I read Seth Godin's blog post today entitled "Willing to be lucky." It was a great post reminding us to "create opportunities for good luck." I could not agree more. And, it sounds simple enough -- "create opportunities for good luck." The question is how do you do it?
Wikipedia defines luck as "that which happens to a person beyond that person's control." There is an assumption about "control" in that definition and I like to refine luck into 2 basic types around the control issue. I like to talk about "dumb luck" (100% by accident), and "smart luck" -- luck where you do have a level of control.
I would argue that when people talk about instances of luck ("wow she is so lucky," "they are so lucky they got financing," "they are so lucky they were able to close that big deal," "he was so lucky his company was acquired," “she is so lucky she was able to double revenue over the last year”) over 50% of the time people are identifying an instance of smart luck. Think about that. If it’s smart luck that people are usually describing, that means that you can control it. And, if that’s the case, just how to you wrestle control over luck and make it happen?
In my mind, making luck happen is composed of 3 deceivingly simple steps:
- Being in the right place,
- at the right time,
- with the right ingredients.
So, I always like to ask myself how am I going to be:
- In the right place,
- at the right time,
- with the right ingredients?
That means I need to define what I want to happen, and how I am going to make it happen. So in my mind I need to figure out what the right place is going to be, what the right time is when I would need to be in “that place,” and what ingredients I would need to have at that time and place for luck to occur.
Let me give you an example. Recently I was asked to participate on a panel at The Founder Factory in Philadelphia. Seemed to me to be the right place and the right time. When I gave my comments during the panels critiquing the start-ups that were presenting, my comments tended to be very pragmatic and straightforward (the "right ingredients"). It turns out Anthony Bucci, one of the founders of RevZilla Motorsports (an early stage Philadelphia e-commerce company that's a baby version of Zappos but in the motorcycle and motor sports vertical) was sitting in the audience. So, he was in the right place at the right time too. My comments really resonated with him and he practically tackled me afterward to see if I would talk to him about his company to see if I could help. (Anthony -- great tackle!). The company is already rocking and rolling and they have a great team. We'll start working together on a consulting and advisory basis so I can help them build out their company even more quickly and drive some really impressive revenue growth (they already had a great 2008). So, I guess both Anthony and I are both lucky, right? But, we each made luck happen. We were both at the right place, at the right time, with the right ingredients. By the way, what was his great ingredient? He hit me with a GREAT 30 second elevator pitch about his company. He hit me with the right message at the right time in the right place. Smart luck, not dumb luck.
You can make luck happen. Just think about the 3 steps and figure out how to get them to line up. When you do, you’ll have control over "luck" and hopefully you'll be the next example of "Wow was he lucky! Did you hear what happened to him?"
Good luck! ;-)