The things every high-achiever should know
In: Achieving Goals10 Jan 2011
I’ve been meaning to write a post on this topic for quite some time now. Luck is not, as some believe, a pure crap shoot that you have no control over. The definition for luck is: “good fortune; advantage or success, considered as the result of chance.” Anything that results from chance has certain odds. This post is about the strategies you can use to improve your odds of achieving a desired goal or outcome.
Successful people inherently understand the concept behind being consistently lucky, even if they don’t explicitly call it “creating luck.” The secret behind it probably won’t surprise you, but you may be surprised by how many people don’t adopt this simple truth as they go about their lives. By the end of this blog post, my hope is that you will have greater clarity when it comes to improving your lifestyle through the mechanics of odds and luck. And if you follow these principles diligently, you may soon find that you’re the one that your friends and family consider “lucky”.
The Magic Formula
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
There is one truth that must be discussed before we move on: opportunities are everywhere around you. Unless you are in an extreme situation, you will frequently encounter opportunities to grow personally and professionally. Although you may not be aware of them, I can assure you that they are there. Such opportunities can come in the form of unexpectedly getting introduced to someone important, noticing that the ideal storefront for your business is suddenly for rent, realizing you have 3 hours free each Wednesday evening to learn something new, or even a flash of inspiration in the middle of a sleepless night.
Consistently “lucky” people are able to do three things:
1) Maximize exposure to opportunities
2) Consistently recognize opportunities
3) Effectively take advantage of opportunities
Maximize Exposure to Opportunities
“Opportunities multiply as they are seized”
– Sun Tzu
“Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.”
As I’ve written before, success and failure often follow the mechanics of virtuous and vicious cycles. As people seize opportunities, they are building the connections and acquiring the skills that will allow them to be presented with even more opportunities. This positive feedback loops is very powerful.
However, this begs the question: “How do non-successful people break the cycle of never being exposed to opportunity?” This is where learning to recognize opportunities becomes incredibly important. By rewiring your brain to better identify opportunities, you will put yourself in a better position to take advantage of them, which then starts to form the positive feedback loop noted by Sun Tzu’s quote above.
Furthermore, pay attention to the above quote by Ann Landers. When unmotivated people habitually avoid hard work, they are more often than not avoiding the very opportunities they complain about never having access to. People who habitually embrace hard work are those who are exposed to the most opportunities. Unless your family is incredibly wealthy or well-connected, be prepared to work hard in order to expose yourself to opportunities.
Consistently Recognize Opportunities
Every situation we encounter passes through a filter in our brain. This filter takes into account our beliefs, relative identity, fears, and habitual modes of thinking. After all of this filtering takes place, our brain generates an interpretation. This final interpretation can either enhance our understanding of reality or take away from it.
Unfortunately, it is possible for your beliefs, fears, insecurities, and self-image to literally re-define your reality to the point where you’ve completely filtered out or distorted the opportunities that are present all around you.
In order to change your thought patterns and begin better identifying opportunities, ask yourself the following two questions as you encounter situations throughout your day:
1) Is there non-obligatory effort involved here?
2) How might another optimistic, successful individual interpret this situation?
The first question will help you identify situations that may require deeper thought and analysis. Since you are not obligated (by your boss, for example) to put effort into the situation, it can be tempting to just continue with your day and ignore it. However, if there is hard work involved in a situation you find yourself in, odds are that there is an opportunity lurking nearby. The second question is to help break your normal thought patterns by thinking about how someone else may interpret this same situation.
For example, let’s say that you are presented with a non-obligatory offer to volunteer at your town’s park next Saturday. You’ve been stressed because you have been contemplating a career change. Once you have recognized an non-obligatory situation that has been presented to you, consider how an optimistic individual might see the situation. He would probably see volunteering at the park next Saturday as an opportunity to network and meet your neighbors, many of whom might know someone who works in the field you are thinking of switching to.
The above example indicates the exact type of situation that “lucky” people take advantage of. As you begin to take advantage of opportunities, you will eventually find it easier and easier to recognize them. Just like any skill, you will get better at identifying opportunities through practice.
Effectively Take Advantage of Opportunities
“Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can – there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.”
- Sarah Caldwell
If you are an individual who finds himself exposed to many opportunities, but is unable to take advantage of them, you may be in need of greater preparation. For example, let’s say Mike just discovered that a company is hiring for his dream job and will be at the job fair at his school next week. This is an amazing opportunity. But if Mike attends this job fair with no elevator pitch prepared and no resumes to hand out, he will be very unlikely to effectively take advantage of the opportunity at hand.
Always have a plan of attack before an opportunity arrives. Even when I don’t have any job interviews scheduled, I am diligently doing mock interviews in order to stay prepared in case I hear back from a company and they wish to interview me on short notice.
Not sure what to be prepared for? Just take a quick glance at your goals to give you indication of what you should start preparing for right now.
Are you graduating next year? Start improving your resume and doing mock interviews. Planning a vacation for next year? Start saving and looking for hotel packages now.
The key takeaway is to start now. If you wait until the last minute to start preparing, you aren’t really prepared.
By applying the strategies above, your odds of achieving success will improve greatly. At the very minimum, hold onto the quotes mentioned in this post and review them often. They have distilled the lessons I’ve discussed into quick, effective reminders of the power of recognizing and being prepared for the opportunities that are all around us.
And as always, I’d love to hear your comments on this topic!
I'm Jon Guerrera, a life hacker at heart, and the man behind the scenes here at Living For Improvement. This blog documents all of my successes, failures, experiments and lessons learned as I hack my way to happiness, fulfillment and success.
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Unlimited Drive is the result of four years of diligent research on what drives people to achieve great things. I always wondered how the most successful people in the world could reach such high levels of success and accomplishment. Well, I found the answer and wrote an ebook so I could pass it on to you (for free).
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