How to Create Your Own Luck

Sunset from the bean bag bars on Seminyak Beach in Bali – about 5 minutes from where I’m staying.

On a fairly regular basis I get people telling me how lucky I am.

By all accounts I am very fortunate to live this lifestyle.  If I’d found someone doing this while I was holed up in my cubicle, I’d probably call them lucky too.

All luck is not created equal however.  When people make remarks to me, they usually come in one or two different forms:

  1. “Man, you’re really lucky, I wish I could do that.”
  2. “The only reason you can do what you’re doing is because you got lucky.”

There’s a very big distinction between those two statements. It’s important to address the idea of luck when it comes to entrepreneurship, and on a more broad basis, the effect of luck on life in general. All too often people chalk up their own situation to their bad luck, or even worse to other’s good luck.

Let’s address statement number one. Those first people have simply prioritized other things in their life.  Yes, I’m pretty lucky I get to do what I do.  But most of those people who are saying “I wish I could do that” – can in some capacity do something similar.  It will just take a little persistence and sacrifice in other aspects of life. I don’t own a car and frequently shun some of the creature comforts I used to take for granted.

Now, the people I really want to address are the ones who look at what I do and say the only reason I can do it is because I got “lucky”.

Bottom line, I got extremely lucky – just like every other successful entrepreneur in the world.

You have to have a little luck in order to make it.  Maybe it’s meeting a big investor, the right mentor, or any number of other game changing breaks.

But here’s the thing, while successful entrepreneurs are all lucky – they also share one other important trait: they created their own luck.

“Luck is when preparation meets opportunity” – Roman Philosopher, Seneca

Yes, cheesy quote I know, but there’s no better way to sum up entrepreneurship.  If you’re willing to work and put in the time to achieve whatever goal you’re after, opportunity will present itself – and when it does, most will give the pseudo-insulting response and say you got lucky.

But you know better.

You know luck isn’t just manifested out of think air, it’s created. 

I’ll illustrate this with a couple examples from my own life:

Working with Chris Guillebeau

I can’t tell you how many people have said I was “lucky” for getting to work with Chris.  Am I? Of course I am.  But I spent months proving my commitment to making a life change before I got that offer.  I followed through on everything I said I was going to do, right down to leaving my job. Only then, did I get offered the chance to work with him. I prepared for the life I wanted, and when the time was right opportunity came knocking.

Luck = Follow Through

Tropical MBA Internship

On a regular basis people say I’m lucky for getting the first Tropical MBA internship.  It changed my life – I’m constantly reminding myself how lucky I was.  Were it not for 6 months of blogging, Dan would have had no idea who I was, and therefore wouldn’t have contacted me about it.  I spent hundreds of hours writing and preparing myself for what would happen when I finally decided I wanted to live abroad.

Luck = Creation

Sidenote: Dan is now taking applications for the TMBA IX.  Maybe this is your opportunity to get “lucky”.  But seriously, this will change someone’s life.  The crew here in Bali is incredible, and I promise there’s no better way to make the transition into lifestyle entrepreneurship.

90% of Luck is Showing Up

To be honest, most of my life I’ve been considered lucky.  I’ve often wondered if I’ve just been blessed or if there was something else.  The one thing I’ve been able to pinpoint when it comes to luck is that often times just showing up is what leads to getting lucky.

I remember I was in high school and there was a huge concert coming into town.  It had been sold out for weeks, all my friends were going, and I waited too long to buy tickets.  Many other people I knew decided to accept defeat and go to a movie.

About two hours before the show, I called the local radio station and asked if they were going to give away any more tickets.  They said they would just give me a pair if I could be down there in 30 minutes.

Done.

My friends were shocked when I showed up – but the only reason I was able to attend is because I showed up to begin with.  I went one extra step that most people won’t take and got “lucky”.

I guarantee you have numerous examples of this in your life.  Now, take all of those lucky instances and apply the same principles on a broader scale.

Prepare yourself to live a life of luck.  Luck is entirely of your own making, and if you want to be lucky start putting yourself in situations to make it happen.  Consciously thinking about this will go a long way.  Take responsibility for what happens in your life, and stop making excuses based on your misfortune or other’s successes.

I promise, you’ll be glad you did.

Have you seen Location Rebel yet? Community members are killing it with their new businesses, and I’d love to see you doing the same thing! Check out the free Arsenal ebook and email me any questions about how you can get started.

Dan October 3, 2011 at 7:27 am

Thanks for the shout Sean! I agree here. I often think about ‘doing the work’ as increasing your surface area…. like you’ve got more feelers out there, more surface space for good things to occurs. It’s been a blast having your here in Bali!

Sean October 4, 2011 at 7:14 am

It’s been a blast being here. I think today is the epitome of me being lucky after that round of golf in Nirwana – but it wouldn’t have happened had I not positioned myself to be open to it.

Niall Doherty October 3, 2011 at 7:46 am

Great post Sean, and I agree entirely about creating your own luck.

Have you ever read Tony Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness? He writes a lot about luck in that. In fact, one of the interview questions they ask prospective employees at Zappos is how lucky they consider themselves to be on a scale of 1 to 10. The question was inspired by some experiments done by Richard Wiseman, which showed how people who believe themselves to be lucky generally are more aware of opportunities when they present themselves, and willing to take advantage of them. Fascinating stuff. You can read more about those experiments here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/3304496/Be-lucky-its-an-easy-skill-to-learn.html

Sean October 4, 2011 at 7:14 am

That book is definitely on my to read list. You bring up a really good point, I totally agree that the luckiest people are the ones who consider themselves lucky!

Srinivas Rao October 3, 2011 at 7:48 am

Sean

I’m always amazed by people who talk about luck as if it’s something that is completely out of your control. What it comes down to is something very simple. If you want any kind of result, you have to take action. Sure it’s not always going to exactly as planned, but you take action and keep moving in the direction of your dream.

Sean October 4, 2011 at 7:16 am

It will never work out as planned, and oftentimes it will work out better. I’ve been amazed at how true I’ve found that to be.

Jeffrey Trull October 3, 2011 at 10:51 am

I sometimes find myself wondering what “luck” really means and if there’s really such a thing. As you’ve pointed out here, luck isn’t just some external force like many seem to think it is. I love the quote, and I hope more people can learn to live by it.

Sean October 4, 2011 at 7:10 am

To be honest, by the common definition I have a tendency to believe it isn’t real. Even lottery winners have to show up and put themselves in a position to win, and that’s more than many people do.

Rob Boggeries October 3, 2011 at 11:55 am

Much prefer “You have to be good to be lucky”.

Sean October 4, 2011 at 7:12 am

Also a good quote…

Yamile Yemoonyah October 3, 2011 at 12:32 pm

I absolutely agree, getting lucky is not about sitting on your couch and waiting for life to shower you with roses and rainbows. It’s about going out there, using your talents and skills and make things work for yourself and others.

Sean October 4, 2011 at 7:13 am

Unfortunately there is too many people out there that think waiting around on your couch is absolutely what you need to succeed and get lucky!

Johan October 3, 2011 at 3:25 pm

I’ll just join the choir already singing in the comments, but this post is very true. Whenever I’ve been “lucky”, it always follows in the path of putting stuff out there, whether myself or something I know. I’m not intentionally searching for opportunity, I just know that eventually, things will fall in my lap because I’ve laid the ground-work before, often for hours, days, weeks, months, years on end. When it does, jump on it, quick. Half the battle is taking action and actually pursuing opportunities.

Sure, I often feel like I’m missing out on opportunities that pass right before my eyes, but that just motivates me to keep on going at it.

Persistence is key.

Sean October 4, 2011 at 7:18 am

So often it’s just a matter of putting yourself in the position of opportunity. That’s why I believe quitting your job can be such an asset. You essentially have an extra 160 hours a month to put yourself in a position of opportunity to come your way.

Eden October 3, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Very true Sean. When I hear people talking about others peoples success and finish it off by saying “they’re lucky”, I know they are yet to learn success takes sweat, action, sacrifice and courage.

Sean October 4, 2011 at 7:19 am

Absolutely – I mean, it’s something we all say at times, but you just have to keep things in perspective, and recognize the motives behind saying it.

Gene October 3, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Very well stated, Sean, but more importantly well thought-out! Hmmmmm…. If I did not know better, I would swear you were a college advisor! Great post. Oh, and thanks for the picture of the beach; it is raining in Oregon!

Sean October 4, 2011 at 7:20 am

Thank you Gene! Nor sure I’d be able to live up to the task of being a college advisor, but thanks for the bout of confidence :) And don’t worry it was raining almost all week in Bali – just like home!

James October 4, 2011 at 3:24 am

they say your attitude determines your latitude just don’t get high with it. lol I think that plays a major role in determining positive results as well .

John Koen October 4, 2011 at 4:21 am

You hit it right on the head Sean. Lots of people will use the term “luck” to describe the work involved in allowing them to get what they truly want. I have watched as more of the “entitlement attitude” has grown and people think they deserve things they have no desire to work for. When they see others get what they want it’s the “luck” that got them there. So I guess..

Luck = Bold Action

Therese Schwenkler October 4, 2011 at 7:07 am

This is my favorite post of yours yet, Sean. I couldn’t agree more. :)

Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista October 4, 2011 at 3:09 pm

It’s easier to think others are ‘lucky’ than push yourself! It’s easier to wonder how they got that and you didn’t. Much harder to actually put yourself out there and ask for what you want! A tough lesson we all need to be reminded of.

Thanks for the kick in the ass!

Keith Caldwell October 6, 2011 at 8:42 am

To your point, the people we all think as “lucky” are those who spent long hours in preparation – they make it look easy! I don’t remember if I saw it on this site or another, is another great quote (from Thomas Edison): “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

I’ve been in IT for many years, currently in the process of shifting skills from older to newer technologies. Having a (more than) full time day job and 2 toddlers at home, it can be challenging. Every night (from about 10:30pm to 1 or 2am) I settle down to my home computer and work on activities to build my skills and/or complete the website (whether business planning, technical development, or adding content). I go to tech seminars and monthly user group meetings in the new technology whenever I can.

To my knowledge, the people I work with (at my day job) rarely if ever do anything to change their skills, which could potentially provide them with new opportunities. They’re still waiting for something to “happen”… hoping our employer will fix their career problem (train with new skills, and spoon feed cool work assignments after that). I don’t think that’s going to happen!

The act of planning your work (and working your plan) is invaluable. This gets you “in the room”… you probably won’t come across your big opportunity without it. The other side of the coin, however, is to be somewhat flexible and not over plan. Your actual big break will probably be something loosely related to your efforts, however may may not be exactly what you originally anticipated (ie: when Dan contacted Sean for his big break; How could Sean have planned for that specific event?).

I’m living this experience right now. Just last week (at a tech conference) I made what I feel may be an important connection with a local tech company. This company’s interest appears to be related to work I’ve doing on my own for the past year. Although related, it’s not exactly what I had in mind… in fact, it’s more interesting!

Chas October 9, 2011 at 1:39 am

“All of us have bad luck and good luck. The man who persists through the bad luck- who keeps right on going- is the man who is there when the good luck comes- and is ready to receive it.”~
Robert Collier

Darlene October 21, 2011 at 1:36 pm

There’s another book on the subject call The Luck Factor. Says basically the same thing. They did an experiment where they studied people at a coffee shop. They asked 2 people (1 who considers themselves lucky 1 that don’t) to go into the shop to meet someone.

Then they placed a $5 bill (or maybe a 10) outside on the sidewalk. The “lucky” perspon saw it and picked it up. The unlucky one missed it.

Then inside the “lucky” person saw down, ordered a coffee and struck up a conversation with the well dressed business man next to them. Exchanged contact info and eventually did some business together later that was significant. The unlucky person sat there looking at their watch, waiting for someone to arrive and talk to them. They drank their coffee, talked to no one, then left.

BIG difference!

Darlene October 22, 2011 at 10:55 am

I’ve been thinking more about this and you’re totally right. I’ve created my own luck a few times too. In 2001 I got a divorce and left as a partner in my photo studio having no idea what I was gonna do. I got a deal repping for a company in New Zealand because I bought their albums for my studio and approached them about helping spread the word – when my divorce happened they offered me a full-time gig. Just came to me, so some could say lucky, but I built a relationship with them and was the first person they thought of.

Then in Dec 2009 my new husband and I took off for 6 months in an RV to travel around the US and Canada. Lucky? No we both created it by having some form of income in place as we travelled, renting out our house and just went for it. People did say we were lucky and I even told them, anyone can do it, it’s about choices. Most people choose to stay comfortable and not stretch outside that comfort zone. Quitting the job? Renting the house? So NOT comfortable – but it was so worth it the experience we had on that trip. We’d do it again in a heart beat.

Comments on this entry are closed.

« »