Barely getting hit by a car, walking away without a scratch from an accident, winning the lottery, being at the rate place at the right time, all of these things can fall under the heading of luck. I´m talking about the good kind.
Normally when we refer to luck, we are considering an experience heavily influenced by an element of chance. Randomness.
But what if there was more to it than just chance and randomness? What if you could truly “make your own luck?”
Would you be willing to do those things that increase the probability of those moments of luck in your life?
Let´s begin with a working definition of luck attributed to an ancient philosopher.
“Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity". Seneca
This immediately takes the element of chance out of the equation. Luck, according to Seneca, has more to do with preparedness meeting opportunity.
In my last blog post, The Underground Life, I quoted Nelson Mandela´s response to the question of what he did all those years in prison. His response was simply “preparing.”
“Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity". Seneca
Mr. Mandela spent over 27 years of his life in prison. What he did during that time was all in preparation for the opportunities that would laid before him.
The opportunity of his release along with the preparation that took place during his imprisonment, catapulted Nelson Mandela into the historic personality that changed the course of a nation and inspired the world.
Mr. Mandela could have blamed the unjust system of apartheid that imprisoned him unfairly and easily become another victim of hate and bigotry. His life may have resulted in poverty and the frustration of a life in a prison without bars.
He chose a different approach. He chose to do the deep work that offered him freedom way before the physical release from the cell. He worked on creating the future he desired for himself and his people before the opportunity was there. He was committed to the long game. He chose the Underground Life. He prepared.
This idea of preparation is only one part of the equation. The other half is perseverance.
In Napolean Hill´s, Think and Grow Rich, there is a story of a Mr. Darby and his quest for gold. As the story goes, Darby grew frustrated after months of mining, with no results, in an area where he had recently experienced success. Mr. Darby abandoned the dig and sold his equipment to a junk dealer. The dealer became curios about the mine, and with the aid of an engineer, decided to continue the dig. Within minutes, the junk dealer struck gold. Not just a little bit. He discovered a vein that made him incredibly wealthy. The story is known as “Three Feet From Gold,” as that was the distance between the different outcomes.
The moral of the story: Not giving up, staying in the game, improves the statistical probabilities of experiencing “luck.”
Another aspect of the story is that early success can create a false expectation of ease and quick returns.
Everyone is excited and full of energy at the beginning of a marathon. That excitement and energy diminishes considerably at about mile twenty-one. Everyone is simply gutting it out at that point. Those who finish. The one´s that get the medals, they prepared. They persevered.
An area that we see this false expectation of ease and quick return play out in is creativity.
We confuse imagination with creativity. Adam Alter in his book, “Anatomy of a Breakthrough,” states the following, “The quickness of our imagination leads us to believe that creative products arrive quickly, or not at all.”
Imagination is easy by comparison to creativity. Let´s do a little test. Close your eyes and allow your imagination to take you wherever it wants to go. Fun!! Right? And easy.
Now focus that imagination a little bit more towards something you desire to create. It can be a thing or an experience. Awesome!!! Now focus in a little more. Get a little more detail. Sweet!!!
Keep repeating until you have as much clarity as you can get. Now, go create it.
What began as imagination can become a creative act. But for that to happen, imagination must be refined into the process of creation.
Creativity is the process by which we refine imagination.
Let´s take a look at one more thing. Inspiration!
"Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work," Chuck Close
Moments of inspiration are always welcomed. But inspiration is infrequent and therefore unreliable. If I wait to step into action on the bases of inspiration, not much would ever get done, and that´s the point that Chuck Close is making.
Stepping into action can be the catalyst for inspiration. “Do something! Anything!” is often better than doing nothing at all.
Flow states (inspired states) are the outcome of action. More precisely, action within the context of challenge.
Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, defines flow in his book by the same title as, “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”
He also offers this definition of how a flow state is experienced. “The best moments usually occur when a person´s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
Here´s a little equation to help grasp this: skill + challenge (stretch) + growth mindset = flow.
That equation alone requires an entire post by itself. So, stay tuned!!
But again, it is preparation and perseverance that open up the opportunity to experience flow.
I recently finished George Mumford’s latest book, “Unlocked.” Two of my takeaways from it were “no struggle, no swag,” and “chop wood, carry water.”
“Chop wood, carry water.”
“Chop wood, carry water,” is a snippet of a Zen quote, “Before Enlightenment chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment chop wood carry water.”
Both statements are about showing up every day to do the work. Despite the difficulties. The struggle. Despite the mundane.
The interesting thing about the mundane, according to Erwin McManus, is that we often find the miraculous hidden within it.
Mumford´s point is Seneca´s definition of luck. Do the work – repeatedly. Persevere. Eventually, the opportunity will present itself and you´ll step into it with confidence knowing that this is your time.
Let´s wrap this up. Luck is about preparation and perseverance waiting for opportunity. In the interim - that time between the initial desire and outcome there will be opportunities to experience periods of challenge that will stretch you. As you work through it, you enter flow. Those moments of inspired imagination are refined into creative acts. You step into the miracle. You´ve arrived.
Other´s will look at who you´ve become and what you´ve accomplished and say, “Oh, that I could be so lucky.”