“Luck is when opportunity meets preparation”
– Oprah Winfrey (after Seneca)
Like most of us, you can probably look back upon your life so far and spot a few key points where an opportunity came along which you grabbed, but had you not grabbed it then things would have been so very different. It’s almost as if you were lucky to get where you are, because one missed opportunity, one dropped co-incidence and you’d be somewhere completely different.
Thinking about my own life, I can see one particular chain of co-incidences and opportunities which have lead to where I am right now – I happened to go to a swimming event organised through a social network which lead me to meeting a particular friend which lead me to attending a party I otherwise would not have attended at which I met someone I’d otherwise never have spoken to who persuaded me to come out one evening to cheer me up after I found out I couldn’t get laser eye surgery, and as a result that evening I met someone who went on to become my partner through whom I was introduced to someone else who has gone on to have a huge positive significance in my current life direction.
Wow, that’s a chain and a half of coincidences and opportunities and if I’d missed even just one of those, I would not be where I am today.
Scary to think of all those lucky happenings and how different things might have been had one of those things not happened and had one of those opportunities not arisen. What if I miss other opportunities, what do I risk losing?
But what IS luck? When you get right down to it, it really is just preparation and opportunity meeting.
We all get so many opportunities every single day of our lives. Yet like most people, you are probably thinking that you don’t see many opportunities at al, and certainly not daily ones. So why the discrepancy?
It is true that we encounter countless opportunities throughout our lives. We encounter opportunities every day. So who don’t we recognise them? It broadly falls down to three possibilities; They may be in areas which are not of interest to us, they may require skills which we do not possess, or we simply don’t see them because we are not looking.
There is nothing really we can do about the first category of misses opportunities, nor would we particularly want to do anything about them other than to recognise that yes, they WERE opportunities even if we didn’t like what they had to offer. Although it wouldn’t hurt to perhaps double-check why we believe we don’t like what they offer; is it truly something which is of no interest to us, or do we just assume we won’t like it? What might happen if we did take that opportunity? It can be worth applying the Dr Pepper test – “What’s the worst that could happen?”…
For the second category of missed opportunities, the ones which might have been of interest but for which we lacked the skills, now this is something we can address!
Sure, we can’t address the particular opportunity we have just had to pass up, but we can make sure that when similar or related future opportunities present themselves, and they will, that we are in a far better position to be able to take them up. We can do this by continuing to learn, to study, to train. Learn all we can about things which we enjoy. Find out new distinctions, new perspectives on the topic. Learn what others have said, even if you find out you feel they were wrong, for all learning and knowledge is invaluable – even knowing how not to do something is very useful. Practise what you learn. Fine tune those skills, hone them to perfection, always looking for what else you can learn, what new insights you can glean. So that next time a suitable relevant opportunity arises, you can grab it and grasp it with both hands and enjoy where it leads!
Of course, it is important to ensure that what you are studying and learning and practising is actually something of interest to you – there’s no sense in learning something you hate just because you think it is the right thing to do. You won’t enjoy it, you will learn far less than you otherwise could, and you will be robbing yourself of the time to learn deeply about something you truly like. Life is too short to waste it studying things which we just don’t like, and when we do the things we truly love, we find it so much easier to devote our time and energies to the task and we gain so much more as a result. And best of all, it doesn’t even feel like a chore. But what it does do is make us far better placed to take advantage those opportunities as they arise.
As for the third category, the ones we just don’t see? That’s usually because we are not looking for them.
And why are we not looking?
We are either focusing too tightly on something else, or we just don’t actually know what it is we would like to do, which means that when such an opportunity presents itself, we fail to recognise it.
The trick here is to get clear about what it is we really want in life, what we enjoy, what we want to do. Get really clear on them. So that when relevant opportunities do arise, we can see them for what they are and grab them too.
What are you passionate about? What do you really want to do, be, have in life? Gain clarity on what it is you want, learn all you can about the things which inspire passion within you, hone those skills. And then learn to both spot and really appreciate all the opportunities which fly your way, recognising that they were always flying your way and it’s just that you are now better placed to recognise and use them.
So how are you gong to create your own luck?