Success depends a lot on luck
One of the most annoying things about the way business gurus describe success (as well as the “self-made man” myth) is that they rarely mention how much of it is down to luck.
- Yes, planning is important.
- Learning to do things really well is important.
- Making the right connections is important.
- Doing the right deals is important.
- Persistence, determination, resilience and a whole load of other things are important.
But so is luck, and not many business people talk about it.
Of course it helps if you’re born into a loving family in a place where good health, housing and education are easily available and if you’re born with a good brain and can learn useful skills – all this is down to luck.
But what about the luck you can make for yourself?
One of my favourite books is The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp. In it she addresses the question of “How to be lucky”:
Her answer is: be generous.
“If you’re generous to someone, if you do something to help someone out, you’re in effect making them lucky. It’s like inviting yourself into a community of good fortune. You invest in others, interest free with no IOU. Lucky people make other people feel lucky to be around them.” Twyla Tharp
This is my world. I am the luckiest of lucky people because I’m surrounded by the most generous group of exceptionally talented folk who are consistently, persistently, generous to each other.
So much of the world we inhabit is about learning to stand out from the crowd, making a name for ourselves and being the star, but when you put yourself in the spotlight, you put other people in shadow.
I love watching interactions between famous people on chat shows. You can see those who are just waiting to jump into the spotlight and those who are really interested in what others are saying and doing. It is often the most successful who have learned the power of luck and that the way to be lucky is to be generous.
Look at the luckiest people around you. What are they doing that singles them out? If they’re anything like the people I know they’re always sharing their luck. They don’t ask or expect anything in return and they make others feel lucky to be around them. That’s really powerful.
This is not about working for free.
Being generous doesn’t mean not charging for work or not making a profit. Making yourself poor is not generous because you then have to rely on others to survive. When you make more money than you need from people who can afford it, it gives you a lot of choice in what you use it for.
What being generous means is that you see others as potential collaborators rather than competitors. Instead of grabbing the biggest slice of the pie for yourself you find people to help make a bigger pie and share it.
It means that you connect to learn
To support and be supported
To inspire and be inspired
To ask why rather than what
To say, “tell me more”
To find the person, not just the business
To listen more than you talk
To leave space
To be interested, not interesting
To make people comfortable
To ask how you can help
To help just because you can, not because you expect anything in return
To ask for help, because helping makes people feel good
Ask them, let them, and pay it forward.
That’s how you get lucky!