When I started working for a Consultancy firm fresh out of my French Business School, I met Sandrine.
She had just started there too. She didn’t have as good a degree as I did but she had managed to get recruited nonetheless. She was smily, lively, easy to talk to, helpful. We got on really well straight away. We worked on different projects and kept comparing notes.
It became quickly apparent to me that she was extremely lucky.
She always seemed to be in the right place, at the right time.
She got assigned onto interesting projects, one after the other.
Even when she was on the bench (as consultants you try to avoid being on the bench too much as you want as many billable hours as possible), she was given internal projects and met new managers and partners that furthered her network.
She didn’t even seem to try that hard.
She wasn’t the killer associate with a 5-year-plan and objectives to match.
After 3 years, my friend Sandrine left the firm. She’d been head-hunted by an ex-partner who had moved to LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) and wanted her on her team. She quickly became one of their top new managers – one to watch.
In the meantime, I was only onto my second project at the consultancy firm! Because I performed well and was reliable, I got left on projects for far too long. Lots of billable hours… a very poor network and not much clue about career management then. I just accepted that some people were lucky and that I probably wasn’t as lucky. I compensated with a lot of hard work.
Was Sandrine just lucky?
Is It Ever Just Luck Or The Right Attitude?
I wish I could say that is was just luck – that would mean her bright success and my moderate one were out of our hands. But it’s just not true.
The truth is Sandrine created her own luck.
First of all, she was a hard worker. I don’t want you to think that all that happened to her was pure luck. She worked really, really hard and produced excellent work. So did I but the difference between us came in her attitude.
She was aware of her own good luck. Not in an obnoxious way but in a confident one. She was full of optimism, not inclined to give up, ready to be flexible and take risks in the firm belief that things would turn out to be OK. She didn’t hesitate to take that new job. I, on the other hand, was playing it safe staying with what I knew.
She was open to new possibilities and experiences. That meant that she noticed them (not everybody does) and that she was ready to act on them. She kept having those chance encounters. I probably did too but I had my head firmly buried in my own world whereas she was receptive to these opportunities.
She was forging relationships at every opportunity – just by being herself (talkative and friendly), she discovered similarities with many people. She created and maintained a diverse network. Because of this, more opportunities came her way.
If she had some bad luck, she did not dwell on her bad luck but learned from the experience and adapted so there would be less chance of it happening again.
Say Yes More Often
The very same principles apply to life and business.
Take a look at this research website by University College London where people have been recording their serendipitous moments in order to see if there are patterns to peoples’ experiences.
You’ll find in there many stories of people who found the love of their life, a better job, old friends, fulfilled their dream … by being open to new encounters and grabbing new opportunities.
There’s Terry, who was scrolling down to unsubscribe from a newsletter when she noticed an internship program that ended up changing her life or Penelope’s mum, aged 91, who accepted for once to go out for lunch where she ended up meeting a group of Harley bikers who fulfilled her dream of taking her for a ride and have since made her their mascot or Tamsin meeting the man of her life on a climbing holiday she nearly did not go to.
Danny Wallace (Yes Man)
Yep… if you don’t try new things, your life will most likely stay the same. This quote by Danny Wallace is from ‘Yes Man’. If you haven’t seen the movie with Jim Carrey, I really encourage you to. I’m not a big Carrey fan but I really like this movie (which has pretty good reviews). It’s fun and illustrates perfectly the fact that by taking new steps in new directions, being open to opportunities, you meet more people, learn more things and change your life and career for the better. Of course, the film also shows the funny side of saying yes to absolutely everything – which, in case you hadn’t guessed, is not good either.
It’s not about taking every single chance (who could?) but it’s about taking more chances than we normally do.
To illustrate this point (and for those of you who like numbers), check out this FT article which highlights how changing job once for 2007 graduates resulted in a higher pay than those who remained in the same company and much higher pay than those who kept switching.
There are things you cannot change (who your parents are, how wealthy they are, in which country you were born, whether you graduated in a time of recession,…). But you can make sure to take the right steps to give yourself as much chance as possible to succeed and create your own luck in life and business:
- get involved in lots of different activities (without becoming an adrenaline junkie)
- build your networks (without hassling people – remain natural)
- show initiative (try to be quicker at spotting opportunities when they present themselves and be flexible enough to seize them)
- throw yourself into whatever you’re doing
For pure pleasure… an extract of ‘Yes,Man’. Enjoy!