From the moment you are born, you possess a certain amount of luck, depending on your parents, your family’s social and financial situation, your native homeland, and your health. Yes, your good or bad fortune throughout life is guided in part by conditions over which you have no control. Understanding the role of luck in your life, and how to take advantage of whatever luck you have, is a critical component of maximizing your success.
If you find it a little New Age-y or counterproductive to devote brainpower to the notion of luck, rest assured you aren’t alone. But you should also know the even scientifically minded researchers have thought long and hard about luck.
Leveraging the Power of Luck
Let’s say you jumped aboard an early startup that seemed to be doing incredibly well. It was a stroke of amazing luck, you felt, to be one of the founding team members. But months into the experience, you discovered the CEO was embezzling money. The company collapsed, you were investigated (though found innocent), and you found yourself unemployed and largely unemployable.
That would be bad luck of the worst kind. Here’s the kicker, though: At this point, your reaction to this situation is your only chance to turn that bad luck into an opportunity. Luck can change on a dime, but chutzpah and a lot of hard work are your best ways to minimize the impact of misfortune on your life.
Strategies for Turning Your Luck Around
You can’t make your own luck, but you can make the most of whatever luck you have. Try these four strategies:
Work Hard and Work Smart
Working hard and working smart are the best defenses against the impacts of bad luck. Even if bad luck gets in your way, you can often mitigate its effects by continuing to make the right choices for the right reasons.
In my first sales job, I was assigned a territory with a single global account. The year prior to my joining the company, this account had undergone a huge merger, and as a result, it hit nearly 350 percent of quota. The team made a killing.
Unfortunately, the quota was increased to that inflated mark when I joined the team — but without another merger, the odds of reaching that quota were virtually zero. At that point, I had two choices: wallow in frustration or learn what I could from a talented team. While I admittedly felt frustrated by the situation, I was able to learn a lot from my colleagues and build the relationships required to move into a new, better territory the following year.
Learn the Difference Between Bad Luck and a Bad Decision
It’s important to understand and identify the difference between bad luck and a bad decision. The distinction can be hazy, but you can often distinguish between the two by asking yourself, “Is there anything I could have reasonably done to know the outcome in advance and avoid the situation?” If the answer is yes, it’s likely that you made a bad decision.
When I was a full-time poker player, the luck of the cards was present daily. Some days, it felt like I couldn’t win no matter what; other times, it felt like I couldn’t lose. The most important consideration in both situations was whether I was making the right plays with the cards I had and the players I played with. Luck in poker is short term, but by focusing on the quality of my decisions, I was always able to weather bad luck and come out on top in the long run.
Capitalize on the Gift of Good Luck
It matters how you deal with bad luck, but understanding how to capitalize on good luck is just as important. Winning can feel great, but it can easily become problematic if it is driven more by luck than good decision-making.
When a major life event goes your way, it’s important to enjoy that success without resting on your laurels. Take advantage of what good fortune brings you, knowing that it can be an effective buffer against the bad luck that will eventually come your way.