Is Luck a Skill?


Can luck be an acquired skill?  Can you create your own luck?  Is it possible to put yourself or your company in circumstances so that you’re more likely to experience good luck or even great fortune?

Have you ever known someone who seemed to win at everything?  My sister is like that.  If there’s a contest on the radio or a drawing for something, she’ll win if she enters.  She has won tickets to countless concerts and events, and even several all expenses paid trips.  If you ask her, my sister will tell you that she simply expects to win.  And win she does.

It’s my observation that there are some things you can actually do that set you up for more positive experiences than the average Joe.

Attitude As we’ve established, your attitude can invite luck.  People who are open to opportunities, expect positive experiences, and are actually looking for them are more likely to experience/notice them.

Combine that with a personality that is inviting and communicative, and these happy-go-lucky types have a greater propensity to make contacts which seem to the rest of us to spontaneously erupt into fortunate situations and opportunities.

Timing We’ve all noticed that being at the right place at the right time is an advantage when it comes to being lucky in business and life, in general.  Wouldn’t you like to claim credit for inventing the Internet?  Alas, this one’s already taken by a certain prominent Democrat.

Curiosity A healthy dose of curiosity can lead you to stumble across a great idea -- a happening also referred to as “dumb luck”.  Sometimes, just asking more and different questions can lead you down paths not previously taken.

Reportedly, Percy Spencer, the inventor of the microwave oven, of course, stumbled upon the technology while working for Raytheon in 1945.  A candy bar in his pocket melted (where else would you keep one?), and his sense of curiosity led him to further test and confirm his accidental discovery -- ultimately leading to the microwave oven that Raytheon launched in 1947 -- at $5,000 a pop. (Spencer went on to win all kinds of awards and accolades, and even to have a building named after him.)

Tools When running a business, you need to have reliable tools that you trust to augment your experience, data and gut instincts.  That’s why we’re big fans of resources that keep us sharp like Nathan Yau’s FlowingData blog, The New York Times Visualization Lab and David McCandless’ Information is Beautiful.  Find the tools that work for you, refresh them as necessary and use them consistently to keep you sharp, in tune and constantly on the look out for opportunities and good fortune.

So, is luck an acquired skill?

I’d say if you work hard at it -- and you’re lucky, it can be. (Throw in an extra measure of curiosity and maybe they’ll name a building after you.)