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BUI LDING BLOCKS
CREATING YOUR OWN LUCK Work Hard, Think Differently, and You’ll Be Surprised By the Results
“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” –Unknown Luck is a curious thing. Like time, we always seem to want more of it. Some folks rely on “the luck of the Irish” often in March, especially when filling out their NCAA brackets. Others rely on their lucky hat, jersey, charm, four-leaf clover, coin, or another inanimate object. I have friends who won’t wash their lucky shirt during their favorite team’s playoff run — even if we beg them! How? Well, in my experience, hard work often comes into play. I love the above quote, often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, for that very reason. I believe that work creates opportunity, too. Personally, I like to give the universe a lot of occasions to make something great happen around me. That’s why I believe in taking massive action in areas where I’m trying to make progress. Think about it: Who’s more likely to get “lucky” and hit a hole-in-one? The occasional duffer or the committed golfer who is hitting the links every weekend? Or, in my family’s instance, the person who only visits the putt-putt mini golf course once a year or the one who has a season pass? Practice makes lucky. People look for luck in some of the oddest places, but the truth is that it’s right in front of you. You, quite literally, have the power to make your own luck.
They needed someone with exactly my background. What luck! Or rather, what hard work! What preparation! What practice!
Sometimes, luck is created by simply changing your perspective. Author Cormac McCarthy said, “You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from.” It’s a humorous sentiment, but it demonstrates a great way to keep your spirits high despite a tough situation. I think of the old story about two competing shoe salesmen who are sent to a distant land to scout out the territory. One sends back a telegram to the home office: “Situation hopeless. No one here wears shoes.” The other sends back a different telegram: “Unlimited opportunity. They have no shoes.”
Perspective helps us see our luck.
Benjamin and Rosamund Zander wrote one of my favorite books, “The Art of Possibility.” In it, they argue that everything in life is invented — that is, it is all about perspective. And in that case, why not invent something wonderful? Why not imagine a life of possibility, rather than a life of limitation? Or consider Yankee great Lou Gehrig who declared himself “the luckiest man alive” despite his circumstances. Reread his speech. It was all about perspective.
Doesn’t it strike you that the people who say they have the worst luck always seem to live up to that expectation?
This isn’t to say that every time you work hard you are going to get the results you want or expect, or that you can “happy think” your way to success. Luck is more mystical than that; it’s not a straight quid pro quo. Instead, hard work creates opportunities for the universe to reward you in ways you may least expect. Perspective helps you recognize it. That’s the luck — the discovery, and the aha moment when you see how it has all turned out.
Emily Dickinson wrote about it more artfully — as you would expect — when she said, “Luck is not chance. It’s Toil. Fortune’s expensive smile is earned.”
In my own career, I had a lot of roles in a prior company as I learned more about how to make a corporation run. I spent time in litigation, employment, compliance, intellectual property, and commercial contracts, to name a few. To some, it might have seemed like I couldn’t hold down a single position in the firm, that I hadn’t found my fit. But when the markets went south, and I needed a new plan as the company was crumbling around me, all of that hard work in different areas turned into luck as I found a new job that combined all of my past career experiences into one.
This March, I wish you all the luck in the world. But the truth is you don’t really need it.
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