Have you ever wondered why some people seem lucky and others don’t?
I used to ask myself the same thing.
As a child, I didn’t feel lucky. I thought luck was like secret fairy dust buried in a magic box, and it was never sprinkled on me.
Growing up, my home was not a place I wanted to be. There was always fighting, and according to my parents, I was supposed to live there until I was sent back to Nigeria to have an arranged marriage. I often escaped to the library and found inspiration in books where the characters turned around their misfortunes and became heroes and heroines. Books were the places that reshaped how I thought about luck.
I started embracing the idea that I could make my own luck.
I thought about my literary heroes and heroines, and noticed that they all had one thing in common: they seized an opportunity when it came into their lives. I wanted to be just like them. My great big opportunity came in 8th grade, when I realized that college was a way out. I also recognized that there were things I could do to increase my chances of getting in. Here’s how I prepared myself:
- I read every college acceptance book.
- I joined every extracurricular activity.
- Every summer during college, I worked and started putting money away.
- I made myself vulnerable: I confided in my guidance counselors and spilled the beans about what it was like to live in my parent’s house and just how much I needed to leave as soon as possible.
- I rallied support: My teachers backed me and talked to everyone they knew to find scholarships on my behalf.
I got myself ready. The colleges I applied to could say no, but at least I knew I’d done everything I could to make it harder for them to do so. Are there people who don’t get these chances in life? Absolutely? But, what happens to those of us who also miss out because we aren’t prepared for the life changing moments that happen to us?
Four years later, I joined the freshman class at UC Berkeley and started believing that maybe, just maybe, I could make my own luck. I started paying attention to how prepared I was when amazing opportunities came into my life.
Preparing yourself for great opportunities increases your luck
At 26, I published my first book and realized just how much influence I had in making my own luck. What seemed like something that just happened, actually involved years of preparation. When I was 20, I decided to put together a book of my poems and started carrying it around. By the time I was 23 and in residence at the Hedebrook Retreat for Women Writers, I brought that book with me. When my future publisher (she was also in residence) asked if I could send her my work, I felt extremely lucky because something I had done several years earlier had prepared me for this amazing moment. I sent her that book I’d been carrying around, and three years later I was officially a published author. If I didn’t have that manuscript ready, I would have missed a great.
Stop worrying about being lucky and and start preparing yourself for great opportunities
Now my husband and I are doing everything we can to make our own luck. We’re bootstrapping our social wedding planning startup, and sometimes this means we have to make really hard company decisions and choose between working on the mobile app or paying the rent. As a tech startup entrepreneur, I’m reminded of how I felt as a child. I hear stories about companies who were “lucky” and raised millions of dollars even before launching their product. I also hear about how getting accepted to accelerators or to pitch events is about timing or luck, and how those things are afforded to some startups and not to others.
In the midst of these conversations, I have only one thing on my mind: Being ready when an opportunity comes.
That’s all I care about, and that’s all I want to focus my energy on. Otherwise, I could waste valuable time worrying about if that magic fairy dust will be sprinkled on me.
3 Reasons to start making your own luck
1. You get to decide what luck means to you.
This alone is enough motivation for me. Screw anyone who says you’re not lucky because this or that happened to you. You get to flip the script and say “luck is about being ready when an opportunity comes,” knowing you can control how prepared you are for success.
2. You get to feel empowered and do something about your own luck.
Did you prep yourself with the world’s best pitch just in time for that 60 second elevator ride with a VC you’ve always respected? If the answer is “no,” get prepping! Six months after we launched wedocracy, I met the CEO of a major online wedding planning website and within a few seconds of meeting her she asked me to give her my 60 second pitch. Thankfully, I was ready to do so. Choose to prep yourself. Choose to be ready!
3. You get to stop worrying about finding that lucky moment and start being ready for luck to find you.
You are the one staying up late nights and prototyping your product. You are the one who knows how or why your idea is disruptive and how it will better peoples lives. You are the one who can decide what luck means to you and make it work for you. You get to focus on creating truly innovative digital products and being prepared for that moment when you do have 60 seconds in an elevator with an important somebody.
Stop worrying about what you don’t have and focus on preparing yourself to take advantage of the opportunities that may come your way.
This month, we started working on the wedocracy mobile app and expect to release it in late summer 2014. That’s what we’re doing to be ready for amazing opportunities. How about you? What are you doing to be prepared for when amazing opportunities come into your life? If this post resonated with you, hit me up in the comments.