Put Yourself in a Position to Be Lucky

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Last week I spoke at a University of Toronto event to a small group of students. They were mostly business students (so I implored them to learn how to code and be useful–seriously business students, learn to code). As I was going to the event and reviewing my notes, I wrote the following down:

Put yourself in a position to get lucky. Luck is a huge factor in success–particularly startup success–but you can influence and improve your luck by networking and standing out.

I decided to end my presentation with that. It sounds a bit cheesy and I’m rarely the “ra ra personal development” guy, but it did a good job of summing up what I think students (and everyone else for that matter) need to do in order to succeed–namely stand out.

There are lots of opportunities for people to stand out and differentiate themselves. The ones that do are often the ones that get luckier and win.

The morning of my presentation I was on the subway reading over someone’s shoulder (we were packed in like sardines, it was hard to look anywhere else!) I saw a story about three University of Toronto students that had invented a “self-warming shirt” (it included a small battery, you could set the temperature of the shirt as you wanted), and they had raised $80,000 on Kickstarter. They had hundreds of sales, and they were looking to increase that, plus get into warming socks and other apparel. When I shared the story in my presentation, I said:

I have no idea if they’ll succeed. They probably won’t. But when they go to apply for a job, or look to raise money for a future startup, or whatever they choose to do, their previous efforts will help them stand out. I’d talk to them immediately if they were applying for work, just because they tried something. They stand out.

I’m not suggesting everyone should start a company. But what I am suggesting is that in order to win you have to get extremely lucky. In order to get extremely lucky you have to put yourself in a position to do so, which means putting yourself out there, trying things, failing a bunch of times and seeing what happens. I consider myself absurdly lucky, but I also feel like I worked (and continue to work) really, really hard for it. Luck doesn’t come automatically (at least not to me!) Luck is the result of working hard, taking chances and standing out.

Put yourself in a position to be lucky. It might be scary, but it’s worth it.

Photo from JD Hancock.

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