When I look back at the last 45 years, I feel the greatest factor in any success I have had, as a university student, diplomat or businessman, has come mainly from being lucky.
When Napoleon was asked if he preferred courageous generals or brilliant generals, he replied neither. He preferred lucky generals.
So, how do you get lucky?
These are seven habits that brought me luck.
1) Be adventurous but do not bet the farm.
Every thing that I achieved came from taking risks. I left the comfort of my hometown university to study abroad. I confronted my boss on something that really mattered to me. I quit the company and started out on my own. I lent money to a supplier against very little security, and on and on. These were the moves that brought me the greatest rewards. But in all cases, I could afford to lose. I was not going to be exiled to Elba if I lost. I did not always develop a business plan, or do a detailed ROI analysis. I followed my gut feel, but I knew that I could cope with failure.
2) Start by trusting people.
You cannot do it alone. You will only achieve your goals with the help of others: friends and family, colleagues, employers and employees, suppliers and customers. If you are suspicious by nature, or if you like to do everything yourself, your chances of getting lucky are diminished. Because it’s usually others that bring you luck.
3) Play your strong cards.
Know your strengths and try to use them. Know your weakness and try to avoid having to use them. Don’t pretend to have strengths that you don’t have. You can develop strengths and overcome weaknesses. But make sure you identify your specific skills, aptitudes, knowledge, and contacts and use them wherever you can. This will increase you chances of getting lucky.
4) Give more than you take.
If you want to attract lucky people to your campaign, be prepared to give. You need to go the extra mile for others without worrying too much about keeping score. In my experience the old saying “what goes around comes around” is definitely true in business and in life, and “it” comes around when you least expect it, believe me.
5) Get and stay fit.
I am not referring to only to physical fitness. I mean your overall mental, physical and psychological well being. Eat right and stay active. Keep learning and improving yourself. Look on the bright side. Not everything is going to go your way. Believe in your chances of success, even in the face of difficulties. Never deal with tough problems at night when you are tired. Health and energy will bring you luck, and the strength to rebound from reverses.
6) Be a good communicator.
You have to communicate who you are and what you want. Work on your language skills. I mean your use of words, your ability to speak and write clearly and simply but forcefully. If you have the time, learn another language. Knowing many languages has greatly increased my luck and business opportunities. In our global village, the importance of languages will only increase. Japanese is now the biggest blogging language on the web!
7) Be true to your craft and trade.
An accountant can write a good business plan and do the ROI analysis, but is unlikely to make a good shoemaker. Every start-up, every enterprise, every venture, is based on a craft or specialized field of knowledge. Be true to the Hippocratic Oath of your chosen field of activity. People will know if you are for real and then you will start to get lucky.
Give luck a chance to happen! Practice these seven habits. You can start as a student or any time you want, but there are no guarantees.
Steve Kaufmann is a former Canadian diplomat, who has had his own company in the international trade of forest products for over 20 years. Steve founded The Linguist Institute Ltd. in 2002 to develop a new approach to language learning using the web. The new LingQ system for learning multiple languages is now available in Beta. Steve speaks nine languages fluently and is currently learning Russian using LingQ. Steve maintains a blog on language learning.