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Luck is Where Preparation Meets Opportunity

Like so many people, a coach had a huge impact on my life. For me that person was Todd Alles, the head football coach at Dublin during my high school years. Among the many things he said that stuck with me was this – “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.”

Whether or not we want to admit it, much of success has to do with luck. One definition for luck is, “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.”

It’s the chance part that’s outside your control. For example; being born into your family, growing up where you did, the opportunities (sports, music and other activities) afforded you, and so much more had very little or nothing at all to do with your choices or skills.

Sometimes it’s randomly meeting a person who gives you a big break. Maybe it’s being fortunate to have a teacher or coach who took special interest in you and changed your life.

Chance has impacted me in numerous ways over the years. I’d like to share with you a couple of random events changed my life forever.

On a personal level luck…

led to my marriage. Having accepted a job before graduation college, I still decided to go to one last interview. The Travelers, a national insurance company, was looking for an underwriter and I only went to the interview because the job was in Columbus, Ohio, my hometown. My family and friends were in Columbus as was a girl I was dating so I thought it would be nice if I could stay in town. I got the job and on my first day I walked into the HR on boarding session and laid eyes on Jane, the woman who would become my wife.

On a professional level luck…

changed the course of my career. While at State Auto Insurance a good friend, Nancy Edwards, gave a video to me and my boss. She thought it would hit home with us because of our sales training. The video was Robert Cialdini presenting research on ethical influence at Stanford’s Breakfast Briefings. What he shared resonated with me on many levels so I began using Cialdini’s concepts in my sales training.

Even more random was an email I sent to Stanford sometime later when their marketing referred to Cialdini’s training as manipulation. I never heard from Stanford but that email led to a phone call from a representative at INFLUENCE AT WORK. She called to thank me on behalf of Dr. Cialdini for pointing out Stanford’s mistake. Because of my email Stanford changed their marketing of the video and it led to a relationship with INFLUENCE AT WORK that’s now spanned more than 15 years. Were it not for that email it’s very likely I would not have pursued the career path I’m on and you certainly would not be reading my blog right now.

Where was the preparation?

In both cases opportunities presented themselves and I was prepared to seize them. When it came to the job interview, if I had not worked hard in school, gotten good grades and interviewed extensively, it’s very likely I would not have gotten the job…and never met Jane. Travelers is a fine company and I’m sure many college grads would have loved the opportunity to work for them but I was the one who was prepared.

With regard to my career, I could have easily disregarded the Stanford marketing piece that mentioned manipulation but I didn’t because being an ethical person is a core value for me. I felt compelled to address the situation and was articulate enough to bring about change. Again, I was prepared for the opportunity that presented itself.

Conclusion

Sometimes unfortunate opportunities come your way, things that are completely outside of your control that pose a threat or have a negative impact. Even in those cases the question is; are you ready to deal with the situation in a way that lessens the bad outcome or perhaps turns it into something positive?

When it comes to good luck there’s no room for boasting. But there is room for confidence that says, “I’m ready whenever the opportunity presents itself.” There’s a well-known saying on this that’s sometimes attributed to Arnold Palmer, “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” Make sure you’re prepared for the opportunities that might come your way someday.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker, coach and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, the most cited living social psychologist on the topic of ethical influence. Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses Persuasive SellingPersuasive Coaching and Building a Coaching Culture: Improving Performance through Timely Feedback have been viewed by nearly 65,000 people! Have you watched them yet? Click a course title to see what you’ve been missing.