On Luck

Don’t humans love the lucky break? The idea that someone going along minding their own business suddenly gets a life changing opportunity popped into their lap and never looks back.

Two questions: has that ever truly happened to you? Has it ever truly happened to anyone you know?

The answer is likely “no” because the lucky break is a myth.

What most people miss about the lucky break is the decade(s?) of hard work prior to the lucky break.

You see, luck favors the prepared. As Jim Collins and his research team found in their Great By Choice book, “…research showed that the great companies were not generally luckier than the comparisons—they did not get more good luck, less bad luck, bigger spikes of luck, or better timing of luck. Instead, they got a higher return on luck, making more of their luck than others.”

Interesting, no? The luckiest companies were those that were best prepared to capitalize on lucky breaks. Not those who just got lucky breaks.

How does one prepare for a lucky break?

Have a Plan

If you don’t have clear criteria to say “no”, you have to say “yes” to every opportunity if you have any integrity. The value of a to-do list or a strategic plan (which is just an organizational to-do list) is not so much in all the items you’re trying to do from that list. The greater value is in the list providing decision making criteria to evaluate new opportunities (i.e. lucky breaks).

Clarify Your Vision

Like a to-do list or strategic plan, a clear vision of success motivates action. Similarly, a clear vision of success provides criteria against which to weigh unexpected opportunities or, you got it, luck breaks! Most people are just rolling along doing good work without any idea of why or where they want that to get them. Vision is not “stare at the sky and dream” stuff, it’s value-added development of the crystal-clear mindset you need to take advantage of opportunity. (Sorry, I get fired up about vision!)

Work Hard

If you have a vision and a plan, and you’re doing hard, focused work on those things, it’s going to be very difficult to miss lucky breaks. Is every lucky break going to play in your favor or be successful? Of course not! But the better prepared and more focused you are, the greater the chances that one or some will break in your favor.

Most people lack a clear and crystalized vision, a list of the actions that support that, and a resolved focus on working on those items. So, most people never get their lucky break. The funny thing is that lucky breaks have probably come and gone hundreds of times for them…they just missed the opportunity.

Collins sums it up beautifully, “The critical question is not, ‘Will you get luck?’ but ‘What will you do with the luck that you get?’”


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Craig A. Escamilla
Craig A. Escamilla
Craig Escamilla helps you find solutions before problems exist. With fifteen years of consulting, teaching, and senior management experience, Craig brings a wealth of practical expertise to helping others work on rather than in their businesses.

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