Lessons from Leaders: #6 Luck

Luck is the coincidence of preparation and opportunity


People often say “you’re lucky” almost as a jibe at others. A sarcastic way of saying “you always land on your feet”.

The problem I have with this is the assumption that luck is brought about just by chance. Even the dictionary definition of luck makes a reference to chance.

“Luck is the success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than by one’s own actions”.

I think luck and chance are two completely separate entities.

Chance is the roll of a dice.

Luck is a currency, in my opinion, that you can build up. You often hear the phrase “the harder I practice the luckier I get”. This is true as practice is a luck creator.

Practice is what makes you better and more likely to do well, creating luck. We’ve spoken about the importance of “practice makes permanent” in an earlier blog.

Luck is the coincidence of preparation and opportunity.

What does this mean?

Preparation could mean that you practice more, you work harder than others (bearing in mind that the only place that success comes before work is in the dictionary) the more you read about a subject the more of an expert you become on it.

You can build up this currency of luck, which then means when you are faced with an opportunity you are able to take advantage of it.

Then people will say “well you’re always lucky”, but actually it has nothing to do with chance and everything to do with preparation.

The key message here is that no matter what position you are in, you can start to build your currency of luck by focusing on things that you can do and influence and forgetting all the reasons why it won’t work. Believe in the reasons why it will.

Then, build that currency (you can do this with positivity too), then you will have a better, more fulfilled life.

An example of luck meeting opportunity:

When you applied for your last job. At first, you might have thought “wow I was lucky to get a telephone interview!”, but that’s not true because you may have studied or got experience in that field you wish to work in.

You will have produced a relevant CV and ideally, a personalised letter about why you want/can do the job.

After your telephone interview, you may have thought you were lucky to get your face-to-face interview.

Again, chance has nothing to do with it. You must have done certain things well to not get screened out of the process, like, picking up the phone the first time, smiling while you are talking and giving coherent answers to the questions.

And so on.

You may have been lucky to get your job, but YOU built up that currency of luck by being prepared for the opportunity.

Bad luck

Some people may argue, “well what about bad luck?”. There is no doubt that some things are genuinely unlucky, but a lot of the time bad luck is just the failure to prepare.

If you are someone who always misses the bus, gets a hole in their shoes, spills hot coffee on the train, then you may be missing those key areas where more preparation is needed.

If you know you are getting the bus for an important appointment, make sure you get up earlier than you need to and plan for any unexpected delays.

Are your shoes looking a little worn out? Start saving early or put chunks of money aside so that you can replace them before than inevitable hole begins.

We all have things that don’t go to plan, but when you have your positive mindset and preparation planned, it means you can handle these setbacks much more efficiently.

Gambling and Risk

I expect that people who are really good at gambling (betting on football, the horses etc.), have built up a currency of luck to be able to do that. Winning more than they lose.

They’ve done that by studying form over time. They’ve built up an abundance of knowledge, to try and take on the bookies and stats.

When you gamble there is always a risk of losing money. This risk is present in business too.

When you start or set up a business, you are taking an amount of risk. You would be safer as an entrepreneur to keep your money in your pocket and get a job somewhere else.

You would be safer as an employee staying in a job you are comfortable in, rather than one that would stretch you.

However, risk is always about balancing luck. You must balance the amount of currency you have built up vs the opportunity and the challenges ahead.

A ship in the harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.

Some people are more risk-averse than others, but at the end of the day, it is all about putting yourself in a position where you are more likely to succeed than fail.

Now you might not always succeed, in fact, you might fail at something more than once. Most millionaires will have had a failed business along the way.

I think it is fine to fail once or twice at something, if you repeat the same mistake a third time it starts to look like carelessness.

We all take chances and risk, but the most important thing is to build up that currency of luck in whatever it is you want to do so that when you do take those chances, you are able to take advantage of them.


Did you enjoy this blog in my series “Lessons from Leaders”? Check out the JudgeService blog to read the rest of the series.

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