You're watching a professional golf tournament, and a player sinks a seemingly impossible shot. The announcer might attribute it to luck, but I beg to differ. That golfer has probably worked thousands of hours to perfect that shot.
Having been in that situation, Gary Player, one of golf's all-time greats, often observed, "The harder I practice, the luckier I get."
Luck seems to have a peculiar attachment to work. So my best advice is to work hard to develop your skills.
There are several types of luck, according to Dr. James H. Austin in his book "Chase, Chance, and Creativity." The first is "Blind Luck," which is like winning the lottery and requires mostly no action on your part. You simply are in the right place at the right time.
I prefer to focus on the three other kinds of "luck" where you can improve your odds, such as Dr. Austin's second type — "Motion." Here he is referring to hard work, persistence, hustle and taking care of business.
Certainly, hustling can be developed and cultivated. I've always felt that it doesn't take any special ability to hustle, just a deep-down burning desire to get ahead. Anything you lack in talent can be made up with desire. People who hustle never quit. They have grit. They love to practice and get better each day.
Dr. Austin's third type of luck is "Preparation." Luck is definitely a factor in business, but most of the successful people I know say that luck was only a small percentage of their success. A much larger percentage came from hard work and being ready when good fortune struck.
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. And the best way to seek out opportunity is by networking — online or in person, now that most of the country has opened up after COVID. Attend conferences, industry events or even community events. Volunteering is a great way to meet people. Don't forget social media such as LinkedIn or Twitter. The bottom line is to become more sociable.
When I speak to corporate audiences, I say our lives basically change in three ways: the books we read, the people we meet and the places we travel to. It's nice to hear speakers, but trust me, the people on your left, right, behind you and in front of you are way more important over a period of time in building your network. You never know when you will come across that opportunity that can change your life.
One such example of this is Joseph Pulitzer, the famous reporter, newspaper owner, congressman and namesake of the Pulitzer Prize. When he arrived in the United States from Hungary at age 17, he had no money and no job prospects. However, one day when playing chess at a local library in St. Louis, he met the editor of a local German-language newspaper who gave him his first job. The rest is history.
The last type of luck identified by Dr. Austin is "Luck Unique to You." This is all building a reputation for excellence. All it takes is one career-changing customer, and there you have your luck.
Return on Luck (ROL) is a concept developed by Jim Collins in his book, "Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck." His research showed that great companies were not generally luckier than average companies; rather, great companies got a higher ROL by staying focused on core values and processes.
If luck was just a hit-or-miss proposition, every organization would be on an even footing. But I firmly believe you make your own luck. Wishing doesn't make it so. The most complete business plan doesn't make it happen — unless you carefully execute that plan and make adjustments as necessary. Sure, you might get a break or two, but that won't sustain your success. Good luck always starts with you.
Mackay's Moral: The harder I work, the luckier I get.
Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached at www.harveymackay.com, by emailing email@example.com or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.