How Much Do You Depend Upon Luck In Your Career?


A client recently brought up a concept that he felt a bit embarrassed about — that is, how “lucky” he has gotten with the acquisition of two new, very large clients. He’s a partner in a prestigious firm in a super competitive legal market.

Luck? Lawyers? Really?

When we broke down the attributes that he ascribed to being lucky, I was surprised that none of them were healthy. Consider these cultural beliefs he held, and notice if any of them are shared in your experience:

Random: Oddly, a sense of shame came along with the acquisition of six-figure clients, because seemingly, the acquisition was not built on a great proposal or his specific competence, and he also got business where his more senior-level peers could not.

Unearned: Again, there was a sense that the value of the new clients had to be tied to some sort of (really) hard work; otherwise, the value of the contracts was lessened or flawed.

Lottery: Like winning a lottery, the idea was that these contracts that came to him were statistical long shots.

How do you hold luck in your life and career? For me, I count on it. I also consider it good fortune, rather than anything random. Here’s how.

I learned a lot about simple concepts and wisdom from my paternal grandfather. One thing he said that I always liked: “There are times in life when a guy gets what’s coming to him.”

My grandfather almost always had old-soul wisdom that worked both in the positive and the negative. He was pretty clear: Do the right thing consistently, and good things will come to you — and the same holds true if you treat people poorly.

With this in mind, if my client simply took good care of clients and did exemplary work, on time, and at a market rate, wouldn’t it stand to reason that he would “get what’s coming to him?” I would certainly think so. That’s good fortune — a predictable outcome of doing things well. Winning a gift card at a luncheon is luck.

A More Practical Way To Put Good Fortune In Your Favor

What if we took the same client, with the same two large deals that have recently come his way, and reconfigure what might have actually happened? Might he create a system to “keep luck on his side” as a matter of principle and a practice to duplicate?

Here are some attributes that I asked him to consider, instead of those listed above:

Merited: What if the two big deals were the merited or logical consequence of doing things well over a long period of time? In that way, there is nothing random, and the clients showed up because of recurring and repetitively honorable practices. He was just not actively courting them, and they had heard of his reputation and past performance from others.

Positive: Isn’t it amazing that good fortune, or “luck,” as others may see it, tends to favor those who are positive? We like to reward positivity, and while this client is certainly no Pollyanna, he views situations positively.

Strategic: When I asked what he had done over long periods of time for seemingly random deals to come his way, my client answered that he always tries to “put himself into good position to succeed.” Think of a championship team, versus just a competitive team. Champions always seem to put themselves into better positions to succeed than their opponents. Multiply this over a game, or years, in his case, and this strategy will predictably pay off more for you than for someone who does not put themselves into good positions.

How About You?

Are you putting yourself into the best (or consistently better) positions to succeed every day, as a leader, a contributor, a parent or a team player? The interesting piece here goes back to my grandfather. What if you simply upped your level of position from “I get my job done” to something more along this trajectory:

I get my job done.

I do my job well.

I take great pride in the quality of my work.

I exceed expectations.

I contribute to the success of myself and others.

The list goes on. Take where you see yourself on this list and multiply it by years in your craft. How “lucky” might your operating strategy make you when it comes time to land a big deal, a big promotion or a big opportunity? Did you get screwed, passed over or ignored, or were you even up for consideration, based upon how (well) you played over years?

My suspicion, just as in my client’s situation, is that your fortune, good or bad, is much more a function of “getting what’s coming to you” rather than some chance encounter. Will what you receive thrill you, scare you or bore you? My suggestion is that you control much of that end result.

Good fortune to you … as you won’t need any luck. You earn what you get more often than not.