I have a personal philosophy that a big part of success, maybe even 50%, is luck. But luck only comes to those who are actively moving, creatively thinking, and consistently observing what is happening around them. They spot possibilities, because they have opened up their world and are willing to put in the hard work when an opportunity presents itself. These possibilities can come in many forms and here are two very different examples.
The first example is when Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, the founders of Instagram, entered a highly competitive marketplace. Their focus was to develop a user friendly app where people could regularly check in with each other with photos. They recognized in 2009 that there were phones in everyone’s pocket that had a camera, and they spotted a powerful “visual” communication revolution brewing. At the time they were living on PB&J sandwiches. They were also working day and night for months, trying to figure out how to differentiate. Kevin became burned out by the project and took a trip to Mexico with his girlfriend. While walking on the beach, they were discussing the new app. She loved the idea, but didn’t think she would post much since her photos weren’t nearly as appealing compared to Kevin’s friend Greg. Kevin explained that the only difference was that Greg used filters to make them look better. She responded “So you should probably add filters to your app”. Voila. This was an intersection of luck and hard work. Photos with enhancing filters took their app to a whole new level and became the right approach to building a huge community of users. Today, luck and hard work have taken Instagram to a 50 billion dollar company.
The second example is about a family out west that couldn’t get together on what to do last Thanksgiving – a cruise, a trip to the coast, or stay at home for a family get-together. There were politics involved too, very divisive politics. Finally it occurred to the family members that serving Thanksgiving dinner at the local City Mission together was the safest choice. From that dinner, they got to know a smart young man with a troubled past. He was ambitious and motivated but needed a breakthrough in his life. After a few months, they invited him to live at their home, finish his GED, find a job, and get launched into a career. The family said last Thanksgiving was the luckiest Thanksgiving of their life. Almost one year later, that young man has finished his GED, is enrolled in a community college and has embarked with enthusiasm and this family’s support in a career. Luck and hard work collide.
So we do get lucky. Everyone gets lucky. The difference is whether or not we have enough focus, patience, and resilience to take that luck and capitalize on it. Living life believing that it is rigged in your favor, along with consistent hard work, unlocks the fullness of life. It turns mistakes into lessons learned, chaos into order, and fear into a better life. As this Thanksgiving approaches, I am immensely thankful for all the luck, the missteps, and the many opportunities in my life. I wish you and your family an abundant and joyful Thanksgiving.