Destiny vs Destination

When things go badly, the optimist is likely to respond with a reference to forces outside her control, “our competitors got lucky this time!”

When things go well, the pessimist is likely to respond in a similar way, “I got lucky this time!”

In both situations the person is making a call to destiny.

The optimist believes that things will go well as a matter of course, and so any setbacks are explained away as temporary bad luck.

The pessimist seems to believe the opposite; every situation presents the realistic possibility of failure and defeat. And when things go well, the pessimist is just thankful for the good fortune she enjoyed this time around.

The literature on positive psychology is totally in favour of the optimist, and with good reason. By explaining away defeat, the research has shown that a person will be much more resilient, which means they will be more likely to try again next time.

Resilience is important because it can help people to achieve their goals, and to avoid depression.

The problem with this blind support for the optimist though is that it ignores the value of intellectual honesty.

Sometimes you will have bad luck, and it is obviously fine to say so.

However, sometimes you will catch a lucky break, and in these instances claiming that your success is caused by your god-given brilliance may simply be dishonest, distasteful or downright obnoxious.

The winds can change.

Seneca, the Roman Stoic philosopher, is quoted as saying that “if one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.”

Good luck will feel wonderful and bad luck will feel horrible, but both can be equally unfavourable if you have no ultimate destination in mind.

You might have heard Behavioural Economists talk about “outcome bias”, which means judging a decision based on the outcome (good or bad?) rather than the quality of the decision at the time it was made.

In life, as in business, we should assess the quality of our decisions by whether they stand a reasonable chance of bringing us closer to our goals.

Which port are you sailing to?

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