From our guest contributor Nick Potts
I’ve been called lucky by a lot of people throughout my life. It all started in the third grade when I won a school-wide drawing. When I heard my name announced over the intercom, I was elated because I became the proud new owner of a backpack full of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books! As I returned to class, my friends all commented on how lucky I was to have won, and the “luck” moniker has stuck with me since that day.
But really, I think there is more to luck than this unseen force that bestows good things on random strangers. Luck really is the outcome of a three-function formula.
Function 1: Preparation
“Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.” ~Seneca
I’ve always loved this quote by the Roman philosopher Seneca, and I used it to my advantage the day of that drawing in third grade. How could I have possibly given myself an advantage over the rest of the students in the class? It was just a simple drawing and a name was pulled out. But the difference for me, was that I had read all the details about this opportunity, and had prepared myself for it. Here’s how.
We had a program called Accelerated Reader at my school in Nashville, TN. Maybe you had one like it at your school, too. The premise was simple. You read books from the library and you took a test about said book. If you scored a 90% or higher on the test, your name was put in drawings for various prizes throughout the year.
That backpack full of Goosebumps books was definitely my favorite prize, but it absolutely wasn’t the first prize I had won that year.
You see, I read a lot of books. A LOT. I understood that I had full control over increasing the likelihood that I won prizes by reading books, so I put together a plan to improve my odds of success. As the year progressed, I was more and more likely to win a prize because I had read so many books and scored at least a 90 on all the tests.
The other students were unaware that my name was in the proverbial hat many more times than anyone else’s, and by the end of the year, they were absolutely sick of hearing my name called for prizes. Many of them attributed the entire situation to luck. But that wasn’t the case. I had prepared for the opportunity by stacking the deck in my favor.
As good as it is, though, this single story draws an incomplete picture about what it takes to be successful (lucky). Which brings me to the second function of our formula, and another quote that I’ve always loved.
Function 2: Seizing Opportunity
“The amount of good luck coming your way depends on your willingness to act.” ~Barbara Sher
That does seem eerily similar to the Seneca quote. This one, though, focuses on the opportunity part of the formula.
Everyone has opportunities. You are presented with them each day. You are willing to act on some, and some of them you elect to pass on. I’ll argue that whenever you identify an opportunity, the time to act is right at that moment. This willingness to act, combined with your preparation, will be why you succeed (or always appear to be lucky).
It can be helpful to view opportunities as a shots-on-goal statistic. Let’s use the great Mia Hamm of soccer and the incomparable Wayne Gretzky of hockey as models. If I oversimplify the roles played by the these two historical greats, it is to score goals. Each time an opportunity to score a goal presented itself, both athletes acted on the opportunity and attempted to score. They knew and acted upon a fundamental truth: You can never score a goal if you don’t take a shot. So they took a lot of shots, even though they knew they might not score the goal.
Which brings me to the third part of the luck formula.
Function 3: Maintaining Enthusiasm
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” ~Winston Churchill
This is by FAR the hardest part of the three-function formula, and is where a lot of people fall short. That’s because preparing for and seizing opportunity becomes easy when you get the immediate euphoric feeling that happens when you succeed. Maybe you got the job that you wanted after painstakingly preparing for the interview. Or, you decided to enter a half-marathon, so you registered, went through the recommended training regimen and successfully crossed the finish line. Successes like these keep you motivated and enthusiastic about reaching your goals. But…
What do you do if you prepared for success (function 1) and acted on an opportunity (function 2), but ultimately failed?
I tell you what to do. You try again. And try again. And again. When I lose my enthusiasm, I remember this quote from Michael Jordan:
I know. It can be brutal to prepare, put your neck on the line, and ultimately fall short. I know that facing failure after failure without losing your enthusiasm can be near impossible. So, this part of the luck equation is the hardest to maintain across a longer time horizon. However…
I unequivocally believe that it is the MOST IMPORTANT part of the formula. You must maintain your enthusiasm even, and especially, in the face of failure.
Stay positive by remembering that each time you try, you will get closer to the goal you are chasing. And keep working and preparing, so you will be ready for the next opportunity that presents itself. Which it most certainly will. Then, watch what happens. Maybe people will start calling you “lucky”, too!
Which of the three functions of our formula resonates most with you? I’d love to hear your stories! Send them in here.
About our guest contributor: Nick Potts was born and raised in Nashville, TN. He’s lived in Columbus long enough now that you miss the Southern drawl, unless you hear him speak to his mom on the phone. He moved to Columbus shortly after graduating from Middle Tennessee State University, and got into the startup world by attending Startup Weekend events, pitch events, etc., around Columbus. After a brief stint at Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Nick worked at a healthcare startup and later founded ScriptDrop, an healthcare IT company that coordinates prescription deliveries.
During his free time, Nick hangs out with his wife Jessie and two dogs, Jack Daniels and Dolly Parton. Nick and Jessie talk a big game about working out and eating healthy, but oftentimes find themselves at Graeter’s Ice Cream testing out the new flavors of the month. Nick says, “It’s a tough job and someone has to step up to the plate…I mean bowl.”
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