Luck = preparation x opportunity

Luck, why do some people seem to have it and others don’t, and what can we do about it?

Luck plays an important part in our lives and to our success.

Imagine you are a happily married person, you probably met your partner by pure chance. You didn’t try to meet all 7 billion people in the world, it was pure luck that you met and things worked out well.

Or if you’re one of those people who won the lottery, you didn’t buy the only lottery ticket available, you bought one of the millions and still managed to win £10.

So maybe these are not the best examples – but hopefully, we can agree luck does play some part in our lives.

Here is the bad news, not everyone is as lucky as others. But there are some things you can do to maximise the luck around you.

Breaking it down

Let’s break it down into two key components. You may have heard the saying…

“luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”.

This gives us two components – opportunity and preparation.

First, let’s acknowledge, not everyone has the same opportunities/advantages as everyone else. This is just true. And while this is the case, it is possible to do things about it to still make great progress in life.

Not everyone has the same opportunities/advantages

Now before we start, here is a video which I think is very poignant, I recommend watching it.

In short

  • some people have unfair advantages
  • some of these advantages are obvious, some not so obvious
  • some people have further to travel in life than others

For me, and I’ll keep this short, I had some advantages but I also had some challenges too. Using the video as a reference point, I wouldn’t have stepped forward many times.

  • I was from a broken home (multiple times)
  • I didn’t have a father figure in the home
  • I didn’t have access to a private education or a free tutor
  • I did worry about where my next meal would come from
  • I did struggle to pay my mobile bills and many others
  • I had to work through university to keep paying my way

And many more that I’d rather not share.

And I imagine many other people were in the same situation at the time too.

But I still did ok (in my opinion), however, I did learn how to maximise my opportunities and that really helped.

Maximising Luck

Let’s have a look at a couple of the things I did to maximise my luck…

Do more with what you have

This is probably my life thesis – do more

[although I don’t recommend it to others]

When I was doing my apprenticeship, I studied at business school part-time on evenings and weekends.

This led me to a full-time undergraduate degree, where I worked part-time, this part-time work led me to my first full-time IT job.

When I was teaching, I was learning how to develop games as a hobby, this led to a promotion/team change which led to my employer funding a masters.

Working my arse off on the masters (evenings and weekends) and getting distinction on every module led me to a full-time PhD.

When doing a PhD, the uni I did my masters at offered me a part-time lecturing job (because I did so well on the masters). That part-time job involved me supervising MSc students which exposed me to very complex data science projects.

So I was lucky…

  • I got into university (first in my family)
  • I got a funded Masters and funded PhD
  • I got offered jobs

But all of this was on the back of…

  • Studying evenings and weekends for many years
  • Being prepared to drive 2.5hrs each way to teach for 3hrs (part-time lecturing job)
  • Quitting a nicely paid job to become a full time student again (PhD)

Seek out new experiences, do things for FREE and say YES more without the expectation of any reward

My best example of this was when I was doing my PhD, I would attend C4Di one day every week, which is an incubator “that helps tech companies grow, and traditional businesses innovate”.

I would do free data science/machine learning work when I could.

I met anyone who came to C4Di, and built a positive reputation.

I’d attend tech talks and present at any of them just to help the organisers succeed.

And I was lucky again…

  • I got offered jobs
  • I got offered shares in startups
  • I got to meet some of the industry leaders in the region
  • I got offered my first job which I started after completing my PhD

Again, on the back of…

  • Giving up 1 day per week for 2 years
  • Offering free services and advice
  • Turning up to events in the evenings to present
  • Showing support to other people trying to get their thing off the ground

Invest in yourself

It’s probably evident that I’m keen on personal development, but it doesn’t have to be expensive education.

I’ve committed hours and hours to learning web development, and games development just for fun. But it helped me be a better programmer.

I’ve built mobile apps as personal projects too.

I learned everything from Youtube or cheap Udemy courses. No fancy degree.

When I could afford to do, I did invest real money in my growth – I paid to do an MBA. Something I had wanted to do for around 20 years.

So where’s the luck here?

  • I was lucky that I could code when doing the MSc
  • I was lucky that I could code to get the promo which led to the funded masters
  • I was lucky that I could afford to fund an MBA for myself

You know what’s next, what did the luck cost…

  • hours and hours of self-development learning to code
  • 20 years of effort to get into a position to fund the MBA
  • Instead of buying my dream car (Land Rover), I used that money to fund the MBA

In short

If luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, then you have 2 options….

  • Make sure you are prepared
  • Get yourself out there and look for opportunities

And yes, know that luck is not fair, opportunities are not equal, and it is harder for some than others.