarter every year is what makes them still successful to this day.

To increase chances of luck and thus success, you have to ensure you’re constantly learning new information and acquiring new knowledge.

The world doesn’t stay still and neither should your understanding of it.

“I’m a lucky man, with fire in my hand.”

Life is what you make it.

And so is luck.

I’ll be doing the best to maximise mine for the rest of my days.

But you never know what the harsh realities of life will spring on you.

Until then.

Written by Ste Davies

Ste ‘Stephen’ Davies is a freelance digital consultant, traveller, writer, podcaster and speaker based in London, UK. You can reach him here or follow him on Twitter below.

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