Many entrepreneurs believe their success is in part due to a little bit of luck– that chance meeting with a potential investor or that dinner conversation that sparks a new idea. In fact, a new study by networking site LinkedIn found that 84 percent of 7,000 professionals they surveyed say they believe in career luck.
But let’s face it: There isn’t an exact science to luck. You can’t predict it. However, there have been plenty of successful entrepreneurs, authors, and even researchers who’ve tried to map out just what makes someone lucky.
Here are a few of the top tips for cultivating your own luck.
1. Be humble. Part of cultivating luck, writes author and venture capitalist Athony Tjan for Harvard Business Review, is increasing your influence. And the best way to do that is through cultivating something counterintuitive: humility. He added: “People can mistake humility for weakness and avoid it so as not to lose perceived power…You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
2. Roll up your sleeves. This seems pretty obvious to those who consider themselves lucky. According to the LinkedIn survey, a whopping 70 percent of those surveyed said a strong work ethic was the number one thing that makes someone lucky. But to work hard, you also have to be skilled. Nearly half of the respondents in the same survey said that skills were another contributor to career luck.
3. Be generous. Tjan also writes, “Never lose the spirit of generosity; instead, allocate it appropriately. Remaining a mentor to others, connecting with community activities, simply saying more ‘thank-yous,’ and doing more things without over-thinking the potential ‘value-exchange’ equation, is a pay-it-forward attitude that in the long-run usually pays off in spades. Plus, it just feels good to be generous.”
4. Be ready. Good to Great author Jim Collins has said that if one cannot predict luck, the question to then ask is: “Do you have a high return on luck?” In a New York Times essay he revealed this concept using Bill Gates as an example. He wrote: “Thousands of people could have done the same thing that Mr. Gates did, at the same time. But they didn’t…How many of them changed their life plans–and cut their sleep to near zero, essentially inhaling food so as not to let eating interfere with work–to throw themselves into writing Basic for the Altair? How many defied their parents, dropped out of college and moved to Albuquerque to work with the Altair? That’s not luck–that’s return on luck.”
5. Go with your gut. Who better than the late Steve Jobs to describe why trusting in your gut instincts may be the best way to ensure your luck in the future? In his famous speech to a graduating class at Stanford he said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” Add to that, according to the LinkedIn survey, nearly half of the respondents said that “using your intuition” has been an important factor in their career luck.
6. Simply believe that you are lucky. A recent study from psychologist and University of Hertfordshire Professor Richard Wiseman found that simply believing you are lucky can create positive outcomes. He took two groups of people: one that considered themselves “lucky,” and another that considered “themselves” unlucky. He gave both groups newspapers and asked everyone to report back how many photos were in the issue as quickly as possible. The lucky people came back with the answer in seconds, much faster than the unlucky group. Why? Because on page two of the paper, there was an ad that read “Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.”
Wiseman concluded: “Unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else. They go to parties intent on finding their perfect partner, and so miss opportunities to make good friends. They look through the newspaper determined to find certain job advertisements and, as a result, miss other types of jobs. Lucky people are more relaxed and open, and therefore see what is there, rather than just what they are looking for.”
— Nicole Carter
—With additional reporting by John McDermott