Friday, June 13, 2003

Creating Luck

When I was a kid, I was fortunate enough to spend time living on a lake. It was a particularly good lake for waterskiing but only if you got an early start in the morning. Near the beginning and the end of the school year happened to be some of the best conditions because of the combination of the weather and the fact that other people mostly had school in mind instead of skiing. Going for a quick pull before school was not necessarily the norm (no one planned it) but if you were awake, had eaten breakfast already, homework done & clothes laid out - short, if you were prepared - when the airhorn sounded... well, you just might have a chance to sample perfection for a half-hour or so and start the day out right. There was nothing like early morning sun on my back, wind in my hair, and the smoothness of the water that time of day.

Why does this matter in the context of this column?

The point is, are you ready for whatever opportunity is right around the corner or perhaps even staring you in the face? Are you even ready to recognize such an opportunity?

There is a project providing scientific proof of a sort that is starting to get some attention that we do create our own luck... and that staying optimistic and keeping a broad focus that makes it easier to spot a variety of opportunities (even those that come disguised as disasters) is an important component to that process. For more information on the Luck Project, go to, recently written up in Fast Company.

For die-hard pessimists, the same can be said about disasters. I carry water with me on desert hikes and matches on hikes in areas with wetter climates. What sort of preparations have you made in your career to be ready for whatever difficulties or opportunities may come your way?

My favorites include:

* Keeping a running list of the projects I'm working on and the skills I'm developing and the results I've achieved
* Using this and other information to keep my resume updated at least once a quarter ("whether I need it or not")
* Staying in contact with a variety of individuals in and outside of my industry
* Making sure I'm doing as many favors for the people I know as they're doing for me
* Add new people to my list of contacts with each new project, job, or role that I'm involved in
* Regular mental run-down on of how happy and satisfied I am with my work, what drives me right now, and where I feel like I'm really making a difference
* List of skills I want to add - these I either make time to add or are the first things I jump into in the event of having unplanned time on my hands, such as happens so often with unemployment.

What it comes down to is this... Some of the most important turning points in our lives, good and bad, don't bother to announce themselves in advance. That means we've got to be ready for them before they arrive.

How do you stay optimistic? What personal disaster recovery plans do you maintain on a regular basis? Send your suggestions to me at and I'll share the best ones here.

Just know that when that airhorn blows, you've either got your swimsuit on already or you get left on the dock.