Make your own luck
From Oprah Magazine, by Neena Andrews
Some people say there’s no way to improve our luck because we can’t predict the future. To me, that’s like saying that you can’t prepare for the weather because you don’t know exactly what those clouds are going to do. Plenty of discussions about luck focus on the mathematical aspects of randomness – but what about the social and psychological aspects?
To start finding answers, I read The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World, by Frans Johansson, who reportedly only had R22 to his name when his first book –The Medici Effect – was published. That book soon became a bestseller, and Johansson is now a sought-after motivational speaker and business consultant. I asked him about the role that luck plays in our lives ….
Do you think people tend to underestimate the impact of luck?
“One of the things that I look at over and over again is the question of how people think about randomness and unexpectedness. We often forget exactly how we ended up in the place that we’re in. I asked someone once, ‘How do you become a professor at Harvard Business School?’
“He said, ‘There are a number of things you need to do to set yourself up for that.’
So I asked, ‘How did you become a professor here?’
“‘Well, in my case,’ he said, ‘I was invited in to teach for a few days, and that led to something else, and now I’m here. But I’m the exception.’
“Everyone is the exception. Over and over again, it turns out that when you look at how people came to be in the place they’re in, serendipity and the unexpected play a huge role. But when we try to explain it or take on a mentoring role for somebody else, we forget all of that.”
How does this affect us?
“Interestingly enough, we discount the power of the unexpected when we plan our lives. But most people who have achieved some degree of success in their chosen field prove the point: Whatever it was that set them apart was a rare point of opportunity that was totally unexpected – what I like to call a ‘click moment.’ But we find a storyline for our lives and our success – we have an instinct for this.”
How can we increase “click moments” in our lives?
“We use what I call intersectional thinking: instead of trying to predict where you’re going, you do the opposite. It’s hard, because we’re always looking for a storyline, an explanation. But if you try to connect with people from another field, industry, discipline or culture, and you search for connections, you’ll be consistently surprised. If you want to pick up a few magazines before you get on a plane, for example, make sure those magazines are ones you would never normally read. If you read it with the specific intent of trying to connect something in there with what it is that you’re doing, you’ll actually be very surprised.
“At the Medici Group, we work with companies all over the world. We try to take their resources, skill sets and relationships and connect them with completely unexpected fields, cultures and so on. The ideas that come out of that process tend to be unexpected and serendipitous; unlike anything you would arrive at by using logic.”
You can’t plan every aspect of your life, surely?
“Right. Often, the truth is that the turns we take are unexpected. Think about the most important decision in our lives: We choose the person we end up with. There, we want – in fact, invite – chance. With almost everything else (our finances, or careers) we think we can structure our approach and put together a kind of plan. I think one of the reasons we leave our love life up to chance is that we know it’s simply too important to put in a spreadsheet. That is a very interesting distinction.”
So logic can fail us?
“If you’re trying to come up with something that could set you apart or break new ground, the most inefficient way to get there is through logic. If you’re thinking the same way as everyone else, you’re more likely to arrive at the same ground they’ve covered. This is the nature of logic. Instead, it’s more effective to take your eyes off the ball for a while and do something else. You almost have to schedule it into your process – it works for me.”
How do you plan for randomness?
“Even when I’m busy, I make time to go in a direction I didn’t expect. I’ll schedule a meeting with someone I don’t know, for example, with no idea of where it might lead. Or I’ll set aside an hour for phone calls with various people, and I’ll let them lead the discussion, with whatever they want to talk about. There’s no prequalifier; it’s just a conversation. What could this lead to? Sometimes, nothing at all – it’s just a refreshing conversation. But something phenomenal can – and often does – come from it.”
By Karla Starr
Image credit: Getty Images