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People talk about being in the right place at the right time. And that is the thing about luck: in order to be in that place at that time, sometimes you have to stand in lots of different places (or the same place lots of different times).

You see, luck doesn’t just happen. Not most of the time, anyways. Luck happens to people who go looking for it, and who are ready for it when it comes.

You never know when someone you meet, or someone who hears of you, will be the person who opens up the door to your next opportunity.

This was hit home for me last month.  After keynoting 2 conferences, and coming off the back of 4 trips, I was several weeks behind schedule on our product deliverables.  I made the decision to cut out all networking events, only speak at paid engagements, and focus the rest of my time on Popforms.

Then an executive from a Fortune 100 company reached out to me for feedback on his new leadership program (hint: if you ever want to get me to lunch tell me you want to talk about leadership development – it’s my Jerry McGuire version of “you had me at [leadership development]”).  We met and had lunch, and after 1 hour turned into 3, he is now going to be one of our first enterprise customers.

Why was he interested in talking with me? Because of a talk he heard me give 6 months prior to a small audience of 50. He had followed my blog ever since, and wanted to find a way to work together.  And this great opportunity originated from the very activities that I was considering quitting.


Making Your Own Luck

As an entrepreneur, focus is key.  And that is also true for anyone who wants to be successful.  You have to hone in on your top priority and devote your time and energy there, and there only.

However, luck is also often seen as a part of the success equation.  So to be successful you need to focus on your goals, but you also want to be open to serendipity and know how to take advantage of a lucky opportunity when it arises.

When it comes to creating your own luck, Richard Wiseman said:

“My research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophecies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.”

So a key part of serendipity is knowing what direction you want to go in, and being open to new opportunities as you move along that path.  This means that you are focused on your goal, but mentally open and ready to embrace new ideas.  It means that you go out of your way to have new experiences and meet new people, because those new experiences are where luck is waiting to find you.

Step off your beaten path.

When you do the same things you have always done, it makes sense that you will keep getting the same results.  If you want to get new opportunities and fresh insights, you have to change things up and do things differently.

This means saying yes to things, and perhaps even seeking out new events or people that you might not otherwise encounter.

Don’t be afraid to tinker or pursue side projects.  You never know where great ideas may originate.  Did you know that Watson and Crick never had the DNA molecule as their “official” project?

Think lucky.

A lucky situation is all about perception. If you’re ready to view a situation as a lucky opportunity, it will be. If you’re grumbling and staring at your phone all night, you’re not in a very good mindset to see an opportunity and grab it.  In the past I have written about the importance of reframing, and learning to look at situations differently (just like a pessimist sees a glass half empty and an optimist the glass half full).  Your perception of the situation and how you think about it can impact your luckiness.

This article had some great examples that helped hit the point home:

If you think this way about: Work

“I need to finish this project by 11, team meeting at 12, lunch at 1, finish that report this afternoon, and I’m home free by 6.”

Try this approach instead: “I want to try to accomplish two major things today, but in my downtime, I’m going to explore a few other ideas that could help the company or my career.”

If you think this way about: Business Meetings

“I’m meeting up with this person to do a deal, not thinking of them as a friend or a potential partner.”

Try this approach instead: “I’ll accept a meeting with anyone, anytime, because you never know where it might lead—even if it’s five years down the road.”

By choosing to see the situation differently you are, in effect, opening yourself up to more serendipity in the future.

Add value.

If you have studied or read about influence, you have likely heard of reciprocity.  Reciprocity means that if you do something for someone else, they will feel indebted to you, and often will feel the urge to pay your back in some way.

However, getting something bigger and better in return for good deeds shouldn’t be your motivation for helping others. Instead, adopting an attitude of “pay it forward” tends to have a much more serendipitous feel to it.  If you create goodness in the world and add value to others, it will come back to you (not to mention you’ll making the world a better place).

There are lots of ways to add value. Some can be as simple as being pleasant, smiling, or paying someone a compliment. Or they can be more tangible like making introductions, assisting on a project, or even writing a blog post that helps share your knowledge and research.

Putting this into practice:

Here are 3 ideas to help you create some serendipity of your own.  Put one of them (or your own!) into practice this week:

  1. Organize a dinner with like-minded colleagues.  People passionate about the same topics.  Potluck, private dining room at a restaurant, or even just at a pizza place (they are good at hosting big parties).  It doesn’t have to have fancy food, just scintillating conversation.  You can stage a topic or idea for discussion, or just let the conversations flow.

  2. Go on Quora or Stackexchange (or another popular q&a site in your field) and answer 3 questions. These are great ways to showcase your smarts and know how without having to set up a website or blog, and in some cases these answers are more likely to be discovered and recognized.

  3. Pick a blog you like to read and write in asking to guest post on a topic. This can be a great way to add value to a site that you like (woo!), and build a relationship with the editorial team there. It can also be a great way to gain visibility and establish yourself as a thought leader. Just be sure to write an awesome post, and deliver it on time.

It can be hard to quantify and track the work you do to create new opportunities and bits of luck.  However, there is no doubt that doing so can yield crazy amazing results.  Have some other ideas?  Please post them in the comments.


Tags: change, goals, growth, improvement, luck, opportunity, reflection,

One Response to “Success takes luck: how to increase serendipity in your life”

  1. Beverly Lorig

    Excellent concrete explanation of the value of serendipity and how to enhance your opportunities for serendipity. As an experienced career counselor and coach of high achieving college students/grads, you narrative will put some “meat on the bones” of my overall strategy with these emerging young professionals!