“The Harder You Work, The Luckier You Get”

March 5, 2013

Source: Jordy Leiser
Co-founder at STELLAService

The best advice I ever received was not really advice but more of an approach to living. It applies to several aspects of life: careers, relationships, sports; health and wellness, and probably many others.

There’s some debate about who first made this statement. Ben Franklin apparently once said “Diligence is the mother of good luck,” although more recently people think of legendary South African golfer Gary Player as the person who coined the phrase. That’s probably how it was eventually passed along to me, as my Dad started teaching me golf and its many truisms at an early age (there are conveniently plenty of great life lessons learned by analogy on the golf course – one shot at a time; you can’t control a bad break; manage the highs and the lows; forget your opponents and play against par).

The idea that the harder you work the luckier you get has always appealed to me even though it seems like an inherent contradiction – after all, luck is the fortune which occurs beyond one’s control. I think about this concept a lot like my friend Lane Becker does who describes it in his new book Get Lucky: How to Put Planned Serendipity to Work for You and Your Business. Lane’s idea of planned serendipity fits with my approach in that it’s possible to put yourself in a position to benefit from an unexpected occurrence if you work hard and make the right choices. What some people call luck others call preparation, persistence and dedication to increasing your chances of being at the right place at the right time.

It’s easy to look from the outside to see another person’s extraordinary success in life, however defined, and label it plain luck. And, of course, there will always be cases in which a person is in fact the beneficiary of a completely random event, with that person having made no preparation nor done any work to increase the probability of something great happening. However, more often than not, when you dig in to a successful person’s past, there’s usually a rich story of perseverance, dedication and hard work that, at the very least, laid the groundwork for that person’s “lucky” outcome.

When it comes to business, for example, proactive networking, exhausting travel for in-person meetings or the relentless pursuit of new ideas and opportunities can often lead to serendipitous breakthroughs or connections that can change the course of an organization. I believe that the probability of landing that “lucky break” goes up in direct proportion to the amount of hard work contributed to the cause.

When it comes to relationships, for example, outgoing and personable people are typically exposed to a greater number of potential friends or partners than those who make minimal efforts to socialize. The more effort (i.e. work) you put into meeting people and exploring different opportunities, the higher the probability of serendipitously meeting someone that makes you feel like the “luckiest person in the world” (how often have you heard people say that?).

This approach, however, does not presume you can guarantee great things will happen – you obviously can’t cause an undefined or unexpected thing to occur. Yet you can increase the chances that good fortune will find its way to you if you work hard to put yourself in prime position.
To be lucky is to be in the minority of good fortune, and you can increase your chances of being a part of that minority. People who make an exceptional effort at something, which by definition puts them in the minority, are really just improving their odds of being at the right place at the right time. Few people are actually willing to travel the sparsely populated extra mile, but those who do find themselves in a place filled with opportunities. When those opportunities convert into realities, outsiders call it luck, having not seen the behind-the-scenes climb, yet insiders know it was made possible by out-hustling everyone else.
When you work hard on your golf game and improve from a 20 handicap to a 3 handicap, you’re putting yourself in a much better position to make a hole-in-one. You still need all the pieces to come together – the wind needs to be exactly right and you need a soft bounce when the ball hits the green, but because you’re skilled enough to repeatedly hit accurate shots over and over, when conditions are perfect you’re in the ideal situation to be able to capitalize.

The world often works in weird and unexpected ways, and there are no guarantees in life. I’ve never been a fan of counting on blind faith or strokes of pure luck to help me achieve my goals. The idea that the harder you work the luckier you get doesn’t guarantee good fortune, but it undoubtedly puts those who make the extra effort in the best position.

If there’s a positive outcome I’m striving for, I’ll follow this approach and work as hard as I can to put planned serendipity to work for me. If you’re pursuing something big or important in your life, I suggest you do the same!