We’re not all outgoing, confident people. While we’d like to think hard work is enough to drive success, we often learn, one way or another, that it’s not.
There’s a lot we can do to reach personal and professional milestones. We can practice our big presentations ad nauseum. We can focus on our creative process, refining each step as we learn more about how our brains work. And we can do our homework beforehand to stay ahead of the game.
But at some point we have to accept that a lot of what people achieve in their lives has nothing to do with their ability, intelligence, or wit–it’s often all about luck.
In business today, we’re all strapped for time. To stay organized we’ve resorted to making lists every morning to keep on track and get everything we need to get done before we leave for the day.
However, this level of organization doesn’t allow for time for our minds to wander down pathways that–by chance–could ultimately lead to our next big idea.
Famed statistician and author Nassim Taleb refers to these unpredictable events as “black swans.” These chance events have the power to propel an average person down a career path that leads to riches, power, and credibility.
By meeting the right person at the moment you come up with the right idea, you suddenly find yourself in an unfamiliar situation with the opportunity to have all of your wildest dreams fully realized. So, how do you get there? Below are three starting points.
We’re all susceptible to change. Even the more stubborn people go through phases in life that alter their perspective and outcome. I’m an anxious person by nature–constantly picking apart my own ideas to find faults and flaws in the thought process behind them all. What I’ve learned in the past five years is how to take more risks, accept chance, and put myself in (sometimes) uncomfortable situations.
Through my own transformation, I’ve found myself in luckier situations, where success sometimes comes to me and I don’t spend as much time seeking it out. Here are two of the most important lessons I’ve learned along the way:
One Yes Can Lead To Another One day, chance took charge, though I didn’t know it right away. I said yes to a lunch invite that I normally would have blown off. In conversation over the hour, my friend invited me on a trip to Cape Cod for the weekend–something I would’ve normally turned down–and I accepted the invite. Two yeses in a row. And those two yeses turned into a dozen, and then a hundred, and then a thousand.
What I learned that day was the power of saying yes. If you stick to a uniform schedule, both at work and outside of it, you’ll run into the same situations every day. You won’t experience anything new, and you won’t open up your life to the wonders of chance.
Opening Up to the Right Kind of Feedback In creative fields, it can be tough to open yourself up for feedback. But without taking a risk and putting yourself out there, you miss the opportunity to connect with an audience who can not only encourage even greater work, but also grant you new professional possibilities.
That being said, we tend to operate within a feedback loop that often inhibits stronger iterations of our own work. New research from the Carroll School of Management at Boston College found that when we apply the same feedback process we use in management to creativity we stunt an idea’s potential.
“When you’re doing something that’s inherently creative, the whole point of creativity is you don’t know what the outcome is supposed to look like when you’re starting off,” Spencer Harrison, PhD, assistant professor of management and organization, said. “How do people actually guide others down a path when they don’t know what the outcome should be, when they’re kind of both discovering newness along the way?”
Harrison and his team found common threads in successful creative feedback, most notably a creative person’s willingness to share incomplete work. To become that successful professional you deserve to be, you need to learn how to put your ideas–all of them–out there for the world to see.
I have learned that most leaders today want their teams to be vocal–there’s an appreciation for boldness and vulnerability. You may say something that doesn’t quite fit, but it’s better than saying nothing at all, always.
There is something so refreshing about chance and luck. We all like to believe we’re in complete control of our own destinies, and there’s certainly a lot of tactical steps we can take to reach our goals. But more and more I’m realizing the importance of being open minded and spontaneous in my work, allowing and embracing opportunities just as much as going out into the world and taking what’s mine.
In the pursuit of professional success, are you willing to take chances to get to where you want to go?