I’ve always considered myself lucky. After all, I was adopted at a young age by a wonderful family, which is just about the luckiest thing that can happen to a child in foster care.
And there is no denying that one of the most important factors in our lives – who our parents are and what situation we were born into – is completely relegated to chance.
However, once you remove the “who your parents are” element from the equation, much of what we consider “luck” isn’t really luck at all. It’s a complicated roux of hard work, hope and enthusiasm, mixed with a bit of perspective. After all, the person who gets shot in the shoulder is – on the one hand – unlucky as hell: he got shot. But he’s also extraordinarily lucky in that the bullet didn’t hit a few inches over and kill him instantly. It’s all about perspective.
But the biggest factor in luck, in my experience, is hard work. Or, as Edna Mode, the tiny superhero-uniform designer from The Incredibles, put it: “Luck favors the prepared.”
A job loss, for example, can come at any time, but the person who has kept her skills sharp, her résumé updated and her professional network in tip top shape is far better positioned to land on her feet than her colleague who didn’t do all those things. Illness can strike out of the blue as well, but the person who has maintained relationships with friends and family who can help out and stashed away savings to cover unexpected bills is a lot “luckier” than the person who didn’t maintain those ties or squirrel away emergency funds.
Luck favors the prepared.
It also favors those who look up from their phones.
The next time you’re in a crowd, check out the people around you. It’s alarming to see how many of them are staring at their phones. We’re all so terrified of being bored or cut off from social media for even an instant that we fail to engage with the human beings three feet away. But how many times have you found that those chance encounters have been interesting, energizing and maybe even professionally helpful? Or better yet, with someone who changed your life for the better?
I admit, sometimes when I’m on an airplane, I just want to put on my noise-cancelling headphones and read a magazine. Or catch up on work. Anything but talk to the woman next to me. But encounters like those – on an airplane, in the coffee shop, on the elevator – are sometimes the most interesting conversations I have all day.
I even know two lengthy marriages that began as meetings on planes.
Luck is about seeing opportunities in unexpected places and seizing on them. It’s about taking chances – whether that’s asking out the cute guy you met in the produce section at Whole Foods or inviting the contact you traded cards with at a networking event to lunch to learn more about her company.
By the way, how cool would it be if someone reading this did, in fact, meet a cute guy at the produce section at Whole Foods and saw what I wrote and decided the universe was rooting for them? I truly hope that happens because the universe is rooting for you.
Luck is about believing that the universe is conspiring to bring you good things – because if you’re looking for bad things, that’s what you’ll see. But if you’re looking for new friends in strangers, new opportunities in chance encounters, and joy in the mundane, that’s what you’ll see everywhere you go.