We often wish each other good luck, and yet we despise it when someone gets ahead of us because of luck. We invented all sorts of rituals, like throwing coins into fountains and killing endangered animals, thinking that they will make us luckier. The myth of overnight success makes us seek a magic wand that will help us achieve our goals and fulfil our dreams.
Yet when we dig deeper into biographies of highly successful people, we start to notice patterns. By the way, here, we define success by the impact that a person makes on other people’s lives, both financially and emotionally.
At school, we study the lives of great warriors, painters, writers, philosophers. It only recently dawned on me that all those years, these lives were there, right in front of me, while I merely watched them as watching a movie. Not even a single thought of me achieving something similar with my life occurred to me back then.
We can certainly call those great people of the past lucky. I’m now sure that luck is misunderstood. Yes, to succeed in life and to achieve your goals you have to be lucky! But look around yourself. If you’re reading this, you’re probably well fed, you received an excellent education, and most importantly you have access to all the knowledge on Earth through the Internet. Just fifty years ago people couldn’t even dream of anything like that.
“Well, yes,” you might say, “but so many people have access to all of this, and yet they constantly struggle!”
What makes all the difference is how you use your chances of becoming even luckier. Let’s look at the seven traits of people whom we often consider blessed by fortune.
1. They practice gratitude.
Starting or finishing your day by writing out things and people who you are grateful for is one of the best ways to start journaling. But how can this practice make you luckier?
It has been shown that practicing gratitude in this way makes people more empathetic and kind throughout the day, thus helping building relationships. Successful people publicly recognise the contribution of their colleagues, friends, and relatives. Without being able to nurture deep relationships with other people, it’s impossible to become successful.
Later, people will, of course, say you were lucky to meet that guy with whom you went on to achieve success.
2. They have routines but allow for spontaneity.
Routines give a structure to our lives. I especially like the “Life S.A.V.E.R.S.” routine described in the “Miracle Morning” book by Hal Elrod.
Routines help our brains to eliminate the decision-making thus preserving our willpower, which has been shown to be a limited resource.
Routines help us build new habits, being part of the “cue, routine, reward” loop. For example, the easiest way to start running — which undoubtedly has lots of benefits — is to set yourself a goal to run, for instance, every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. When a Tuesday comes, your brain doesn’t need to make a decision whether to run or not — you had already made that decision.
At the same time, I like adding some variety to my life and doing some things the moment they come to my mind. Reducing the time between an idea and execution is what allows successful people to experiment and iterate quickly.
A healthy balance between strict routines and spontaneity is what has all the chances of attracting luck!
3. They read. A lot.
It is incredibly difficult to come up with something entirely new, with something that in no way has ever existed in the world. In the end, there’s nothing new under the sun.
However, there is an infinite number of ways to combine different existing ideas into something new. Reading books allows us to do just that. Through researching topics of interest and mixing other people’s thoughts with our own, we conjure up new ideas resulting in the creation of something that never existed.
There’s no need to worry if you remember everything that you read — it’s just impossible! Reading books trains our minds to think, to imagine, to become more creative and dive into other people’s lives. Being interested in other people is another crucial trait for becoming luckier.
4. They attend meetups.
It’s undoubtedly much luckier to attend a meetup on a subject that you’ve been thinking about recently than spending an evening watching Netflix.
Have you been pondering about opening a restaurant one day? Try searching for a meetup about French cuisine! Perhaps you’ve heard about machine learning and artificial intelligence, and you now think it’s time to change your career. Start with attending a meetup on this topic.
You never know who you might meet in one of such events. The key here is to get to know people around you, what they’ve been working on, and the easiest way to start is to say “Hi!” to a person sitting next to you.
5. They set themselves challenges.
Challenges push us to explore the world around and what we are capable of. Luck favours the brave!
Would Bilbo Baggins become such a legend if he remained in the Shire? Would Christopher Columbus be remembered as an explorer if he stuck to a known and safe route to India? Elon Musk wouldn’t be the one who we know today weren’t it for his constant challenge of himself to do something no one has ever done before.
Personally, I started with physical challenges, like cycling for over a hundred miles and swimming 5,000 meters as part of a Swimathon challenge. I haven’t done an Iron Man, yet it’s one of my long-term goals. I realised that such endurance events wouldn’t be quite challenging for me because it’s just a matter of consistent, smart exercising, following a sensible diet and mental training. The new challenges that I’ve now decided to take up are in business and making a positive impact on people’s lives.
Such challenges push us to get ourselves out of the comfort zone and to be creative in achieving our goals with the means available to us.
6. They push themselves out of their comfort zones.
Yes, luck is most often nowhere near where you feel comfortable. In the book “Entrepreneurial Revolution” Daniel Priestly sets up some challenges that urge you to do something, about which you feel at first uneasy.
For example, one of the challenges is to invite two people per week for lunch! For me, who has always preferred eating at my work desk, that has been quite a challenge. But it turned out to be not that scary! I reached out to a person to whom I wanted to talk on LinkedIn, we arranged lunch, and it went just fine.
Usually, if you feel uncomfortable about something, you should just go ahead and do it. Have you never traveled solo? Go ahead and try it! Feeling worried if people would ever listen to you if you do public speaking? Inevitably they won’t until you try!
7. They recognise it doesn’t matter how many times they fail. They only have to win once.
Some parents, when they see their child fail at sports, advise him to start practising something else. I consider such an approach entirely wrong. I’ve come to see that it’s the essence of our lives — in order to succeed, you have to endure through failures, find more clever ways to practice something, learn from your mistakes.
As Mark Cuban writes in his book “How to Win at the Sport of Business”, it doesn’t matter how many times you fail — you only have to win once.
Nobody knows for sure how many experiments Thomas Edison had to conduct — thousands according to some articles. It was just one that set him off into the right direction to patent a light bulb. J.K. Rowling’s pitch for the original “Harry Potter” book was rejected by twelve publishers. Only a small British publisher, Bloomsbury Publishing, agreed to give it a try.
Luck has quite a capricious nature. Sometimes you achieve success on the first attempt, sometimes it takes a thousand. In the end, it’s all going to be worth all the failures!
Luck is not something that occurs at random. I believe, luck is what follows a sequence of deliberate choices we’re making in our lives. These seven traits have been helping me throughout the years to achieve my goals, and I wish you the same.