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13 Proven Ways to Make Your Own Luck

Do you wait for good things to happen to you--or do you go out and make them happen? Here's what you need to do to enjoy more business success.
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Luck is not a plan, but you can plan to have more luck when you start up a business or engage in any enterprise. Here are 13 proven ways to make it happen:

1. Forget about superstition.

If a great opportunity arises out of the blue, is that luck? Or is it the result of a great impression you left on someone else, who then steered the new opportunity your way? Much of what we think of as simple good fortune can be explained if we look hard, so forget about a lucky horseshoe and study what "luckier" people do. I'll bet it includes the items on this list.

2. Take the initiative.

If you go through life knowing only one Latin phrase, make it this one: Audentes fortuna iuuat, or "fortune favors the bold." (If you would like a slightly more modern interpretation, look to hockey great Wayne Gretzky: "You miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take.") Regardless of how you articulate it, you increase your odds of winning dramatically simply by stepping up to the plate.

3. Focus on a few things.

Chances are, if you're reading this you're an interesting and ambitious person. You probably have all kinds of great ideas. The real trick, however, is to pick a few things that you're really good at and enjoy, and focus on them. Doing so funnels your efforts into the activities that are most likely to show success and bring you more luck.

4. Become a little more expert.

A little bit of wisdom goes a long way, and this strategy multiplies the effectiveness of the two items you just read. So many people take themselves out of the running for great opportunities, only to be surprised when other people who don't have greater expertise or talents take advantage of them. So increase your confidence every day by becoming a little bit more expert than your audience. Make lifelong learning a cornerstone of your plan, and improve the odds you'll be ready when opportunity knocks.

5. Meet more people.

When I was single, I set a goal: Date 100 different women in a single year. The idea was that I only needed to be right once. It worked. The same thing applies in other contexts. Would you feel lucky if a new connection led to a great opportunity, or would you think that you had improved your odds of knowing the right person simply by meeting more people?

6. Call old friends.

Meeting new people is important, but networking isn't just about adding people to your LinkedIn profile. Instead, the most powerful relationships can be the longtime ones you've had, based on friendship, trust, and shared experiences. So, instead of just reaching out to new people, be the one who nurtures old relationships. (Easy tip: Go to your reunions.)

7. Make a game of failure.

No matter what you try, you will fail sometimes. The trick is to overcome your fear of failure, so as to have many more opportunities to succeed. Each day, give yourself a little reward for winning the failure game--making 10 failed sales calls, or making the effort to do 10 seemingly fruitless introductions. This attitude also stops you from resting on your laurels. If you have a big victory on any particular day, you still need to go out and fail a few times to win the game.

8. Visualize success and plan for it.

Think about your goals every day. Imagine what success will look like, and work backward to figure out how you will get there. A few years ago, I wrote a book with a professor who had been trained as an engineer. His first order of business was to send me a 365-column Gantt chart, with the last day representing publication. It was overwhelming at first, but I came to appreciate it. Figure out where you want to be a month or a year from now, and work backward.

9. Craft your story.

Stories are the most powerful form of communication. The great news is that you get to craft your own story. The way you tell it impacts everything about your relationships with other people. Remember, the story needs structure. It needs a theme and compelling characters. And it needs to involve a worthy struggle. Can you describe those elements in your life?

10. Share your story.

When I got out of the military a decade ago, my story went something like this: Recently discharged veteran wants to meet the world's most interesting people, write about them, and find a way to make a living. I told just about everyone I knew. Eventually, someone I had shared it with let me know about an opportunity that really changed my life: I wound up working for Bob Woodward of The Washington Post and later reporting from Iraq for the newspaper. People love a good story, and they want to help make yours come true.

11. Write down good things.

One of the most surprising things I've learned as a chronicler of other people is how little we actually remember of our own lives. Longtime readers of this column might already know that I'm a big fan of the haiku-as-diary method of keeping a journal. Regardless of how you do it, recording the pieces of your life allows you to chart what you've done successfully and reminds you to follow up on opportunities.

12. Copy from the greats.

I've been working on a ghostwriting project with a client recently, and had the chance to think about how creative people benefit from being organized. Doing so frees your mind from the routine so that you can focus on truly unique challenges. Apply the same principle here. Pick a few successful mentors and imitate them. Their past performance isn't a guarantee of your future results, but it's probably a good place to start.

13. Put others first.

Yes, it's Lucky No. 13 on the list, but this is perhaps the most important item. Whether you call it karma, or simply the notion that people like to help people who have been good to them in the past, the notion that no good deed goes unpunished is simply wrong. In the long run, focusing on helping others achieve their goals often opens new opportunities for you, as well.

Want to read more, make a suggestion, or be featured in a future column? Contact me or sign up for my weekly email.

Last updated: Apr 7, 2014

BILL MURPHY JR. | Columnist

Bill Murphy Jr. is a journalist, ghostwriter, and entrepreneur. He is the author of Breakthrough Entrepreneurship (with Jon Burgstone) and is a former reporter for The Washington Post.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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