What’s Luck Got To Do With It?

June 25, 2012 | ChangingCourse.com

What’s Luck Got to Do, Got to Do With It?

So much of luck is really about just going for it and seeing what comes of it.

Two weeks ago I gave a copy of my book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, along with a handwritten letter to Academy-award winner Kate Winslet. Kate is one of dozens of A-list actors quoted in my book on women feeling like impostors, fakes, and frauds.

She and co-start Josh Brolin are shooting a film four miles from my house so I figured what the heck. Unfortunately, I had to catch train so couldn’t wait for the actors to arrive but I did manage to get the book into the location manager’s hands.

Fast forward nine hours and I was in New York City passing along another copy with a different hand-written note for the host of Comedy Central’s Daily Show, Jon Stewart.

Jon isn’t quoted in the book. But I thought he’ll get a kick out of some of the amusing stories in there about other news people like Ted Koppel, Walter Cronkite, and Daniel Schorr and various quotes from people in government including Hilary Clinton, Dee Myers, and Margaret Thatcher.

Will Kate or Jon read the book? No idea.

If they do, will anything come of it? Still no clue.

But focusing on the outcome misses the point.

For years I’ve preached that successful people really are “luckier”– however, not totally due to serendipity. Rather, successful people routinely put themselves in situations where good things are likely to happen.

They show up in places where they’re apt to meet interesting people.

They are lifelong learners who frequently attend classes, symposiums, and conferences.

They set goals and follow through with deliberate action.

These are all things that less successful people rarely do. But because successful people do them, it effectively positions them to attract good fortune in the way of contacts, advice, assistance, and collaborators.

Of her own rise to fame, Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts wrote, “I learned how to put myself in a position for good things to happen to me. Even when I felt outnumbered or afraid, I made sure I was ready to grab the ball when it came my way.”

New York is full of people who grabbed the ball. I was so inspired by the two people who were behind the restoration of High Line – the historic above-ground railroad bed turned lush walking trail that runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th & 11th Avenues.

This gem was close to being demolished before they stepped up to save it. It took years, but “luckily” for the rest of us, their efforts paid off.

Then there’s Fany Gerson, the enterprising entrepreneur with a passion for giving back who launched LaNewYorkina.

Today she sells her Mexican ice pops called paletas at various venues around the city. And she has a cookbook!

It was really hard to pick which exotic flavor to try but went with a very refreshing lime and cucumber. Good choice!
On the flip side, there’s a danger in viewing success solely in terms of luck. You see someone who is living your dream of writing children’s books, being a motivational speaker, hosting her own radio show, or running her own Mexican pop stand and you think, She’s so lucky.

But what you really mean is, Sure, that happened for her, but it will never happen for me.

And in this case you’re probably right. Not because you are inherently unlucky but because when you frame success as totally the luck of the draw, like the lottery, your chances of achieving it are one in millions. As famed success mindset expert Earl
Nightingale said, “Success is simply a matter of luck. Ask any failure.”

P.S. By the time you read this, I’ll be in sunny Portugal speaking to 200 people at the McDonald’s European Women’s Leadership Network. Lucky me!