Jim Collins says that “Return on Luck” is one of the significant factors in extreme success.
It is not that successful companies or people have more luck… it is how they follow through on their lucky breaks that makes the difference.
One person might meet someone who could open a door of massive opportunity… but doubt and confusion mean that they don’t pursue the chance.
Another might meet the same person… and have the motivation, vision and competence to take the opportunity and turn it into a gold mine. Whether you are lucky or not today, you can invest in developing your clarity of vision, your competence, your network of trusted relationships – to be ready to maximise your return on luck when an opportunity comes to you.
Where Opportunities come from
“Stand in the traffic”
Prof Paris de l’Etraz, IE Business School, Madrid
Whilst luck is not controllable… there is something that I can do to increase the chances of lucky breaks occurring.
Prof Paris de l’Etraz of IE Business School in Madrid teaches a course on managing your life. One of his sessions is titled “Stand in the Traffic“. He says that it is important to place yourself physically and mentally where many opportunities are likely to flow. Your sofa at home is comfortable… but no opportunities are flowing past. If you spend your days at a business school… a lot of people, ideas and opportunities flow past.
Lucky Opportunities tend to be Stumbled Upon
The author of the Atomic Habits book, James Clear, has a wonderful weekly email newsletter. Here is a thought that he shared on opportunities…
from James Clear…
“Lucky opportunities tend to be stumbled upon, not handed out.
If you’re waiting for someone to hand deliver an excellent opportunity to you, it’s unlikely to happen. But if you are exploring and moving—if you’re in the mix and engaged—then you’ll stumble upon many opportunities.
The active mind comes across a lot. Keep tilling the soil and you will occasionally unearth something wonderful.”
Warren Buffett often says that he is less scared by the errors he has made than by the sheer enormity of all the opportunities that he never even saw as they passed him by.
Your progress in life is far less linked to whether you execute perfectly on the things you actually act on, and far more linked to whether you are able to see great opportunities as they pass you by.
In psychology we define 2 types of error:
Type 1 – poor execution and
Type 2 – never even seeing the opportunity to act
Our psychological makeup has us much more worried about the type 1 errors – because we are fully aware of them. We should be much more worried about the type 2 errors, because they are the ones that make the biggest impact on our trajectory through life.
“Every opportunity is attached to a person. Opportunities do not float like clouds in the sky. They’re attached to people. If you’re looking for an opportunity — including one that has a financial payoff — you’re really looking for a person.”
My life is an example of this quote in action. The most transformational opportunities in my life have come to me through people. I would not be teaching at IESE without Brian Leggett opening the door for me… not just to teaching, but even to the idea that I might be able to teach. I would not be involved with Vistage without Verne Harnish.
In both of these cases, I didn’t even know that the opportunity even existed. I was not looking for the opportunity. It took the vision of the other person to see a path for me that I would never have seen myself.
The power of people luck is that others can often see an opportunity that you cannot see yourself.
Return on Luck (especially People luck)
I had the privilege to meet Jim Collins a few years back in San Diego. A powerful idea that Jim has shared is “Return on Luck”. Over several years, Jim and his team investigated the hypothesis that “successful people/companies are just luckier”. They defined what it would mean for a life event to be considered “luck”:
A luck event is one that meets 3 criteria:
outside of my control
Jim and his team looked at successful and unsuccessful companies, and leaders, and identified every luck event that had occurred. They found no difference in the absolute number of luck events.
Successful People & Companies are not Luckier
There is no difference in the absolute number of luck events in the lives of successful or unsuccessful companies or leaders.
However, Jim and his team did find a difference in what happened after the luck event… Once luck happens… how do you respond?
Jim calls this “Return on luck”. Once a “luck event” has happened, there is a big difference in how successful and unsuccessful companies and leaders respond.
The luck event happens… then what? You meet the girl of your dreams and say “Nice to meet you” or you say “I want a coffee, will you join me?” You meet a key person in the company you dream of working for… what do you do with this moment?
When something lucky happens in your life, do you seize it and take action? Are consistently getting prepared for future luck events in your life?
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