St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated on March 17 and in Suffolk County, St. Paddy’s Day is a very big deal. There is a huge parade, bakeries sell Irish soda bread throughout the month (it’s great toasted and slathered with lots of butter), bars sell green beer and some grocery stores even sell green bagels. The city declares a holiday (officially called Evacuation Day) and the parking meters are off.
So it got me thinking about four-leaf clovers and good luck and all of that. Like most people, I am convinced that success in life and business is impacted by luck. Being born to a wealthy and influential family, having loving and supportive parents, being exceptionally talented in science or with languages, getting seated next to a potential client at a dinner party—that’s all random good luck that no one can control.
A recent LinkedIn survey of 7,000 of their members found that 84% believe in career luck. Both Napoleon Bonaparte and former U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower were quoted as saying they preferred a lucky general to a smart one. I mean, why is it that some people always manage to be in the right place at the right time?
Some experts claim that we have a hand in creating our luck, good or bad. A recent study by Richard Wiseman, Professor of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK, demonstrated that simply believing that one is lucky can create positive outcomes. Wiseman studied two groups of people: one group whose members considered themselves to be “lucky” and another group whose members considered themselves to be “unlucky”.
He gave participants in each group a newspaper and instructed all to as quickly as possible, go through the paper and report how many photographs were to be found within. The results were interesting. The “lucky” study subjects reported back their (correct) answers within seconds, much faster than the “unlucky” subjects reported back their (often incorrect) answers. What accounted for the difference? On page two of the paper there appeared an advertisement with this message: “Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.”
Wiseman concluded that the “unlucky” study subjects were blind to their opportunity to succeed because they became too focused on looking for exactly what they were looking for, to the exclusion of what would help them achieve their goal. For example, perhaps “unlucky” Freelancers attend networking events in search of their idealized version of the perfect client and as a result ignore others in the room who might also be potential clients.
“Lucky” people, on the other hand, are much more relaxed and open, willing and able to see what resources lie in their path—like the ad on page two of the newspaper that gave them the winning advantage. Furthermore, a strong work ethic is said to increase our chances to create and/or take advantage of good fortune. Bill Gates got lucky for sure, but he and Paul Allen also shut themselves up in a room, rolled up their sleeves and worked very long hours to put themselves in a position to grab the brass ring when it came around. They also had great faith in the marketability of their ideas, which is said to be another magnet for good luck.
“Nevertheless, since our free will must not be denied, I estimate that even if fortune is the arbiter of half our actions, she still allows us to control the other half, or thereabouts.” Niccolo Machiavelli, in a 1513 letter to Lorenzo de’Medici
So how can we attract a healthy chunk of the good fortune that floats through the atmosphere? Listen to Machiavelli and Professor Wiseman, Paul Allen and Bill Gates. Once you know in your gut that your product, service or idea has good potential to find a client base, trust your instincts and vigorously pursue and promote what you’ve got. Work hard and be ready when the good fortune rolls around, as Machiavelli advised his patron Lorenzo de’Medici. Most of all, take off the blinders and see the gold nuggets that may lie within your reach, as Wiseman’s study demonstrated. Maybe look for a four-leaf clover and have some soda bread too, just for good measure.
Good luck to you and thanks for reading,