Leadership expert and mentor to entrepreneurs Terence Mauri unpicks the science of business luck, looking at how you can make your own luck to bring success to your company.
“Luck is about being prepared for when the opportunity presents itself.” — Nick Woodman, founder of GoPro.
We tend to associate luck with superstition or strange forces outside our control. It’s probably time to challenge this outdated way of thinking. Tina Seeling, executive director of the Stanford Technology Ventures program and author of What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20, wrote: “Lucky people don’t just pay attention to the world around them and meet interesting individuals – they also find unusual ways to use and recombine their knowledge and experiences.
“Most people have remarkable resources at their fingertips, but never figure out how to leverage them. However, lucky people appreciate the value of their knowledge and their network, and tap into their goldmines as needed.”
Leaders who feel lucky report higher levels of motivation and wellbeing, both essential for sustaining performance during tough times. So how do you cultivate your own daily luck?
Make your own business luck
Luck is a skill that can be developed. It’s about a flexibility of mind and a willingness to listen to your heart and trust your gut. Take advantage of chance occurrences, break the weekly routine, and once in a while have the courage to let go. The world is full of opportunity if you’re prepared to embrace it. Steve Jobs emphasised the importance of trusting your gut when he delivered his now infamous commencement address at Stanford University when he said:“If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, and karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
Business luck is as much about what you expect as what you do. Do you wait for success to happen, or do you get out there and make it happen?
The luck factor
In his book The Luck Factor, Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire describes why lucky people tend to share traits that make them luckier than others. This includes the impact of chance opportunities, lucky breaks, and being in the right place at the right time.
In an interview with the Telegraph, he said: “My research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.”
On the flip side, he said: “Those who think they’re unlucky should change their outlook and discover how to generate good fortune.”
Science of luck
One of Wiseman’s most famous studies examined why some people are luckier than others and how to increase your luck quotient in life. The results were surprising. He wrote: “Ten years ago I decided to take a more scientific investigation into the concept of luck. I decided that the best method was to examine why some people are consistently lucky whilst others encounter little but ill fortune. In short, why some people seem to live charmed lives full of lucky breaks and chance encounters, while others experience one disaster after another.”
Wiseman placed advertisements in the press asking readers who thought of themselves as lucky or unlucky to contact him. They came from all walks of life, from a graduate to a CEO. All agreed to let him study their lives to understand if there is such a thing as a luck quotient that we can control. Over the course of a month he asked volunteers to follow daily exercises that could help them build up a lucky mindset. These exercises included breaking with routine, trying something new, expecting to be lucky, and being more resilient in the face of bad luck.
Use it or lose it
At the end of the experiment he found that 80 per cent of volunteers felt more optimistic about the future and, most critically, felt luckier. Wiseman continued: “The findings have revealed that luck is not a magical ability or the result of random chance. Nor are people born lucky or unlucky. Instead, although lucky people and unlucky people have almost no insight into the real causes of their good and bad luck, their thoughts and behaviour are responsible for much of their fortune.”
The study showed that to a large extent, people make their own good and bad fortune and that it is possible to enhance the amount of luck that people encounter in their lives.
In a Telegraph interview, Wiseman said: “Unlucky people often fail to follow their intuition when making a choice, whereas lucky people tend to respect hunches. Lucky people are interested in how they both think and feel about the various options, rather than simply looking at the rational side of the situation. I think this helps them because gut feelings act as an alarm bell – a reason to consider a decision carefully.”
Take the initiative and do something new every day. The self-similarity principle draws us towards like-minded people who share similar values and mindsets about the world. While this is a comfortable default setting it can also lead to group think and less opportunity to explore new thinking, essential for the leader’s mindset. One of the biggest enemies of business luck is routine and boredom.
I agree with Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Albert Szent-Györgyi, who said: “A discovery is said to be an accident meeting a prepared mind.” Good luck.
Terence Mauri is the author of a new book, The Leader’s Mindset: How To Win In The Age of Disruption.
Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.