It usually happens towards the end of a profile you’re reading about some extraordinarily successful individual — the almost obligatory nod to “luck” and the role it’s played in that person’s life.
For mere mortals, it’s a comforting thought. No responsibility for what I can’t control, right? The problem, of course, is that this is only partially true. Maybe successful people really are blessed with more than their fair share of serendipity. But they also tend to set themselves up for more lucky encounters by leading lives designed to attract them. It’s kind of like how the cupcakes that are the most evenly frosted end up with more sprinkles. (Ok, I admit that was a stretch. I’ve just always wanted to work in a cupcake analogy somehow).
What you realize after reflecting on a few of these stories, and maybe on your own experiences, is that there’s no monopoly on cultivating luck. Anyone can tilt the odds in their favor.
How? A few rules of thumb as a starting point:
1. Do one thing every day, no matter how small, where you feel not quite in your element, maybe even pretty darn vulnerable. It can be as dramatic as running down the street to ask out a stranger or as simple as trying a new weight machine at the gym.
2. When life gives you options, choose the one with the widest range of possible outcomes. You’ll be surprised at how often you rise to the occasion just by giving yourself the opportunity.
3. Move on before you feel you’re ready. This isn’t to say never finish what you start or rush off and leave a mess for others to clean up. But if you keep waiting for all the variables to fall into place you’ll always end up floating in someone else’s wake.
4. Cherish time spent in others’ company. How much do you actually believe that everyone you meet has something worthwhile to teach you?
None of the above is groundbreaking by any stretch. It’s all rather intuitive, in fact. So why aren’t more people doing these things? If acknowledging the truth of a simple idea was all it took, the world would be a much more level playing field.
It’s not easy to push beyond your comfort zone every day. It’s not easy to embrace uncertainty. It’s not easy to fight inertia and voluntarily disrupt a comfortable routine. It’s not easy to invest in relationships when there are ten more urgent things on your to-do list all with more immediate and tangible consequences.
Just remember that luck isn’t something that passively happens to people. It’s something that can be actively cultivated with a measure of courage. So go out there and earn your sprinkles.