The general belief is that everybody needs the element of luck to hit it big in life. Consequently, many people are daily on the lookout for a lucky break. They hope and pray for something to happen to change the tide in their favour. But the best form of luck is that which is not dependent on external factors. As opined by Peter Drucker, father of modern management, the best way to predict the future is to create it. To put one’s luck in a factor beyond one’s control is to set oneself up for disillusionment.
In their book, How Luck Happens: Using the Science of Luck to Transform Work, Love and Life, Janice Kaplan and Barnaby Marsh stress the importance of creating one’s luck. According to them, luck is a combination of random chance, talent and hard work; while some of the factors in the equation cannot be controlled, some can be created. Therefore, they submitted that the best way to get lucky is not to wait for a lucky break but to actually create one’s luck.
Great leaders also believe in luck but not the hocus pocus kind that is hinged on the benevolence of Mother Luck or some kind of extraneous forces. They believe in creating their own luck, forcing fortune to work in their favour rather than putting themselves at its mercy.
How leaders create their own luck
Leaders can create their own luck by taking some of the steps listed hereunder.
See the need, take the lead
Leaders create their own luck by being quick to meet a need when they see it. Leaders are primarily solution providers. Others look up to them for solutions when they run into a quandary. So, when a leader moves to meet identified needs, they position themselves for a smile from fortune.
Rudy Giuliani forced his name into the consciousness of the world by the actions he took in the wake of terrorists’ attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York on September 11, 2001. Prior to the attack, he had spent seven uneventful years as the city’s Mayor and he was sliding into irrelevance. But his decision to step into the scene and coordinate the response of various departments, while also organizing the support of state and federal governments for the affected site changed his rating. His handling of the disaster became the defining moment of his public service career as it revived his sagging popularity among the city’s residents.
Giuliani had arrived the scene a few minutes after the second plane crash and immediately took charge of the rescue operations which resulted in saving no fewer than 20,000 lives. Rather than leaving the people despondent, the Mayor gave them hope. He had said, as his response to the debilitating attack on the city, “Tomorrow, New York is going to be here. And we’re going to rebuild, and we’re going to be stronger than we were before… I want the people of New York to be an example to the rest of the country, and the rest of the world, that terrorism can’t stop us.”
Giuliani saw the need to organize the people and took the lead thereby rewriting his own history from a lack-lustre city Mayor to the outstanding American Mayor. By so doing, Giuliani made his own luck.
According to Alexander Graham Bell, before anything else, preparation is the key to success. Those who are not prepared for success are hardly ever successful. Fortune does not only favour the bold, it also favours the prepared. Perhaps fortune prefers the prepared to the bold because it does not announce its arrival ahead of its appearance. Luck does not wait for those who are not ready for it; it joins itself with those who are prepared to receive it. So, it is only those who are discerning enough to get themselves ready that fortune smiles on. Those who wait till they are thirsty before starting the business of digging their wells usually die of thirst. To make their luck, leaders are usually in a perpetual state of preparation.
Leaders prepare themselves mentally by daily increasing their wealth of knowledge. They know that no one can do more than he knows, so they keep on honing their skills to the extent that when luck smiles on them, it meets them fully ready. They prepare themselves socially by working on their network and they prepare their teams by continuously increasing their capacity.
Set out time for reflection
Leaders create their own luck by setting out time to reflect on daily basis. The focus of the thinking session is idea generation. It is great ideas, not mundane activities, that change the world. Those who have contributed the most to the changes the world has experienced are those who have devoted time to reflecting on various issues. A situation constitutes a problem for as long as enough time is not devoted to think about finding a solution to it. Those who refuse to commit to hard thinking will be surrounded by lingering problems. The smartest guy is not always the wisest but very often it is the one who has thought about a matter the most. The easiest way to beat competition is to outthink them. Those who outthink others are usually luckier than the rest. To boost their chances of being lucky, leaders must commit quality time to thinking about generating new ideas.
Thomas Jefferson was a lucky man; he seemed to have everything fall on his laps without much efforts. He was the principal author of the United States of America’s Declaration of Independence. He was elected the country’s second Vice President and became its third President. But according to him, the secret of his luck was his commitment to hard work. He said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” He was right. It was his handling of the Declaration of Independence that recommended him for the post of Vice President. It was his hard work, carriage and commitment as Vice President that made it possible for him to become the President. Hence, the statement by Thomas Edison that opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. Those who hate hard work are unlikely to be lucky.
Warren Buffet is one of the luckiest men on earth being richer than 99.99 per cent of the world’s population. But his secret is that he works harder than 99.99 per cent of the world’s inhabitants. At almost 90 years of age, and despite having amassed humongous wealth, he still puts in more than 12 hours of work every day, which is more than what people less than half his age put in. Why won’t he be luckier than they are?
You want to become successful without the willingness to take risks? Sounds like wanting omelet without cracking eggs. That’s almost impossible. To be lucky one has to take risks. Those who avoid taking risks limit their chances of having a different experience. Those who do not go, do not get. To increase their chances of being lucky, leaders always take risks; they refrain from playing safe because of the realization that those who play safe consign themselves to mediocrity. Those who take risks are those who get out of their comfort zone, they move away from the known to the unknown because they know that while the known hardly produces any new thing, the unknown is brimming with new possibilities.
One advantage of taking risks is that it frees one from the hold of average thinking and average living. It emboldens one to break boundaries. And what is getting lucky if not achieving what was hitherto considered impossible.
The Making of Harry Potter
After the completion of the first Harry Potter book, J.K. Rowling sent the manuscript to well-established publishers in the United States of America and the United Kingdom, all of whom rejected it, saying the book would not sell. They hinged their position on the fact that books of that size were not usually picked up by readers. They also believed that books for boys would not sell. So, they all turned down the manuscript. The only person who decided to give the manuscript a look-in was the director of Bloomsbury Publishing Company Ltd, who was new to publishing and decided to take the risk of trying something new. That decision launched the company into prosperity because by 2016, the total value of the Harry Potter franchise was estimated at $25 billion, making Harry Potter one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time. Similarly, as of February 2018, Harry Potter books had sold more than 500 million copies worldwide making them the bestselling book series in history.
By taking the risk of publishing the manuscript rejected by others, Bloomsbury made its own luck.
An eye for opportunities
The difference between the successful and those who are not successful usually boils down to how they handle opportunities. Nature is fair in one respect; it provides everyone their own fair share of opportunities. But the tragedy is that most people fail to appropriate the opportunities. Some miss their opportunities because they are unwilling to exert themselves but many miss their opportunities because they can’t even identify them. Those who record giant strides are those who define what they want and are always on the lookout for same. Leaders position themselves for luck by defining what they want; that is they have a vision or a goal, they also have a focus and they latch on to opportunities at the right time.
Another way of creating luck is by helping others. When Chief Olusegun Oshunkeye was the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Nestle Nigeria Plc, the board of GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Nigeria Plc approached him to assist the company in securing a portion of land close to the Agbara Estate location of the company he was running. Without any form of hesitation, he agreed to assist and he eventually facilitated the acquisition of a portion of land by GlaxoSmithKline with which the company built its new factory. Not too long after this, Oshunkeye completed his tenure as the MD/CEO of Nestle. As soon as this was made public, the board of GlaxoSmithKline invited him to join the board. He eventually became the board chairman and this increased his scope of influence. Oshunkeye created his own luck by offering to assist a company in its time of need.
Those who wait for lucky breaks without any attempt to create their own luck are in for a long wait.