How to Make Your Own Luck

How to make your own luck“Luck is not something you can mention in the presence of self-made men.” (E.B. White)

TODAY, over coffee with a friend at an alfresco cafe in Sydney, our conversation turned, as if by chance, to consider the nature of luck.

As an Australian, I have always considered myself lucky. After all, if you grow up in a country with good food, great beaches, and free health care and education, then dwelling on small misfortunes would seem to suggest a slight lack of perspective (although some people will always find a way).

And while some people do get a better start in life than others, we discussed instead a slightly different and more interesting breed of luck – the kind you can make for yourself.

Some people seem to get all the lucky breaks and to be always in the right place at the right time. Why does this happen? And what do the lucky people do differently from the rest of us?

It occurred to us, while sipping our decaf skim soy lattes, that the formula for creating good luck is, like most deep wisdom, fairly simple to explain but hard to implement. And it appears to consist of just 3 elements: (i) setting great expectations, (ii) preparing yourself and having persistence, and (iii) embracing opportunities as they arise.

Please find below, dear reader, a list of quotes that may shine additional light on what is required from you to create good luck in your work and your life.

1. Setting Great Expectations 

“You are what you settle for.”
~ Janis Joplin

“Million-to-one chances…crop up nine times out of ten.”
~ Terry Pratchett

2(a) Preparing Yourself

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
~ Seneca

“Opportunities are everywhere, you just have to be ready for them.”
Peter Baculak

2(b) Having Persistence

“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”
~ Thomas Jefferson

“Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.”
~ Ray Kroc

“Diligence is the mother of good luck.”
~ Benjamin Franklin

“The only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work.”
~ Harry Golden

3. Embracing Opportunity

“Luck affects everything, let your hook always be cast; In the stream where you least expect it, there will be a fish.” ~ Ovid

“Learn to recognize good luck when it’s waving at you, hoping to get your attention.”
~ Sally Koslow

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
~ Thomas Edison

“I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.”
~ Mark Twain

12 Tips for Creating an Effective Pitch

An elevator pitch needs to be clear, concise, provide a solution and generate interest in order to just get the conversation started

AS WE discovered in the previous post, an elevator pitch is a high-level overview of whatever it is that you are selling and is designed to just get the conversation started (Elevator Pitch Essentials, Chris O’Leary).

As a high level overview, an elevator pitch will need to be kept fairly short and to the point.  The irony is that creating a short pitch is likely to be a fairly long process because you will have to decide what information your listeners need to hear and what are just details. To mis-quote Mark Twain:

I didn’t have time to write a short elevator pitch, so I wrote a long one instead.

There is a lot to think about when preparing an elevator pitch, so to speed up the process I have identified 12 tips for creating an effective pitch.

1. Structure and Content

  1. Be clear – you want people to understand. You need to explain your idea in a way that your mother would understand. You want your audience to do the least amount of work possible.
  2. Be concise – people are busy. Anecdotal evidence suggests that people’s attention starts to waiver after 30 seconds. An elevator pitch should be no longer than 60 seconds.  Too much information will scare people away. Give them just enough information, and make them want to know more.
  3. Provide a solution – people want you to solve their problems. Focus specifically on the problem that you are solving for your audience. If you merely provide a shopping list of skills or services you may leave your audience thinking “So what? How does that help me?” After you have presented the problem, provide an outline of your solution.
  4. Tailor your pitch – different people have different problems. A pitch should address the specific concerns of your audience.
  5. Be credible – who are you? why are you qualified to provide your solution? Explain why you are able to identify and solve the problem.
  6. Give the big picture – the details are confusing. People are unlikely to understand your idea in the same way that you do, so the details will confuse or bore them. Give a high-level overview of your idea.
  7. Be unique – there are many ideas competing for attention.  What makes your idea different?
  8. Set the hook – you need to generate interest. A hook is a statement designed to generate interest and make your audience want to know more. For example, “I am a consultant in the city” compared with “I am a McKinsey strategy consultant looking at the new media and high tech space. I’m currently looking at cloud computing and how it is changing the computer industry forever.” As a second example, borrowed from Anna Rose, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition has a very short elevator pitch: “The AYCC aims to build a generation wide movement to solve climate change before it is too late.”  The last 5 words are the hook, “before it’s too late”!
  9. Call to action – what do you want? An elevator pitch is not designed the close the deal, it is designed to just get the conversation started.  It would be a good idea however to decide what you would like to achieve out of the interaction. You can then give people an opportunity to help you by asking for what you want: a business card, honest feedback, a referral, legal advice, seed capital, an opportunity to give a full presentation.

2. Delivery

  1. Be prepared – people respond to confidence. First impressions are important and to deliver a strong performance you should practice and get feedback. Prepare answers to any tough questions that you may get in response to your pitch. You need to be comfortable enough to adapt to the conversation as it progresses.
  2. Be genuinely passionate – people tune out the ordinary. If you are genuinely passionate, people are likely to stop and listen. Investors normally expect passion from entrepreneurs as a pre-requisite, a good idea does not compensate for lack of passion.
  3. Have integrity – your story needs to ring true. You need to believe in your own story because the first step is to convince yourself, only then can you convince your audience. Avoid clichés and platitudes.