Four Ways to Cultivate Good Luck

Luck plays a major role in the outcome of a company and of one’s life. Part of luck is just pure chance, completely out of your hands but luckily luck can be cultivated as well. Here’s how:

1. Show Up and Make Motion

“Eighty percent of being successful in life is showing up” Woody Allen

A lot of opportunities that are seemingly random, are at least partly the result of showing up and/or making motion. People often say that an opportunity was the result of being in the right place at the right time. That sounds like pure chance (uncontrollable chance) but you can maximize your chances of being in the right place at the right time by visiting many good places many times. While you cannot know for sure what will be the exact right place, you can make sure to get out there and find ways to meet high quality people. Life is like a sales funnel, you have to take as many shots as possible and stuff the top of the funnel with as many potential “leads” as possible. Looking forward, it is impossible to know what will come of this but what is for sure is that you are opening up more potential possibilities and you are bound to get lucky at some point. This motion will introduce you to new ideas and opportunities.

There is a reason why being persistent is so important for startups. You will have to keep trying things and deal with failure over and over again but you will have to keep going and making motion. This motion maximizes the chance that something will work out. Yes, it will be partially luck when things go well but usually it takes a lot of work and stirring the pot to get there.

2. Be Prepared

“Chance favors the prepared mind.” Louis Pasteur

Great opportunities are rare. One needs to be prepared to seize them when they come. Having a deep expertise in at least one field and diverse knowledge in many areas will help prepare you. On top of the knowledge, you need work experience in order to prove yourself and further develop your skills. Being prepared is partially skills and knowledge based, but it is also part mentality and world view. The prepared mind is constantly putting its feelers out for opportunity. Being prepared is the readiness to pounce when an opportunity is presented.

It was widely known fairly early on that Google was on its way up like a rocket ship but it was also extremely difficult to land a position there. Yes, the early Google employees got lucky, but they had the high-quality and rare skill-set that allowed them to have the ability to join Google. While it is unlikely that you will be an early employee at the next Google, being prepared will open up a whole new set of possibilities.

3. Be Distinctive
Have a unique skill set and set of interests. This will allow you to have a different view of the world and way of looking at problems. This often leads to the ability to solve problems that others can’t see the solution to and foresight into concepts before others can understand them. Marc Pincus had to have a deep experience in social networking (tribe.net) and a deep interest in gaming to have seen the potential of Zynga. Dennis Crowley had a deep interest and a ton of experience in mobile way before the space became hot, helping him make foursquare. Jack Dorsey’s understanding of real-time and the importance of location through his experience trying to build a taxi dispatch company helped him formulate the idea for twitter. In the words of Steve Jobs “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” That being said, fostering a set of distinctive dots and searching for unique ways of connecting them can only help one identify and understand opportunities as they arise.

4. Take Chances

“Fortune Favors the Bold” Virgil, Aeneid X.284 and one of Mark Zuckerberg’s favorite quotes

Choose high-risk, high-reward paths when it is possible. While this approach can potentially lead to failure (which is a learning experience), it can also lead to great outcomes. People will debate whether such an outcome was luck or skill, but what is for sure is that such an extremely positive outcome would not be possible without taking the risk. While it is still important to weigh opportunity cost and taking big risks may not fit some personality types, it is definitely one way you can increase your chances of being lucky. Especially when you are willing to take chance after chance and can learn from each risk you make. The media loves to share the story of the lucky overnight success. Though in reality, most overnight successes are really ten years in the making.

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This post was inspired by this post by Marc Andreeson and the work of Dr. James Austin.

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One Comment on “Four Ways to Cultivate Good Luck”

  1. Patrick says:

    another important way to consider is that your luck in getting ahead in life is less about beating out competition and more about people that help you just because they felt like it.  for example, you can sell something on ebay and perhaps get more money.  but that’s a very narrow way of looking at things.  an alternative approach is asking around if somebody knows somebody that could use whatever it is you’re selling.  you might not get as much money, but the other person will remember your generosity and perhaps return the favor, directly or indirectly, later on.  more often than not, the return favor is worth more than the cash.

    so, um, don’t miss the forest for the trees.


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