I have written in the past about how we should take into account the role of luck in our success. Most successful people are able to name at least one — often many — situations where they got lucky and that is what allowed them to get ahead. The interesting thing about luck is that there are two types: intrinsic luck; and luck generated by our actions. We often think that luck means something good has happened randomly that we didn’t foresee. This often isn’t the case, however. We can create our own luck. And in doing so we are able to increase access to new opportunities.
Random and Work Luck
Intrinsic (or random) luck is the first kind. This is the type of luck where something good happened and we don’t know why. We find a coin on the street. Or we are in the right place and end up being promoted. This only accounts for a small percentage of our luck. Most of our luck has been generated through our past actions.
The most common type is luck through working hard and producing high quality work. When you are working hard, other people will take note. Perhaps your boss will give you a raise after reading your last report. Or perhaps an idol of yours reaches out after reading one of your blog posts. This wasn’t just luck, this was down to your ability to work hard and work well. This is why I advocate for people to create their own asset — something that sets them aside and compounds over time. If you are writing on a blog every day, new opportunities will naturally come to you. People will see your work, appreciate your hustle and dedication, and reach out. And even if your work isn’t great, people will take note that you have turned up every day anyway and are very persistent.
In addition to working hard, you can also generate opportunities by being authentic. This is the most difficult type of luck to create. When you are authentic and build your own character, you will naturally find luck. Let’s say you are an investigative journalist who will not stop until they have found a good source. Other people may give up because they see a dead end. But you are known to keep going and dig as far as possible to find the source you need to publish an article. Then, you actually find the source your are looking for. This did not happen at random, but rather because you would not give up until you found the source. Over the long-term, this will pay off. Your article will get published, and other people will see it. Maybe the editor will congratulate you. Notice how this wasn’t just because you worked hard or something random happened, but because you have a specific character trait other people do not have.
You should always be aiming to create an identity which makes opportunities naturally come to you. One great example of this would be to become the kind of person who finds ways to be uniquely helpful. I have encountered a few people who finds ways to be helpful I hadn’t even thought of. And their help is greatly appreciated. These people usually experience more luck because their character pays dividends. They build better relationships with other people. They focus on giving first. Above all else, people don’t forget about the person who helped them overcome a challenge without even having been asked. There are many character traits that can generate luck. Being ethical and upholding a strong set of principles is another example — people will want to work with you because they know they can trust you to be true to your word.
Another way to ensure create luck under the heading of authenticity is to have a very unique — perhaps unconventional — trait which sets you aside from other people. If you are the kind of person who is always pursuing something new and is on the front line of a new idea, new opportunities will come to you. You are doing something bold and different to everyone else. And other people will pay attention. People will want to work with you because you are working with new ideas all of the time. Another example of an unconventional trait would be speaking your mind even when it will hurt your short-term prospects. Most people are not willing to sacrifice their short-term gain for their long-term prospects, which means this becomes a competitive advantage and thus a way to generate more luck.
The interesting thing about luck is that the product of luck builds up over time. Lucky things can happen at any time, especially if we are willing to work hard and cultivate a good personality. Over time, as we continue to create new work and build on our identity, new opportunities come to us, and they stack up. One week you publish a great guide to a technical topic and a company reaches out who wants to hire you as the new editor. The next week the editor-in-chief sees your capacity for doing great work and gives you a more important assignment to take on. The payouts of luck do not all happen at once, rather they take time to unlock. As we continue to find new opportunities, even more will come toward us. What I have found is that after unlocking a few opportunities, people reach out to you with even better offers. Why? They know you are capable of doing something and they want you on their team.
In short, go out looking for luck, and don’t leave things to chance. You can build your own luck by working hard and allowing opportunities to naturally come to you. Or you can build luck by creating a good character that makes other people want to work with you. Random things are going to happen; they are one of the greatest pleasures we have. That does not mean we should not aim to create more luck, though.