We all wish we were a little bit more lucky. But the truth of the matter is that some people are “luckier” than others when we view luck as a skill and not simply the result of random chance.
Luck is a skill because every leader understands that luck tends to favored the prepared. They understand that those who take the time to prepare will always hold the advantage over those who don’t. Preparation and luck are inseparable concepts because luck rarely finds the person who is unprepared for the fortuitous opportunity that might come their way.
After years of experimentation Charles Goodyear walked into a store in 1839 where he accidentally spilled a conception of gum and sulphur onto a sizzling stove which allowed him to discover the compound we know as rubber.
At first glance this anecdote might seem like the result of random chance, but the reality is that Goodyear had been preparing for this “lucky break” his entire life.
Charles Goodyear devoted himself to discovering a new rubber-like material for years before he actually found what he was looking for. He was engaged in an active pursuit that consumed all of his energies; he was always experimenting with different types of material, using new compounds, and trying different combinations.
As a result of his experimentation and curiosity he built the skills, mental framework, and expertise that created a fertile mental state for his discovery of rubber. As Twyla Tharp writes in her book, The Creative Habit:
It took a person with an open mind to recognize the importance of what took place on that stove, it took knowledge and skill to analyze it and repeat it in the laboratory. The hot stove incident held meaning, said Goodyear, only for the person ‘whose mind was prepared to draw an inference,’ the one who had ‘applied himself most perseveringly to the subject.’
Preparation is the essential ingredient that allows leaders to seize on a fortuitous opportunity because luck is never solely the result of random chance. Luck is often used to refer to circumstances like winning the lottery, when in reality some people are more consistently “lucky” than others because they know how to prepare for whatever good fortune might come their way.
Opportunity is all around us waiting to be seized upon. But only those whose minds are “prepared to draw an inference” are able capitalize on the seemingly insignificant nuances and turn them into a positive result.
Luck is not merely the result of random chance because luck always favors the prepared, and here’s why:
Charles Goodyear got “lucky” when he discovered rubber in the sense that two of the compounds he had been working with for years were accidentally spilled onto a stove. But he was prepared to be lucky because he was able to make the connection between what was happening on the stove from his years of working with hundreds of different materials in a quest to find a durable rubber.
His expertise allowed him to make the connection and draw the inferences from a chance encounter that would have passed less prepared men by.
Goodyear got “lucky” when he discovered his new rubber compound because he had developed the skill to repeat the experiment in his lab after he saw the rubber compound mix. Without his intricate knowledge of chemistry and his familiarity with various chemical compounds he would have been unable understand what was happening and repeat the chemical reaction in the lab.
A commitment to preparation is the first step in developing and honing the skills that allow certain people to be habitually “lucky”.
Gary Player once said, “the more I practice the luckier I get.”
Luck always favors the prepared, because preparation helps us make connections and gives us the skills that allow us to take advantage of opportunities. In an effort to prepare for good fortune, write down 2 specific ways related to your field of expertise that you are preparing today to be “lucky” tomorrow:
Expertise: Basketball Coach
I will prepare by watching and learning 5 new offensive plays a week that have nothing to do with my team. I understand this will help build my knowledge of the game, help me make better in-game adjustments, and help me more quickly recognize what opponents are trying to do
I will prepare by reading one new book a month. I understand that the more complete I am as it relates to the tactical, relational, and psychological aspects of coaching the better chance my team will have to be successful on and off the floor.
I will prepare by intentionally meeting with 3 players a week outside of practice: I understand that great team chemistry is never the result of chance, but of intentional relationship building. The better my relationships, the better chance I have to build a cohesive group that will trust each other through the ups and downs of a season.