Success: Luck or Hard Work?

Is success a matter of luck or hard work? I think the answer to that question is yes. I had a sales manager years ago who influenced me more than he knew. The late, great Bob Leviere always used to say, “The harder you works the luckier you gets.” Grammar aside, I believe he was right.

How many times has each of us seen firsthand or heard about someone whom we know for a fact lacks our levels of intelligence, charm, and charisma enjoy success that surpasses that of our own? Please don’t feel as if you’re arrogant or bitter in answering that question for yourself-no one is going to ask for a list of names. What is your reaction when that happens? Amazement? Disillusion? Sour grapes?

Whatever the reaction, I am going to very gently and kindly tell you to get over it because those negative feelings can only get in the way of setting yourself up to get what those other people got that you may not have-an opportunity. The Webster on-line dictionary says opportunity is, “a favorable juncture of circumstances”. (http://webster.com/dictionary/opportunity)

‘A favorable juncture of circumstances’ sounds like one could wander aimlessly through life and run into opportunity while another could miss it. They could. The question you have to ask, though, is whether you want to wander aimlessly hoping for a random stroke of luck or if you prefer to work to be available for such strokes of luck. Luck, by the way, is, “the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual,” according to Webster. (http://webster.com/dictionary/luck) In the words of Dirty Harry, “The question you gotta ask yourself is, ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do you?”

I hope the Dirty Harry quote made you smile. I know the next question may generate some dirty-minded smirks, but I don’t really know how else to phrase it without getting all multi-syllabic-so please take it in the clean sense in which it is intended; here goes. How do you ‘get lucky’? How do you influence the events or circumstances that operate for or against you in order to create a favorable juncture of circumstances?

Those faithful among us may look to God to pave the way. Those among us with an existentialist point of view may just be struck by an opportunity by sheer chance. Nothing wrong with either of those scenarios, but I think each of us has the power to influence luck in order to create opportunity.

The first and biggest thing we can do to positively influence our chances for opportunity is to simply show up. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how knowledgeable you are, how cute or otherwise wonderful you are if you’re not in the place where those qualities are required at the moment they are required. So, how do you know where to show up and how many places can you be at one time?

Well, the fact is that although your experience or your intuition may tell you where you’ll have the best chance for an opportunity, you never know. As for the other piece, you can only physically be in one place at a time; your influence, though, can be in as many places as you put it.

Every positive impression you make spreads your positive influence (the negative ones are a whole different discussion). These impressions can be in person, over the phone, by word of mouth, or through advertising messages. Every positive, consistent impression someone receives of you raises your top of mind awareness with that individual. Remember that luck is defined as ‘events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual’. Positive impressions and positive top of mind awareness increase the chances that events or circumstances will operate for rather than against you. You make your own luck by creating the right image for yourself through your actions consistent with the messages you distribute. Opportunity, as a ‘favorable juncture of circumstances’ increases with your luck.

It takes work to maintain all these impressions of yourself and your business. For example, if you are looking for hospitality jobs london area or business opportunities in Paris or in California, it is efficient to take into consideration your skills.

Each interaction a person has with you should be positive and consistent with what people are saying about you and with what your advertising says about you. It is extremely difficult to be your ‘business self’ all the time. It is extremely easy to just be yourself all the time. For the sake of this discussion let’s assume you are basically a likable person who is honest, reasonably competent, and has great follow through (without these basic attributes success will be limited regardless of what message you put out there to the masses-again, a topic for another discussion).

There are lots of things you can easily do that will increase your positive top of mind awareness. Going back to a point early in the discussion-you can show up. Show up at the doors of as many potential clients and influential business contacts as possible. While you’re there let them know honestly what you do and why letting you do whatever it is that you do is a good idea. Notice I didn’t say, “…and why letting you do whatever it is that you do versus your competition is a good idea.” If you’re in a competitive business it is a good idea to know where your strengths and weaknesses are in comparison with your competition; however, bringing them up unsolicited is engaging in an unnecessary battle. It could lead to a less-than-positive impression. Besides, the potential source of business sitting in front of you is focused on you right now. Why would you ask him to shift that focus, even for a moment, to your competition?

Showing up also increases the number of word of mouth referrals you are likely to get. If people are thinking about you, they will likely talk about you. It’s important to make sure the things they are saying are consistent with what you’re trying to accomplish. If that’s the case, you in essence have your own little word of mouth committee who makes sure everyone they know who needs you knows about you.

Let’s talk about what happens when you mess up. What happens when your actions or results are inconsistent with the positive impression you’re working so hard to create? Say you fail to meet a customer’s expectations. What do you do? Fibs, finger pointing or other elaborate cover-ups will just make it worse. My advice is to simply apologize, try to make it right if damage has been done, and start over. Nothing takes the wind out of a reasonable person’s sails and gets them on your side faster than a sincere apology and an effort to make it right. Failure to do so could result in the formation of another type of word of mouth campaign that you just don’t need.

Advertising sales are essential to my business. Considering what I do for a living you may think it odd that I have barely touched on the power of advertising to spread your positive impressions. It might actually be odd, but I felt the need to talk about front-line luck-and-opportunity-making first.

Consistency and frequency are vital in getting your message to your potential clients. You can have a consistent message, but if it isn’t heard often enough people will forget. You can distribute messages frequently, but if the message isn’t consistent people will either become distrustful or not associate them all with you.

So, if showing up and word of mouth are so important why do you need to advertise? It’s two-fold, but it’s simple. You can only be one place at a time and those talking about you can only be in one place at a time. Advertising is putting your message in a visible place so that when unknown passersby see or hear it, it might register as a positive impression. Remember, you want positive impressions because impressions influence your ‘events or circumstances that work for or against (you)’.

The second reason it’s important to advertise is that it helps you increase the frequency with which you can distribute those positive impressions. In other words, you can only be so many places at once; advertising reminds those people who are part of your positive word of mouth committee that you’re there. A past client in need of the same product or service will see or hear your ad and say, “oh yeah”. Advertising increases your chances of top of mind awareness, which increases your chances for ‘a favorable juncture of circumstances’.

What do you think? Is success a matter of luck or hard work? I say sustained success is dependent on your effort (read hard work) to create circumstances that work for you (read luck). Bob Leviere said it best, “The harder you works, the luckier you gets.”