Lucky business owners don’t sit around waiting for good things to happen to them. They put themselves in a position to be lucky. Here are five ways successful businesses get lucky.
To get the results you want, you need to write your own rules of good luck.
We once heard a mathematics professor state, “The parameters of luck are unknown to us.” In other words, luck can’t be explained by any specific factor; it’s a matter of chance. We thought the statement made a lot of sense, but we were intrigued by the notion that what we call “luck” could be explained by a set of variables or elements that had not yet been studied. So we carried out our own research.
We spoke with people who thought their lives had been blessed by good fortune to try and figure out what factors they had in common. After four years of research, we could clearly identify a list of five principles for good luck.
What our research revealed can be summarized in a single simple sentence: In business, we make our own good luck.
What do these creators of good luck have in common? How can business owners make their own good luck? The principles are summarized below:
Business owners who feel that they have had good luck also feel responsible for their own actions. When things go wrong or the outcome of any given situation is other than intended, they never point the finger of blame at external factors or other individuals. Instead, they look to themselves and ask, “What have I done for this to occur?” Then they act accordingly to solve the problem.
2. Learning from Mistakes
Creators of good luck don’t see a mistake as a failure. Instead, a mistake is an opportunity for learning. Thomas Edison is the classic example. More than 1,000 attempts to invent the first long-lasting electric light bulb led to bulbs that only stayed lit for a few minutes.
One of Edison’s colleagues asked him, “Mr. Edison, don’t you feel you are a failure?” Lacking any sense of vanity, he answered, “Not at all. Now, I definitely know more than a thousand ways how NOT to make a light bulb.”
Sure enough, just a few days later, he turned his inspiration into a practical concept. By the way, the very first light bulb was invented by Sir Joseph Wilson Swan, who demonstrated the theoretical concept but gave up trying to develop a practical application after only three attempts. By contrast, Edison made his own good luck and designed a working light bulb.
Creators of good luck don’t give up or postpone. When a problem or situation arises, they act immediately to either solve it without delay, delegate, or forget about it.
These business people don’t carry a list of “things to do” in their brain. Instead, they resolve problems and situations as quickly as possible. This enables their energy to be fully focused on their work and avoid conscious or unconscious distractions, which only generate inefficiency.
The most powerful principle is often the most overlooked. Confidence is divided into two parts: confidence in yourself and confidence in others.
Confidence in yourself is essential, and those who create their own good luck have high degrees of assertiveness and self-esteem. They keep to their purpose, persevere, and work to create the conditions that ultimately help them achieve success. Also, they are great visualizers. They use their imaginations — specifically, their visualizing techniques — to form mental images of their goals.
Closely linked to assertiveness and self-esteem is trust in others and respect for them, seeing other people as major sources of opportunity. This doesn’t mean that one must be naive and trust just anyone. Instead, it speaks to the trait of seeing others as sources of opportunity for achievement.
Without confidence there is no way to “give yourself” to the situation. If there is no intimacy — if it is ruled out by paranoia or rampant suspicion, for example — there can be no opening up to others. Hence, there can be no room for dialogue or for the genuine and sincere exchange of opinions. Without this, any initiative proceeds more slowly until, eventually, it simply withers and dies.
Synergy is key. Trust in others leads to a solid network of work colleagues and friends, which, in turn, provides more resources to carry out projects than if they were managed alone. Think cooperation rather than competitiveness. At the most basic level, any project or undertaking takes place in the context of the broader group, and everyone should have the chance to emerge a winner.
As we have seen, whether or not one can create good luck basically depends on an attitude towards oneself, towards others, and towards life. It is also tied to the perception that the individual is much more of a cause than an effect. And above all, to the realization that one must make oneself the creator of the conditions that foster success and the achievement of specific, visualized goals.
We think of luck — the sort that wins lotteries — as random. It can be favorable or not, but it is always occasional, brief, and impermanent. We have found that of the people who have won big sweepstakes prizes, many lose everything they gained, typically within four years to seven years of hitting the jackpot. Furthermore, their personal relationships with family, friends, and colleagues often suffer.
On the other hand, since those who create their own good luck owe success only to themselves and their own initiatives, not just to a random roll of the dice, they are acutely aware of the origins of their good fortune. Moreover, having seen it work before, they know how to repeat it.
The problem is that we often seem to forget old principles based on common sense, which basically say that we must work, be aware of our actions, and take responsibility for correcting them when the need arises. The person who grasps that wisdom is lucky indeed.
Alex Rovira and Fernando Trias de Bes are professors at Spanish B-school ESADE and authors of the book, , which has sold nearly 1 million copies worldwide since it was introduced in February, 2004. Both are partners at market research firm Salvetti & Llombart in Barcelona, Spain. Fernando Trias de Bes also co-authored Lateral Marketing with Philip Kotler (Wiley: 2003). For more information see