“They are so lucky!” How often have I heard this exclaimed? If you are like me, you’ve probably heard something like this a whole bunch of times. In varying ways I say it to myself as well while not considering in the moment how they created the luck.
Sometimes I will say to myself, I wish I could have a vacation like so and so’s on Facebook. You know the high season trip to Disney World, the Caribbean cruise during the height of the winter freeze, or the whirlwind summer trip through Europe posted on Facebook or some other social platform.
Sometimes luck is totally random or by chance such as winning the lottery against impossible odds. More frequently there is a kind of luck in which a person stacked their odds in their own favor. This is the kind of luck which I will discuss.
I have heard that luck is a combination of opportunity and preparation.
Opportunity is the occasion to seize the chance at something desirable. Sometimes these events are known ahead of time and other items pop up in front of us seemingly random. The opportunity may not be in our control such as when the market does well, we receive a job promotion, or our child’s acceptance to a prestigious university. Though sometimes we know that opportunity exists and choose to partake not knowing what the outcome will be. Regardless of how an opportunity presents itself it is our response to it that will determine our success or creating luck.
Preparation is the special sauce in being lucky or successful when opportunity knocks. This is the part of luck in which we totally have control. That can mean having the ability to save to take advantage of a market swing, working hard to be eligible when a promotion opportunity occurs or understanding and taking the steps to be meet the criteria for a highly selective university. This also means that this is where the work and effort occur in being lucky.
How to Prepare
First is determining what type of luck or opportunity we want to be prepared to win. Let’s consider admission to a selective college or for a competitive scholarship. First what does the particular school or organization consider important for admission or the scholarship award. This might include test scores, extracurricular activities, leadership positions, service work, grades, or quality of admission essay. These are the type of things on which to focus to increase the odds of being lucky for college selection.
How I Created Life Changing Luck
Many years ago, I desired to earn a coveted Army ROTC full tuition scholarship as a route to my ultimate dream of become a military helicopter pilot. I learned that grades, SAT scores, specific types of extracurricular activities, medical exam, background check, oral interview and physical aptitude test were all required to earn the full scholarship. Working hard on my grades and test scores which came somewhat naturally for me. I learned that leadership positions where particular valuable and became the President of my Explorer Post in addition to other high school activities and sports. I imagined my military career so I could describe my vision of my future self during the oral interview.
Most challenging, I practiced for the physical aptitude given after the oral interview. Of course, naturally there was the long and detailed application as well. I discovered that several of my after-school activities were not on the application form and attached a sheet with the additional information for activities such as Model United Nations. I was able to put a “check” in each of the boxes required for the scholarship. Naturally, I did better in some areas than others. For example, I did well on the oral interview and not as comparatively well on the physical aptitude test though met at least the minimal criteria.
I was devastated after the years of preparatory work when I received the letter that I had not received the scholarship. My mother suggested I call to find out the why in my particular case I did not win the scholarship.
Recognizing an opportunity and responding–Creating my luck
Although incredibly nervous and scared, I picked up the phone and made the call. The person that answered the phone was able to look at my application and stated that I did not have the desired after school activities as that part of the application was mostly blank.
I asked her if the activities on the addendum sheet had counted. She stated that the attachment was overlooked, not evaluated and “yes” I did qualify. The woman said that my application needed a follow-up formality review, and I was likely to get the scholarship. That is exactly what happened. I was able to do the preparatory work that enabled me to earn the scholarship and later in the phone call take advantage of the opportunity to be “lucky” to win the valuable scholarship for my undergraduate education. Creating that luck lead to a major steppingstone in my later becoming an Army helicopter pilot.
Today when I am feeling unlucky or envious of another’s good fortune, I work to re-frame my thoughts into what can I do today to prepare when opportunity presents itself. It has worked for me in the past and is likely to do so again in the future.