Are You Prepared for Luck!

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

Seneca (Roman Philosopher)

Student graduates were recently told in a Sncacommencement speech, “Successful people just got lucky.” How disappointing for someone in a position of influence to tell so many young people that worked hard for their academic accomplishments, that if they seek success, it is just a matter of luck.

The quotation from Seneca, a Roman Philosopher (died 64 A.D.), is the real answer to the question. Success is the result of long hours of intentional preparation over days, weeks, months and years matched with the right opportunity.

Does this imply that all people who are diligent in preparing themselves will always be rewarded with success? No! However, those that work hard at anything will be better off than if they had done nothing at all. The question is to identify which preparation process is right for you and where, when and how the preparation will mature, to position yourself to flourish when a good opportunity presents itself.

In business, success is often a matter of overcoming the many obstacles that come your way. In fact, along the way there will be failures and setbacks causing you to question whether success is in your future. However, through determination and resolve, you will overcome adversity and be labeled as successful as you continue to deal with the ups and downs of business success on a daily basis.

People prepare in many ways. Some begin preparation in childhood doing chores; working beside a parent, participating in organized athletics, or learning a musical instrument, for example. In each of these examples, critical skills are developed such as learning, discipline, and overcoming adversity.

More rigorous preparation occurs as we continue into adulthood and begin to make decisions on our own that make us who we are. The ways to prepare include:

  • Education – College, trade school, and military service develops skills and knowledge that will be of value in the marketplace.
  • Application – Apply knowledge learned to real life examples, adjust and ‘adopt’ new understanding of how things really work in the real world and not in theory or textbook examples.
  • Adversity – Don’t dismiss circumstances where the unexpected happens or where things go wrong as learning opportunities. Identify what went wrong and what could be done differently to minimize there impact the next time around.
  • Observation and Adoption of Style – So much of what we do is people related and is therefore impacted by our personal style. For some, a compatible style with others comes easy. For others, it is a work-in-progress and a matter of watching others who are effective in interpersonal relationships. They can adopt the methods and practices they are comfortable with into their own personal style.
  • Relationships – Developing relationships is important in your ability to get the support of others, to understand what it takes to motivate people and be a part of their lives, as well as help them through periods of adversity.
  • Networking – In many business situations, it is essential to effectively establish a network of professionals for insight, and increase your knowledge of the industry and associated professions, personal counsel, referrals and introductions.

Opportunities come in many different flavors and colors. In many cases they do not appear to be an obvious path to success. Here are two examples of “opportunity” that led eventually to success.

Example 1
An opportunity that had been rejected by many senior people in my department opened up for me. Many said it could not be done and that it was a career killer. I took it, made the best of it, and it became a corner stone in preparing me for the next opportunity and the path that built my career.
Example 2
In another situation, a business owner I knew tried to start seven different businesses before getting the eighth attempt successfully off the ground. This owner was regarded as a “success” but during those seven attempts he was a failure. However, confidence in his abilities, knowledge of the industry, and recognizing an unfilled need in the marketplace that he knew he could satisfy, resulted in a business that provided a comfortable living. He was ultimately able to sell the business for a handsome profit 25 years later.


Was this owner lucky? No. He was persistent, determined, willing to perform any company role to make the business work. In one situation, willing to sit in a customer’s waiting room for two days, in order, to get the customer to pay for services rendered.

Selecting or stepping into an opportunity should be done with care and not recklessness. You need to know your strengths and abilities, as well as, your weaknesses and how well they match up with the opportunity. Investigate and do your due diligence to make sure you understand what the opportunity requires. If there is a good alignment with your assets and the needs of the opportunity, then give it serious consideration.

I have not come across anyone, successful in business, who has not seriously prepared (if not over prepared) to be ready for an opportunity when it knocked. They had an unwavering vision of who they were and where they wanted to be. Through education and strategic job positions, they became prepared for greater responsibility and greater opportunities.

In the classic movie, Dirty Harry, Harry Kallahan (Clint Eastwood) asked the punk to ask himself a question, “Do I feel lucky?” as he looked up the barrel of a .44 Magnum. Harry could not remember if he had shot 5 or 6 rounds. The question was whether there was a remaining round in the chamber.

Don’t be the punk wondering if the opportunity involved has an extra round in the pistol. Prepare well, seek and be on the lookout for opportunities that match your abilities. Your success will be a compilation of the strength of your preparation matched with the right opportunity.

Successful people are not just lucky, as the misguided graduation commencement speaker declared, but prepared and hard working!

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