St. Paddy’s Green Beer and Good Luck
With St. Patrick’s Day fast approaching, I thought it would be good to look at the nature of luck; how we attract it, why some of us seem to think we have no luck at all, and if there is such a thing at luck, is it something that comes to us simply by chance or can we, through our actions and our attitude, create or attract luck?
Tina Selig teaches entrepreneurship at Stanford University. She is an expert in the area of luck, having spent more than two decades studying it, has made some rather profound discoveries. What follows are excerpts from her TED talk on Luck.
“ About a dozen years ago, I was on an airplane, early, early morning flight on my way to Ecuador. And normally, I would just put on my headphones and go to sleep, wake up, do some work, but I decided to take a little risk, and I started a conversation with the man sitting next to me. I introduced myself, and I learned that he was a publisher. Interesting. We ended up having a fascinating conversation. I learned all about the future of the publishing industry. So about three quarters of the way through the flight, I decided to take another risk, and I opened up my laptop and I shared with him a book proposal I put together for something I was doing in my class. And he was very polite, he read it, and he said, “You know what, Tina, this isn’t right for us, but thank you so much for sharing.” It’s OK. That risk didn’t work out. I shut my laptop. At the end of the flight, we exchanged contact information.
I mean, he wanted to do a book with my students and not with me, but OK, it’s all right. So I invited him to come down, and he and his colleagues came to Stanford and met with the students, and afterwards, we had lunch together. And one of his editors said to me, “Hey, have you ever considered writing a book?”
I said, “Funny you should ask.” And I pulled out the exact same proposal that I had showed his boss a year earlier. Within two weeks, I had a contract, and within two years, the book had sold over a million copies around the world.
Now, you might say, “Oh, you’re so lucky.” But of course, I was lucky, but that luck resulted from a series of small risks I took, starting with saying hello. And anyone can do this, no matter where you are in your life, no matter where you are in the world — even if you think you’re the most unlucky person, you can do this by taking little risks that get you out of your comfort zone. You start building a sail to capture luck.
The second thing you want to do is to change your relationship with other people. You need to understand that everyone who helps you on your journey is playing a huge role in getting you to your goals. And if you don’t show appreciation, not only are you not closing the loop, but you’re missing an opportunity. When someone does something for you, they’re taking that time that they could be spending on themselves or someone else, and you need to acknowledge what they’re doing.
So first, you need to take some risks and get out of your comfort zone. Second, you need to show appreciation. And third, you want to change your relationship with ideas. Most people look at new ideas that come there way and they judge them. “That’s a great idea” or “That’s a terrible idea.” But it’s actually much more nuanced. Ideas are neither good or bad. And in fact, the seeds of terrible ideas are often something truly remarkable.
If you look around at the companies, the ventures that are really innovative around you, the ones that we now take for granted that have changed our life, well, you know what? They all started out as crazy ideas. They started ideas that when they pitched to other people, most people said, “That’s crazy, it will never work.”
So, yes, sometimes people were born into terrible circumstances, and sometimes, luck is a lightning bolt that hits us with something wonderful or something terrible. But the winds of luck are always there, and if you’re willing to take some risks, if you’re willing to really go out and show appreciation and willing to really look at ideas, even if they’re crazy, through the lens of possibilities, you can build a bigger and bigger sail to catch the winds of luck.”
You can hear all of Tina’s talk on our website. Pour yourself a green beer and sit for a few minutes and listen to an expert’s thoughts on how she believes each of us can increase our luck.
With that I wish you a Happy St. Patrick’s Day and May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live.