I believe that when we feel that “luck” is involved we need to self reflect on why we think that it’s involved, especially when we feel that others are lucky. But what shaped our views on luck?


Internal vs. external locus of control

Luck to me immediately conjures up the idea of locus of control. To best explain what this is simply I would need to be an expert in psychology, and since I’m not a psychotherapist I referenced the following from one:

“Locus of control is an individual’s belief system regarding the causes of his or her experiences and the factors to which that person attributes success or failure.

This concept is usually divided into two categories: internal and external. If a person has an internal locus of control, that person attributes success to his or her own efforts and abilities. A person who expects to succeed will be more motivated and more likely to learn. A person with an external locus of control, who attributes his or her success to luck or fate, will be less likely to make the effort needed to learn. People with an external locus of control are also more likely to experience anxiety since they believe that they are not in control of their lives. This is not to say, however, that an internal locus of control is “good” and an external locus of control is “bad.” There are other variables to be considered, however, psychological research has found that people with a more internal locus of control seem to be better off, e.g. they tend to be more achievement oriented and get better paying jobs.”[NB1]

Personally, around 10 years ago I used to have an external locus of control. One day I realized that things were not going the way I wanted. Somewhere I heard a quote something to the effect of “if its not your fault you cannot control or fix it, but if it is your fault you can control and fix it”. It took a lot of time and self reflection, but since then I’ve found it’s always best to think that everything is my own fault whether others think it is or not. Maybe I put myself in a bad position, maybe I surrounded myself with the wrong people, maybe there’s a series of five or six decisions in succession that put me in a situation to fail.

We have to backtrack and think through the chain of events to find where a mistake was made on our part, so we can learn from it and not repeat it.

People usually bring a list of reasons why something did not work. I believe that the negative conditions surrounding initiatives are the things we must overcome in order to succeed. If you believe that you can adapt to ever changing conditions and be nimble, you most likely have an internal locus of control.


Luck as a self defense mechanism

When we think someone else’s accomplishments were “luck” we need to deploy self awareness. We have to intentionally stop ourselves and internally talk though the situation: “Okay why am I having this reaction?” If you think deeply enough, you come to the answer: I thought “that person is lucky” because I don’t want to feel that I am lesser to them in some arbitrary measure. Therefore when something is too complex to reconcile, and it hurts our ego we explain it away quickly with the explanation of “luck”.

Once we can get to the point where we admit to ourselves that this other person might know something we don’t know, we can begin to analyze the situation. We have to reverse engineer what they did, learn from it, and then obtain similar results to the person we thought was “lucky”. In this way our self reflection can pay huge dividends by learning through other people’s successes (lucky moments) and failures (unlucky moments).


“The more I work the luckier I get”

I’ve heard a lot of highly successful people say this. I think its true, but for a deeper reason. You also might have heard “Luck is when preparation meet opportunity”, this means that without preparation:

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  • The opportunities are not given to us because others don’t think we’re ready
  • We are unable to perceive the opportunities in front of us because we haven’t learned enough
  • We are not yet at a place where we can use an opportunity to get the maximum upside from it
  • We mistake an opportunity for a problem based on how we approach it and our mindset

The application of the above is about leaving no stone unturned. Looking at the newest trends, reading research on HR best practices, new technologies that can be leveraged for digital marketing, and new systems and processes to address old problems in better ways; the way all of this is done is hard work through self reflection and improving yourself everyday. The harder you work, the more prepared you are, the more solutions you find, and the more opportunities you seize.


Closing thoughts

Are there situations that are no-win? Absolutely there are. However, in these situations there are ways to mitigate the down side so that the losses are reduced. If we limit the down side of the no-win situations and maximize the up-side of the winning situations repeatedly through hard work, preparation, and self reflection, over time, be it months or years, we can get better and improve the lives of ourselves and others.

 [NB1] Source: Psychology Today