Lets forget platitudes like working hard, being positive, focusing on goals etc. which are trite & boring. We have heard all that before.
What other steps can we take to get lucky?
Before we get to that, its worthwhile to clear a popular myth – that there is no such thing as luck, its all fate beyond our control. A person with such a belief tends to over focus on his own skills, plodding away at whatever he does, welcoming Mother Fate (or Fortune) when she happens to smile at him, but largely ignorant of all the fortuitous events happening all around him.
Its important to recognize luck exists. History showcases very interesting examples where luck played a key role in many ideas, inventions, discoveries, victories etc. We should also acknowledge many such pleasant accidents were not pure luck, and some skill was also involved. The exact proportion of skill & luck is difficult to discern, its not a science yet. But unless we consciously try to consider (even study) the role of luck in our lives, in various activities we do and witness, we cannot influence it.
A pragmatic way to think about this myth is to equate fate with luck, consider both are same, and look at ways to influence fate (aka luck) partially, if not completely.
So, what are some such ways which are within our control?
- Know the best people in your interest areas. They are the best passport to good luck. They have been there, done it before. They may be living, dead, far away or in the same town. We may not get to know them personally, but can know them indirectly, through other people, interviews, books etc. Study their lives, struggles, motivations & output. They can provide the best practical lessons. Its certainly useful to know such people personally. But mindless networking through social media may not help, & can even be a distraction. If you can’t know them personally, get into their orbit, know their fans, friends & colleagues, get into events & networks they participate in. Partner them, if you can.
- Take calculated risks. Accidents happen when we are outside our comfort zone, simply because thats where known & unknown factors come into play, and their confluence can create both good & back luck. Its not just the occasional small experiments we try out in our lives, but the more unusual stuff like a career shift, that will take us out of our comfort zones. A zig-zag life path can be more interesting & eventful than a straight path. And taking a few such calculated risks simultaneously can turn out to be more fruitful. The trick, of course, is to take calculated risks which maximize good luck (and minimize bad luck), which can only be learnt through practice. Vicarious learning helps, but we need to stick our necks out to earn our own good luck.
- Recognize the limits of luck. Being greedy on a lucky streak can turn out to be a disaster. We should recognize that its a big wave of good luck we are riding on, its not our skills making a difference, and its time to stop. Equally important is to recognize a streak of bad luck, cut losses and change direction. Blindly persisting with bad luck, hoping for a turnaround, can also be disastrous. Analyze worst case scenarios and bail out, earlier the better, because luck by definition is fickle. Recognizing the limits of luck is difficult because our emotions & biases thwart us. We need both vicarious learning & practice.
- Be curious. Knowing something about many things is tremendously helpful & interesting. We live in a complex world. What happens to, and around, us is usually because of multiple factors. Learning the core principles from many disciplines can help us understand ourselves & the world better. While getting luckier is an imperfect art, science has studied skill & luck over the ages. The more we know, the better the chances of improving our luck.
- Compound luck. Increasing good luck manyfold is possible when many things come together. Practicing all the above (and more) could compound good luck.
Lets finish with a checklist
- Who are my role models? Do i know them well? What are their techniques? Why did they succeed or fail?
- Do I personally know a few best practitioners in my areas of interest? How can I get to know them better?
- What calculated risks did I take last year? Can I take more such risks?
- What were my successes & failures in the last few years? What roles did luck & skill play? Did I bail out early or late?
- How many people, books, magazines, places & events outside my areas of interest did I expose myself to last year? Can I do better?
- Have I tried compounding luck? How can I make it work?