Most Underrated Factor: Luck. Here's How to Maximize It.

A journalist friend is writing a book about entrepreneurship and asked me to contribute ~400 word essay with "advice." I don’t feel strongly about any one trait/skill necessary for successful entrepreneurship. So, I decided to write about luck. A lot of things are important (passion, connections, emotional intelligence, etc.) but luck doesn’t seem to be talked about much.

I don’t buy into the hype around "hard work." Hard work is important, but not the primary ingredient for successfully starting something (be it a business, project, whatever). In my view, luck is the single most underrated component of success.

There are many things you can do to maximize your chances of being lucky.

First, expose yourself to as much randomness as possible. Attend conferences no one else is attending. Read books no one else is reading. Talk to people no one else is talking to. Think and be different. This has happened more times than not: I start talking to someone at a dinner party, without any specific goal in mind, and he just happens to know someone else who just happens to know something critical for my business. That’s luck. That’s randomness.

Second, trust in probabilities of luck. I think life works in valleys and mountains. Every time luck doesn’t go my way I believe a piece of good luck is right around the corner. Every time I get lucky I prepare myself for weathering a dip. Knowing this, I can always mitigate a rough stretch and make the most of the good times.

Third, trick yourself. Self-deception is essential to maintain high self-esteem. It’s OK to take more credit than you deserve, in your own mind, for successes. It’s OK to think that you can outwork and outpassion anyone who competes with you. It’s OK to attribute soaring victories to a tireless work ethic. It’s OK if these are slight exaggerations. After all, how many people attribute "good luck" to their wins? Way less than people who attribute "bad luck" to their losses! Stay humble, especially on the outside, but consider yourself (privately) as unstoppable.

It’s very easy to dish out advice. Ask 20 entrepreneurs for their 20 keys to success and you’ll get 20 different, passionate answers. All are valid. So, it’s time to stop listening and take the plunge!

9 comments on “Most Underrated Factor: Luck. Here's How to Maximize It.
  • My feelings on luck is that it is a critical component to shortterm success but ultimately would even out in the long run.

    Sure some lucky guy might win at the slots, but if he played for years, chances are his winnings would look like the typical curve.

    I guess the key is to take control of luck rather than just blame it.

  • I completely disagree. But it’s possible that is because luck means something different to me. How do you define luck?

  • I strongly agree with the overall sentiment here – luck is important to success, and more so than most people talking about enterprise give it credit for.
    Perhaps people have an aspirational bias to believing in a fairer world where success is the product of hard work.

    I’m really not sure about your second point though, “Trust in probabilities of luck” – certainly superficially, this seems to be based on an incorrect understanding of probabilities and causality.
    You do not really think probability implies that the fact that something unlucky just happened to you means something lucky is more likely to happen in future? This is a logically incorrect.

  • For quite some time I have observed how “success” is consequential of a combination of many factors, and the event of this combination “just happens”. In other words, success is indeed a product of LUCK. And what would be the definition of luck? It’s exactly the events that have a low probability of happening, or the events that benefit a small percentage of people, or that greatly benefit some people. China has more than a billion people, most of them hard working people. There are millions of kung-fu fighters. And why there’s only Jackie Chan, Jet Li and a couple of others who became international celebrities? And what about birth itself. If you are born in the US you’re already entitled to a ridiculous amount of benefits, when compared to most African countries or Latin American countries.
    Analyze closely any success story and you’ll be able to pinpoint specific “RANDOM KEY EVENTS” in it that propelled that person to stardom. It’s not to say that all successful people are mediocre, and are only “lucky”. But their “uniqueness” is directly related to elements that were beyond control. For example, take all black people in music business and transport them to a hundred years back in time. The same people, with the same talents. They would not be successful. Get every champion surfer and had them grow up in a country city, far from any beaches, and they would not be champions. The reason there can’t be “the next Madonna”, “the next Oprah”, “the next Mike Tyson”, “the next Michael Jackson”, “the next Bill Gates”, “the next Steve Jobs” is not because these people are in essence extremely talented or gifted, but it is because theyfound themselves in a situation where the circumstances favored them. Once again, I’m not saying that “any other people” in the same circumstances would be successful, or saying that these people were not extremely talented, bright or whatever. What I’m saying is that there were many random, uncontrollable circumstances that favored the excelling of people with their particular attibutes, at that particular moment in time.

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