Why do some people succeed and others fail? Is it because the successful ones were just better? Or were they lucky?
This is a hard thing to take apart. All we have to go on is the evidence of success or failure – we don’t know what would have happened if the situation had been different.
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”
This quote has been attributed to Seneca, the Roman philospher, but probably wasn’t said by him. It’s still good, however.
If you get yourself ready, then when you are able to react when the opportunity presents itself, you improve your chances of being lucky.
When it comes to timing investments in markets – this is a good strategy.
In investing – if you decide ahead of time what is good value, and the market comes close to that number – you should buy.
Much too often when prices fall people don’t buy, hoping they can get it cheaper. And when they rise they don’t buy either, hoping they will come down again. That doesn’t work.
Another way of thinking about this is with a surfing analogy. If you’re a surfer, you don’t just go to the beach, scan the waves for a big one and then head out towards it.
Instead, you get in position, and when the big wave comes along it lifts you up and you get going.
It’s all about getting in place before the opportunity starts. If you can see a trend, see the wave, see what is about to happen – then you are probably too late to do anything about it.
This is perhaps why people who take risks, start new ventures, try out new ideas are sometimes regarded with pity, sometimes with scorn by those around them.
Until they succeed. And then it looks like it was inevitable after all and anyone could do it. Except they didn’t.
Can you increase your chances of getting your timing right and being lucky?
A ten-year study by the psyschologist Richard Wiseman suggests there are four things lucky people do more than others:
- They create and notice chance opportunities
- They use their intuition to make lucky decisions
- They have positive expectations
- They are resilient – and that sometimes changes bad into good
This study suggests that how lucky you are may be related to how you think and behave.
Perhaps the approach to take is a combination of Oliver Cromwell’s maxim “Trust in God and keep your powder dry”.
In other words – think and act lucky, but also do everything you can to have the capability and tools needed to seize an opportunity when it comes along.