Luck is a word that depends on your state of mind. Some would consider themselves lucky just to have a steady pay check and benefits. Other consider luck to be a steady climb up the corporate ladder. And some might consider luck to be essential in hitting it big. But no matter your goals, you can only be lucky if you set the parameters for that luck to happen. At HBR.org, Michael Wheeler outlines Bill Gates’ rise to success in The Luck Factor in Great Decisions:
Gates was and is brilliant, and he worked hard. Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, attributes his success to the 10,000 hours he spent mastering computer programming at an early age. Like star athletes and musical prodigies, Gates invested serious time and effort to deepen his knowledge and hone his skills. Gladwell also acknowledges that Gates had the benefit of good education. He went to a private school with a computer lab long before such facilities were commonplace.
There is more to Gates’ success, however, than his talent, hard work, and education. It might be that we know his name only because of his amazing luck as a negotiator. The flip of the coin came up heads for him three times in a row at a critical point in his business life.
The article goes on to discuss the three business deals where Gates got lucky. It’s the classic skill vs. luck argument and the article is a history lesson in how tenuous success (particularly of the mega variety) really is.
However, it’s important to note Gates’ combination extreme dedication, tenacity, and, yes, luck. In other words, Gates took advantage of his education and talent by investing serious time into mastering computer programming. He also had the moxy to acquire an operating system at a discount to springboard his way into a deal with IBM. And, yes, there was luck.
So how does this apply to the rest of us. Whether your middle management or just interviewing for a job, you can take a few cues from the Gates playbook:
1.) Invest in Your Talent: You know what you’re good at. Make yourself better at it and tout those skills.
2.) Take Chances: Bill Gates had moxy and so should you. Talent is safe and will only get you so far. Taking a few chances only tests your skills and prove what you’re capable of.
3.) Know When You’re Lucky: Just acknowledging that you’re lucky helps define and build on success. A person who knows luck when they see it is aware that you can’t always count on lighting striking twice.
We’d love to hear from you about when you’re been lucky in your career. Comment below…