With a name like Murphy, you might imagine I'm a bit of an expert on the so-called "luck of the Irish." When it comes to luck however, I side with the French mathematician Blaise Pascal, who famously said, "Chance favors the prepared mind."

Luck is a funny thing. Even some of the most successful people attribute some of their success to it. They say they met someone, or they happened upon an idea, or they were just fortunate to have an opportunity. But often, if you ask them more questions and learn the context, you'll find there are rational causes behind most of what they ascribe to good fortune.

All of which has brings us back to Pascal. Yes, there is such thing as lady luck--but there are a lot of steps you can take to make it more likely that she'll smile upon you. Here are a dozen examples.

1. Get up early.

Some people don't need much sleep every night. I'm not one of them, and maybe you're not either. Still, the earlier you get up, the more time you have--and the more time you have, the more opportunities you'll have. One of my old bosses, a very successful author and journalist, taught me this by example. I'd show up at work to learn he'd been sitting in front of his computer by 4:30 a.m. every day.

2. Start with the end in mind.

Know where the heck you want to go. That makes it a lot easier to make each day's efforts part of a step-by-step effort to get there.

3. Act.

I read a quote by Aristotle once: "There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing." Or, you can get moving and increase the odds that good things will happen.

4. Be the expert.

In court, an expert witness has to have specialized knowledge beyond that of the ordinary, average person. The expert doesn't have to be the most expert; he or she just has to have some above-average knowledge or experience. So apply that standard to regular life: Have a little confidence, and step forward when you know what you're talking about.

5. Decide who you are.

People like to tell you that you have to know yourself to be successful. I think that's accurate, but it sort of misses the second half of good advice, which is to decide who you are--or at least who you are going to be. Choose to make your own destiny, and you probably will.

6. Share what you can share.

Once you've decided what it is that you want to be, let other people know. Figure out how to describe succinctly what you think you have to offer, and you'll be surprised how many people want to give you the opportunity to do so.

7. Don't reinvent the wheel.

A career mentor of mine once offered advice on how to find a great career mentor. (Pretty meta, huh?) She suggested going on LinkedIn and finding people who have the job you'd like to have in five, 10 or 20 years. Then, look at the previous steps in their careers, and use them for inspiration as you make career decisions.

8. Be selfless.

I think this one is related to number 6. Much as you want to "share what you can share," you want to help others to achieve their goals as well. Whether it's karma or the Golden Rule, being the generator of good fortune for others helps generate luck in your life, too.

9. Reconnect with people you already know.

The more people you meet, the more likely you are to meet someone who will open your eyes to opportunities and great experiences--but don't forget that you already know a lot of people. Remember for example, you should always go to reunions. Rekindle relationships, and both you and they will be more likely to want to share good fortune.

10. Skip stuff that sucks.

We all fall victim sometimes to spending our days on things that we don't enjoy, and that don't matter. It turns out, however, that the most productive people--and I think, the ones who generate the most good fortune--are defined by what they refuse to do, as much as what they actually do accomplish.

11. Write stuff down.

We're all busy. We're all addicted to our smart phones. Maybe I'm showing my age, but I've recently rediscovered the benefits of good old-fashioned pen and paper. Our brains are overloaded, and journaling your experiences help you remember what you've done well--and reminds you to follow up.

12. Show up.

There's a saying among photojournalists: "f/8 and be there." I'm actually not much of a photographer, but I believe "f/8" is a fairly straightforward setting on a camera--set it there and you might not create art, but you're unlikely to screw things up, technically. That lets us focus on the "be there" part of the quote, which is much more important. So much of success in life is just about being the one who shows up (and is willing to do the work).

Published on: Mar 17, 2015
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