What Is Luck?
I made Pat Flynn's book Let Go a required reading in one of my classes this semester. One objective for the assignment: Show my students that they don't need to fear the economic uncertainty, that it's possible to chart their own paths, that opportunity surrounds them.
Opportunity Surrounds Us
We simply need to think creatively, be willing to expand our horizons, and seize the day by taking action.
At one point during our recent discussion about Pat’s book I asked the class: “Did you find this reading to be worth your time?”
Almost before I could finish the question, one student blurted out: “NO!”
“OK, fair enough. Why not?”
“He was just lucky.”
Wow. That took me by surprise.
My instinctive reply came out just as fast:
“Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”
That quotation, or some variation thereof, has been attributed to everyone from Seneca to Thomas Edison to Oprah Winfrey, so I'll just leave the attribution open to your choice.
I didn't leave it at that, however.
How was Pat Flynn prepared?
I proceeded to engage the class to come up with a list of ways he prepared. I’m not sure I put all these on the board, but this is my list:
- Pat had the initiative to accelerate his architecture dream by taking the LEED exam.
- Pat created a blog to organize his notes and study for this optional exam. He did more than simply skim over the material and take iPhone photos of chapter summaries.
- He used commute time to listen to business podcasts
- He started monitoring the traffic on his blog
- He attended a meet-up near his home when that opportunity came up
- When someone at the meet-up suggested Pat compile his blog posts into an ebook, he didn't blow that off. Instead, he asked how to create, publish and sell an ebook and then invested a lot of time and effort into actually creating the book.
- And when the book began to sell, Pat saw another opportunity: Document the steps he took to share this path with others. He didn't simply sit back and rest on the laurels of success from Green Exam Academy. He pushed forward and created new income streams.
I don't see anything in that list that might be attributed to mere chance.
I've thought regularly about that student's comment in the week since our class discussion.
During a drive to the farm to check on my honeybees last weekend, I recalled a conversation with a friend from my college days. The classroom incident and an old conversation with a friend led me to make the question luck vs. opportunity the subject of my first blog post here because I truly believe we play the lead role in creating our opportunities.
We create our lives.
The particular conversation from my college days is etched into my memory in full relief and pops up not infrequently: I was driving south on McFarland Boulevard in Tuscaloosa, nearing the interstate exchange. An undergrad friend, Sharon, was in the car with me. She said something to the effect that I was so organized, that I had it all together, and that's why I'd held a lot of campus leadership positions, and so on. I distinctly remember discounting Sharon's compliments by saying that I'd just been lucky.
Sharon replied by saying something to the effect that it wasn't luck, that I was prepared. I don't remember the exact phrase, but it that was the gist of her meaning.
Preparation, not luck, she said.
In the decades since, I have pondered that conversation more than a few times because it went a lot deeper than most others of my college years. Was I lucky? Or did I take steps to prepare myself and open the doors to opportunity? In hindsight, I can see that I was pretty motivated and took sought out opportunities to for involvement and leadership.
My friend Sharon died of a brain aneurysm just a few years after that college conversation. She was in her first year of marriage. Her admonition lives on.
Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.
My friend Srini recently published his third ebook, The Art of Being Unmistakable. The book emerged from a series of posts based on “observations of a life that hasn't gone according to the plan.” Srini jokingly says he’s been committing career suicide, one post at a time.
Two days before I wrote this post (in late October 2013) The Art of Being Unmistakable got a shout-out and recommendation from a big name in conservative/libertarian circles: Glen Beck. After that mention, sales of Srini's book have taken off. I'll be honest, I would not have pictured Glen Beck reading this book. That's not the point.
The point is this: Srini is writing his own story, hacking his own path in life. He's been working for several years building BlogcastFM into a platform, without knowing exactly where that project would lead. To this point, Srini's online media “career” hasn't been what some might call financially lucrative. He's stayed afloat by living at home and continuing to create, to make and share his art.
Srini writes every day, 1000 words at least. He interviews creative, interesting people who are pursuing their own art and, to borrow a phrase from Seth Godin, “making a ruckus.” Srini takes actions to keep growing, to keep exploring.
Srini's efforts, long in the making, are now opening doors and creating opportunities. Srini's biggest project yet is slowly being unveiled: The Instigator Experience. I hope to be a part of it.
Platforms, Communities, Connections
More important that The Instigator Experience, itself, though is the action that's preceded it. Srini has been preparing himself and taking advantage of the opportunities that exist in this new world where we all have the means to have experiences, to create a platform, to share stories with our audiences and build communities far larger, yet far more personal, than the heads of 20th century media conglomerates could ever have imagined.
Case in point: Without the internet, it's very likely that I'd never have heard of Pat Flynn and Srinivas Rao. Thanks to the internet, I've had email and Twitter exchanges with Pat and built something of a positive, virtual friendship with Srini through Twitter and Facebook. I fully expect to meet them both in person in 2014 and continue to grow these relationships.
About 18 months ago I began to explore some new rabbit holes that captured my interest and sparked my imagination. With each step along these paths I’ve experienced major personal growth and have been astonished by how my life is evolving. I’ll save the details for another day.
Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.
Care to join me on this journey?
This blog is where I’ll share stories and perspectives from my journey along the path to a happy, fulfilled life.
Visit The Ben Franklin Follies for the keys to hacking YOUR path to health, wealth and wisdom.
And I'm working on a project that's code-named Operation Shine. Stay tuned for details.
Links to the two books on this page are affiliate links.