In most success stories, luck plays at least a partial role. Someone found themselves in the right place, at the right time, talking to the right person or sharing their work on the right platform. They got lucky.
Or did they?
The importance (and unimportance) of luck
When it comes to success (and I use this word in the context of whatever “success” looks like to you), people tend to either underestimate or overestimate the importance of luck. We either think luck isn’t a factor and, if we go all in, at some point success will be ours. Or, at the other end of the scale, we assume success is mostly down to luck. One scenario can lead to feelings of demoralisation, the other to feelings of helplessness and disempowerment.
In his excellent book On Writing, Stephen King shares “By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.”
What does this quote tell us? Yes, the willingness to persevere in the face of rejection. But it also shows work, enough work to amass a nail’s worth of rejection slips. The amount of work it takes to go back again and again, and to keep writing.
Luck is a part of success. But there’s also a lot we can do to influence that luck, to make it more likely we’ll be in that right place at that right time, talking to that right person and sharing our work with the right pair (or pairs) or eyes.
How to be more lucky
1. Consistency: The more consistently we show up and do the work, the more likely we are to be in that right place.
By showing up each morning, putting bum in seat and working towards being the best writer we can be (or artist or designer or whoever you are and want to be), we’re not guaranteed success. But we certainly stand a better chance of being successful.
2. Connection: The more we immerse ourselves in sharing our work, connecting with fellow creators, and being visible, the more opportunities we will create.
The act of writing itself is a solo pursuit, but being the act of becoming the best writer we can be isn’t. Ditto with luck and success. We’re human, which means we thrive on connection. Too often, the number one thing that impedes that connection is us. We worry about what people will think of us, we ask “Who am I to do this?” and we count ourselves out before we’ve even begun. Which brings us to…
3. Self-concept: The more we believe we are worthy of luck and success, the more likely we are to make the most out of those opportunities. Numbers one and two on this list will only take us so far. Self-concept is one of the most crucial pieces in the puzzle. As Fabeku Fantunmise said in our interview for The Entrepreneur’s Inner World, “you have to be willing to take up space.” And, to take up space without self-sabotaging or flaming out, you need to believe you’re worthy of doing so.
Psychologist Richard Wiseman studied luck for 10 years. He found the question of how to be more lucky is not down to some mysterious universal force, it’s our beliefs.
In one study, participants were given a task to count the number of images in a newspaper. People who self-identified as unlucky took around two minutes to do this. People who self-identified as lucky took around two seconds.
Does believing you’re lucky make you a faster reader or lead to more accurate intuitive guesses? No. People in the lucky group were more likely to see the notice on the second page that said “Stop counting, there are 43 images in this paper.”
That message was available to every participant, but the lucky people were more likely to spot it. The unlucky people were so busy counting pictures, they missed the answer staring them in the face.
This is the trifecta of luck: consistency, connection and self-concept.
The trifecta of luck like a 3-legged stool: if you take away one piece, it doesn’t work. If you believe you’re worthy of luck, connect with all the right people, but don’t actually do the work to back it up, no dice. If you trust you’re worthy, show up with dedication and consistency but do so only in isolation, you’ll miss out on key opportunities. And, as we’ve already looked at, if you do the work, make the connections but don’t truly accept you’re deserving of success, that lack of belief will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Which part of the trifecta could use your attention? Leave a comment and share how you’re going to create more luck in your life and work.
Image: Irene Dávila