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5 Ways You Can Make Your Own Luck

The most successful people in the world say luck is a huge part of achievement. Here's how you can increase your odds.
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Super-successful people believe in luck. They believe in it more consistently than they believe in education, creativity, investing, and a lot of other things commonly associated with building wealth.

That's what I found in the survey research for my new book Business Brilliant. About 80 percent of self-made millionaires say luck is important in achieving success, compared with just 25 percent who said the same about getting a good formal education. With ordinary middle-class people, though, the ratio was reversed. About 63 percent put their faith in education, while just 42 percent believe in luck.

Luck has been studied by psychologists who found that people who consider themselves lucky have a distinct set of habits and attitudes that distinguish them from those who consider themselves unlucky. And guess what? Those habits and attitudes of the lucky closely reflect the self-made millionaire habits and attitudes revealed in my survey research.

It turns out that building your wealth and building your luck are roughly the same thing. They support each other in a virtuous cycle I describe at length in the pages of Business Brilliant. For now, though, here are the five most direct ways you can start on your path toward getting luckier--and wealthier.

1. Narrow your goals and focus. 

Lucky people and wealthy people both commit to their goals and make their own luck in the process. Having a specific objective makes it easier to recognize a "lucky" opportunity when it comes your way because luck always favors a prepared mind. On the other hand, if you hedge your bets on a disparate set of goals, you can end up feeling lost and unlucky. As the ancient saying goes, "For a ship without a destination, there is no favorable wind."

2. Play to win.

The lucky and the wealthy go at their objectives full bore, with a positive, winning attitude, and in doing so, they maximize their abilities to profit from chance. For instance, in my book I describe how the most skilled and successful negotiators are always those who investigate the other side's positions the most thoroughly. The better prepared you are in any business dealing, the more ready you are to deal with bad surprises that a less-prepared person might deem as "bad luck."

3. Tighten up your network and recruit the right people.

If you associate with people who consider themselves lucky, the studies show your luck will improve. Business Brilliant tells how friend-of-a-friend connections often produce opportunities for successful people that appear to be lucky when they are, in fact, the result of good network design. I found that self-made millionaires have smaller and tighter professional networks comprised of highly-networked people whom they know very well, and represent a wide range of fields. Develop a network of that kind, seeded with "connector" personalities who are familiar with you and your goals, and you will see your "lucky" opportunities multiply.

4. Work at your strengths.

Super-successful people consider their ability to work doing the things they are skilled at as a major contributing factor to their success. Not coincidentally, working at your strengths is also how you develop such deep expertise in your work that you can pick up on patterns others don't see. You are also more likely to trust your gut in decision-making. Both are defining traits of lucky people. 

5. Be persistent and seek value in your failures. 

The two most impressive findings in my survey reveal how deeply the super-successful believe in the benefits of failure and persistence. Self-made millionaires, very unlike the middle-class, go right back at the things they fail at and are determined to learn from their mistakes. Surveys of lucky people show similar traits. Lucky people say they see the positive sides of their misfortunes, don't dwell on the ill effects, and take corrective steps to avoid misfortune in the future.

So, are the super-successful wealthy because they're lucky, or are they lucky as a result of being so successful? I suspect most would respond to this question with "Yes." Wealth and luck seem inseparable, and the news that you can do something about both of them should make you feel lucky indeed. 

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Last updated: Apr 5, 2013

LEWIS SCHIFF | Inc. Business Owners Council

Lewis Schiff is the executive director of the Inc. Business Owners Council. His latest book is Business Brilliant: Surprising Lessons From the Greatest Self-Made Business Icons.




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