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Seeing Opportunities: What's Luck Got to do With It?

Chalk it up to bad luck

Sometimes it feels like good luck is only bestowed on others and we are left asking ourselves, “why not me?” We see others reaping the rewards of being in the right place, at the right time: choosing the lane that is moving faster in rush hour traffic; winning big at the slot machine you just finished playing; or walking up to check out at the grocery store just as another cashier opens in lane 7.

As Ray Charles so famously professed in song, it can leave us with: “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.” While luck can be about the odds as in the situations just described, it is also about seeing opportunity.

Let’s consider this from a personal growth perspective. As a Chief Human Resources Officer and Executive Coach, I engage with leaders regularly to help them see differently to uncover blind spots and open their mind to new possibilities – all in the interest of achieving business goals. Sometimes there are setbacks, leaving them to rationalize the outcome: “Why didn’t I close that deal; nail that presentation; get that promotion, or get selected to lead a major project?” This is when we can become trapped in comparing ourselves to those that have been the recipient of this good fortune. We allow negative thoughts to take over, and eventually, we may give up and “chalk it up to bad luck.”

During these situations, powerful emotions can emerge, and sometimes we quickly do or say anything to remove the emotion that is making us uncomfortable, so we gain control. While we may feel in control, it is a fallacy, giving us temporary cover. Unfortunately, staying in this mindset keeps us from seeing new opportunities, leaving us thinking of those impactful words in that Ray Charles song.

So how do we remove this temporary cover? If luck is about opportunity, how do we create it? What will bring the change we wish to see? How do we maintain momentum?

Growth Point

Our contribution to the world begins with how we view our own growth, and in my recently published book Growth Point, I offer ways to discover your growth point–when you identify how you can better and even more successful. When we view our growth from this perspective, we create balance and focus on what will have the greatest impact on our success.

Discovering our growth point means we adopt a growth mindset: the belief that we can develop our innate skills through new experiences and encounters. We embrace “what if”, explore “what else”, and accept “not yet”, knowing our situation can be different if we expand our thinking–and despite our disappointment-we move ahead. We begin to seek what is possible and we bring certainty to an uncertain future by creating a clear and compelling vision for what we want to become. It is only then we create the space to see opportunity and like ‘others’, we find ourselves in the right place at the right time.

See opportunities by following the four steps I use to help leaders become even more successful:

1. Envision What Success Looks Like

To have a vision means you have identified the impact you want to have. When you have a clear vision, you see the world differently — are open to new experiences, meeting new people, and expanding your perspective. You have created an environment of chance encounters.

When envisioning what success looks like, ask yourself:

  • What else do I want to contribute? Why is it important to me?

  • What do I talk or think about that gives me energy?

  • What is motivating my path? My passion, financial needs, a legacy?

  • How do others benefit from what I offer?

By answering these questions, you become clear on what you believe and the impact you want to have. In times of adversity, revisit these words to help shift your mindset and discover your growth point: reinforce the value you bring and the success you want to experience.

2. Expand Your View

Knowledge shapes your understanding, so that over time you make wiser decisions that are more in tune with what you want to achieve. To build on your knowledge, amplify your awareness–draw attention, and pause, listen, and learn from others–to be ready when opportunities present themselves.

When expanding your view, ask yourself:

  • When was the last time I saw an opportunity and did not act? What held me back?

  • Do I wait for good things, or do I seek them out? Why is that?

  • When was the last time I had a hunch and did not pursue? What steps can I take to pursue it now?

  • When is the last time I met someone new? How did I apply what I learned during this encounter?

You begin to see a path towards achieving what you envision. A little knowledge can go a long way to discover your growth point: understanding how lifelong learning can improve the odds you will be ready when opportunity presents itself in the future.

3. Plan, But Leave Space for The Unexpected

“The best luck of all is the luck you make for yourself,” a famous quote by American military leader, Douglas MacArthur, proclaims that you have the power to create opportunity. Plan, but don’t overdo it. Structure steps you will take, while leaving space for serendipitous moments.

When planning for opportunity, incorporate these best practices:

  • “Structure a routine” by identifying a few behavioral changes you will make to help you identify opportunities. Conduct a daily or weekly check-in on your progress.

  • Schedule time on your calendar for “catch ups”. I choose 3-5 people a week that I will call, email, or direct message to just catch up. Many have turned into valuable conversations to solve business challenges, learn, and identify ways we can work together more in the future.

  • Place “walk around” or “dial” time on your calendar for random connection. This gives the space for impromptu conversations that have proven to be some of the most valuable encounters.

  • Schedule “discover time” for strategy, research, and creativity. Find a time when you are fresh–first thing in the morning may work best for you, or later in the week as you are winding down. This offers you the space to discover new ways to be of service.

Plans are important to keep you focused, yet they must be flexible, so you make room for the unexpected. Planning helps you see moments of opportunity and you discover your growth point: how setting a routine opens your mind to the chance encounters that bring opportunity.

4. Reinforce and Renew

As you discover opportunities – establish a rhythm to assess your progress. This happens when you instill a practice of accountability to celebrate your success and learn what we need to do differently to be even more successful.

As you reinforce and renew, ask yourself:

  • What did I set out to do? What happened?

  • What helped me to be successful? What came up that impeded my success?

  • What will I do differently in the future?

  • What do I need to be successful?

  • How will I know that I have been successful?

Scheduling time to contemplate allows you the moment to celebrate your wins and gives you the spark to maintain momentum. This is the moment you discover your transformational growth point: what can you do today to be even better tomorrow?

What’s luck got to do with it?

Luck brings the feeling of hope. The hope that we will experience good fortune, many happy returns, and even for just one moment, the feeling that the stars aligned in our favor. Sure, these outcomes can happen with little effort, but this is few and far between. Imagine the opportunities that could come your way when you are more intentional about creating your own luck. Imagine the success you will experience when you know the steps you are taking have the best chance of creating the greatest outcome. Imagine what it could be like when you are in the right place, at the right time.

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