Is Luck Important For Being Successful?
By Leo Gura - October 13, 2014 | 19 Comments
A deep look at why luck isn’t as important as you might think
Hey, this is Leo for Actualized.org. In this video we’re going to take a look at an interesting question: how important is luck in becoming successful?
Luck And Success: Do They Go Hand In Hand?
Luck and success. These two things a lot of the time we believe go hand in hand. If you read stories of people who are extraordinarily successful, rich people, politicians, visionaries throughout history, inventors, stuff like that, one of the things you tend to see if you read a lot of biographies, a lot of things you see is some of these people had a lot of extraordinary circumstances happen in life.
They were born in a very particular time in a particular country in a particular circumstance. They were very, very unique and we tend to think to ourselves, “I don’t have those same circumstances. I’m not as lucky as some of these people are so I can’t be as successful as some of these people are.”
I used to fall into this trap myself too. In fact, when I was in college I wanted to become an aerospace engineer. That’s when I just started college that was my first major. I was studying really hard, I was really serious about it. I was a good student so for me the vision was not just an aerospace engineer but I wanted to work on something important inside of aerospace.
I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool? We’re probably going to be going to Mars or to some other planet in the solar system in the next twenty, or thirty or forty years of my lifetime.” I thought, “That would be cool to participate in so I want to be someone working on that kind of project.” Even though I had this vision, one of the immediate thoughts that came to me was, “Wait, what are the chances that I’ll actually be able to work on a project like that?” That seemed like a pretty rare opportunity.
One of things I remember I was talking to my dad and said, “I want to work for NASA on a project like going to Mars, maybe build some sort of rocket ship to do that.” Then I said to him, “But, what are the chances that I’ll get hired to work at NASA on this project?” I told them, “Probably one in a thousand.”
I don’t know how many engineers apply to NASA or those kinds of positions, I never actually researched it but in my mind I was saying probably like one in a thousand or one in a hundred. Those are pretty bad odds. Why would I put all this work and effort building myself as an engineer, taking all these hard classes and then developing myself even further, why would I do all that if I only had one in a thousand chance or one in a hundred chance to work on my dream career, my dream project?
That got me a little bummed out but he told me, “No, you don’t need to worry about that. If you want to work on that project, you’ll be able to make it happen.” I just took him on his word and I continued with that. Eventually I ended up switching out of aerospace engineering and went into something else.
What Are The Odds?
The point here being that this is something that we all go through, especially when we try to pursue our life purpose. Whenever you identify for yourself what that dream of yours is maybe it’s starting some sort of business, you’re ambitious, maybe taking your career in some very ambitious direction, you have this idea but then your mind it plays tricks on you. The first thing it says is, “Wait a minute, what is the chance that this is actually going to happen? Can it actually happen?”
If you’re particularly ambitious and your life purpose is taking you in a particularly ambitious trajectory in your life, you have a really big dream then this is going to worry you. This is going to bother you. Honestly, if you have a dream such as becoming a millionaire or a billionaire, or becoming an astronaut, president of the United States, maybe you want to become a best-selling author selling tens of millions of books, or maybe you want to become a movie star, these kinds of positions, these tend to be limited and rare positions in life.
If you just want to become a doctor, there are millions of doctors. You can become a doctor pretty much no problem. You’re guaranteed that if you go and study at being a doctor, you’ll become a doctor. It’s difficult work but there’s a certain guarantee in doing that, whereas if you want to become an astronaut it’s a little bit different.
You can go and train to become an astronaut but there are literally only so many astronauts. I don’t know how many there are, maybe fifty maybe a hundred of them at any given point. There’s not that many of them. So what are the chances that you’re actually going to be able to fly out into space? Probably not that great.
Also, something like becoming president of the United States let’s say, or president of your country, there’s only one of those, maybe throughout your entire lifetime there will be five or ten of those at most. That means you’ve got to take one of those slots and you’re competing against potentially millions of people so your odds are very, very low in these kinds of positions.
You might say the same thing of becoming a movie star or a really, really successful entrepreneur. To become a millionaire, what are the odds of that? Probably one in a million, or maybe one in a hundred thousand if you just take ordinary statistics.
When you’re up against these kinds of obstacles, it looks grim. It looks like why go out there and take on this risk? It seems too risky. When I was younger, before I started doing personal development, this always bothering me, this idea of the odds. The odds are always against me. In the back of my mind I would always be thinking, the odds are so terrible against my success.
Positive Luck And Negative Luck
Let’s take a look: luck and success. Actually what you’re going to discover if you do personal development is that luck is not that important to being successful. I’m going to tell why exactly right here.
Luck for the average person tends to average out. I tend to think of luck as positive luck and negative luck. Positive luck would be something like you receive a three thousand dollar tax refund that you didn’t expect in the mail. You just get a three thousand dollar check. “That’s nice, that year I got an extra three grand so that’s really good luck,” you’re going to tell yourself.
Let’s say you get that one year. The next year usually this stuff averages out so maybe something is going to happen to you like a kitchen fire. You’re kitchen catches on fire, you’ve got some kitchen damage so you’re going to have to spend a thousand dollars to repair it. Maybe one year you earned one thousand dollars or three thousand dollars, the next year it might cost a couple thousand dollars to repair some damage that happened because of some accident.
I tend to believe, and I like this mindset, this mindset that luck averages out, the positive and the negative. Of course there are extraordinarily lucky people. People who win lotteries, people who will have amazing stuff happen to them in their business career etcetera. Then of course you’ve also got people who are extremely unlucky. Lots of negative luck. Maybe they get into a horrible car accident, maybe their house burned down, maybe they got some sort of debilitating disease cancer or this kind of stuff.
There’s no denying that of course there’s these extremes but I think that you don’t want to plan your life as though these extremes are going to happen to you. Honestly what happens to the average person, the most likely thing that’s going to happen to you in your life is you’re going to probably live for a good sixty or seventy years. If you’re going to die of something it’s probably going to be of obesity, heart disease, cancer or some sort of disease that happens much later in life not early in life.
If you’re going to have catastrophes in your life they’re going to be minor catastrophes not major catastrophes. Sure, I think the average has good luck a couple of years in their whole life, really, really good luck, and sometimes they have really bad luck, but these are not the most catastrophic and extreme sorts of good and bad luck, and they tend to average out. So I think this idea that you need to worry about luck, you just don’t need to worry about it so much. It’s going to tend to average out for your whole life.
The mindset that I want you to adopt is that you’re just average. You’re the average person. You’re going to be live an average life, you’re going to have average luck. This might seem kind of depressing but actually this is a really positive thing because if you have average luck what does that mean?
That means that your success is just grounded in your work and in your effort. It’s not grounded in being lucky. It’s not grounded in going to some sort of extraordinary job interview and then happening to land a job. It’s not grounded in you sitting in some cafe somewhere and then some movie director accidentally spots you and thinks that you would be perfect for the new next big blockbuster movie and then you get this amazing role just by accident, by fluke luck.
Planning For Luck Is A Bad Strategy
Even though this stuff might happen, it’s not a good idea to plan for it. It’s bad strategy basically. If you’re going to be planning for a military campaign, let’s say, in fighting a major war, it’d be reckless of the general who’s leading that campaign to say, “You know what, we’re just going to expect really good luck on the battle field.”
Also, it wouldn’t be very prudent for him to say, “What if everything goes horribly wrong and horribly against us?” and then plan his strategy based on the worst possible odds. It would be bad in both cases. He’d want to go down the middle of the road anticipating that he’d have average luck on the battle field and so he’s going to plan according to average luck. If that doesn’t go his way then he’ll adapt on the fly.
That’s what I want you to assume here. The nice thing about this is this forces you to adopt this mastery mindset. The mastery mind set is that you can really work to master something in your life. This has been shown by lots of research that they’ve done on all the really successful people in life.
Most successful people, they don’t get successful by luck, by accident. People like Mozart, Tiger Woods and the best Hollywood actors that you know, the most successful business people like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. These types of people, they’re not just lucky.
You might say, “What about Bill Gates? Bill Gates was born in a very particular time in history, right at this perfect time where by the time he was growing up he had all this experience with computers and he was able to start Microsoft just at that perfect window of opportunity where you could still create an operating system that could still become a monopoly.”
That’s basically what Microsoft is now, it’s a monopoly on operating systems. You can’t just go and start a new operating system nowadays. It would be very difficult because the market is totally overcrowded.
When I read business books when I was younger this is one of the things that worried me. I was thinking to myself, “All these amazing business people they all capitalized on all these rare opportunities that no longer exist for me. Nowadays, I can no longer create an operating system. It doesn’t work. Nowadays, I can’t create a new Google. It wouldn’t work because that market is saturated. So what am I to do? How am I going to make my success?”
The thing here is that it’s not just that these people were lucky. Yes these people had opportunities that they really seized on and they made the most of them. I’m going to talk about them later in the video about seizing on opportunities. I think that’s really important.
When you seize an opportunity it makes it look as though you were extraordinarily lucky but that’s not really the case. You prepared for it. All these amazing people that I talked about and anyone else that you can bring to mind, it’s not that they just fell into it, they don’t just fall into success, they work really, really hard and they capitalize on those opportunities.
Adopting The Mastery Mindset
That’s the opportunity here for you is to do that by committing to investing lots and lots of time and effort in training yourself to become really, really skilled in something. That’s what life purpose for me is about. It’s about finding that one thing that you’re going to spend ten thousand hours, twenty thousand hours of your life doing because as you do that you become so proficient, so expert at it that luck tends to come your way, tends to draw it in. You become more capable than anyone else around you to seize on those amazing opportunities.
That’s what you’re going to find with people like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs and amazing musicians, composers and movie stars, is that yes, they might have had those amazing opportunities but really they worked hard on themselves in order to seize those opportunities. They didn’t just do it once they did it repeatedly otherwise they kind of become a one hit wonder and we hear that one amazing song or that one amazing business but then we forget about that person.
The people that we really remember aren’t the one hit wonders. They are the really consistent geniuses in their field. The way they do that is not through luck. That’s through hard core practice and adopting this mastery mindset.
There is something to be said about the fact that there are certain situations and scenarios in life that aren’t really suited to this. For example, winning the lottery, winning a giant poker tournament or going on a contest like American Idol and being the one out of all the millions of people that compete there from the beginning of the series all the way up to the very end, to be that one in a million person that wins American Idol, or some other kind of rare position like this. Putting yourself in those situations, you want to be smart about that. You don’t want to do that. I see a lot of people are eager into jump on board with that.
There’s a difference between something I call one avenue versus a million avenues. For example with American Idol, if your dreams become successful, to become recognized through American Idol, that’s one avenue. You’ve got only one way to succeed at that.
You’ve got this amazing ambitious goal and you might say, “That’s my dream goal. That’s my passion.” I would say go follow your passion, but what happens is you go follow your passion and you fail catastrophically because the problem is that yes, you have this passion, that’s the good part, but you were foolish and naive in the way that you pursued it.
Basically you chose a passion that can only be achieved and arrived at through one avenue. That limits your chances. Passion alone is not enough to make you succeed. You have to be strategic and smart about how you position and pursue that passion. The logistics matter here.
What’s the alternative to the one path? The alternative to the one path is to have a goal that has many paths. The more paths the better because that allows you to skirt obstacles as they inevitably come up.
For example, if you just set the goal for yourself to become a millionaire, even though the odds of becoming a millionaire may be one in a hundred thousand, or one in a million, it doesn’t really matter because you can easily beat those odds with the determination you’re going to put forward and also because becoming a millionaire, that’s a million path strategy. There are a million avenues for becoming a millionaire. Literally there are a million different types of businesses you could start.
There’s probably even a hundreds of ways of becoming a millionaire even within one particular niche in the market. Let’s say you wanted to become a millionaire in the fast food industry. There’s probably about a hundred different ways you can do that. That’s what you want, you want the opportunities, you want the avenues, there’s just not one way. Something where there’s only one way, that’s really, really limiting you and setting you up for long term failure.
Don’t Be Narrow Minded
Try to avoid it in your life. If you have a big dream, make sure that there’s plenty of different ways you can go about it. Don’t be so narrow minded that you have these blinders on and you say to yourself, “I want this dream here and I want it this way, my way and no other way.” What that does is that limits you. It limits your creativity.
Also, one of the things you notice about some of these more successful people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and stuff, these people, they themselves couldn’t exactly predict if you asked them at the beginning of their careers, they couldn’t tell you how they’re going to get to where they’re going to get to. Steve Jobs when he started, he didn’t know that he was going to be making iPhones or iPads. There’s no way he could have conceived that thirty years ago.
When Bill Gates started he didn’t know that he would be running this billion dollar company that had a monopoly on operating systems. He just knew that he went into computers and then something started coming out of that because he was able to improvise and work on the fly. Also, he wasn’t dead set on just making one thing work. He would have been comfortable with anything working within that area of that domain that he wanted to master in business.
This is what tends to happen. You don’t always know where life will take you. You have to be willing to adapt and be flexible in your approach. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have a really ambitious goal. You can have a very ambitious goal just be open to other possibilities.
In fact a lot of times what happens is that this isn’t a bad thing, this is a good thing. You might have one ambitious goal and as you’re pursuing it you might see well, maybe this thing is going to fail, it’s not going to work. Then you see even a more ambitious goal and you go for that and you end up even better than you originally planned, but at the beginning you could never foresee that that new thing would open up for you.
This is especially true for example in business. This is especially true if you’re doing something on the cutting edge. If you’re on the cutting edge of art, music, technology and business, then you just can’t foresee this stuff. You have to be comfortable with being uncertain and still going forward and still being passionate about this.
Creators And Competitors
There’s this mindset difference that I see between successful people and unsuccessful people. Really successful people, they are creators. Less successful people are competitors.
Competitors put themselves in these kinds of scenarios in life where they have to compete against other people in order to win. A perfect example for this is American Idol. American Idol is all about competition.
That means that you can’t really create much within American Idol. Sure, you’re creating your song and your dance moves and the way that you’re singing it and your style, yes that’s the creative part, but in the end your creativity has to go head to head with somebody else’s creativity and only one of you is going to win just because of the artificial way in which this contest is designed.
When you put yourself in that kind of scenario where only one person will win out of hundreds or millions, then it’s you’re really limiting your odds. Whereas if you just, for example, go into business for yourself and you’re open about the different possibilities of your business, maybe you’re even open to going into one industry then switching industries when you see that there’s something better out there than this original industry that you started with. In that scenario it’s not this win or lose situation. You’re not necessarily competing.
I know you might say, “Leo in business there’s a lot of competition.” That’s true businesses do compete but it’s not the same kind of rigged contest scenario which is much more limited like American Idol. In the end in business you can actually create so much value, you can create a new brand, you can create a new technology which isn’t necessarily going to steal business from other people.
It can actually create new customers and create new entire markets and industries. So the pie isn’t limited. It’s not like you’re just taking one piece of the pie, you’re growing the pie. That’s the difference between this creator and competitor mindset.
I think that’s very important not to be a competitor in life because when you make yourself a competitor that makes you very anxious and makes you very stressed all the time because you’re constantly looking over your shoulder. I encountered this problem with my first business. I was in a business where I wasn’t a creator I had to be a compete because we were competing for literally limited slots on search engines. Our business was trying to rank websites really high on search engines through internet marketing.
When you’re doing that, there are only so many results on search engines, on Google for example. There are only ten slots on the first page. Really the top three slots are the most important so if you don’t hit one of those top three slots on a Google page which everybody is trying to hit all your competitors, then you’re not going to be making any money, you’re not going to be successful. This stressed me a lot because I felt like I was competing against everybody else and I wasn’t able to just focus on creating the stuff that I wanted which is very different than what I’m doing tight now.
What I’m doing right now I don’t feel like I have to compete so much. There’s still an element of competition, there’s other people on YouTube who are making self-help videos, there’s a million self-help authors out there so I’m competing to some extent but it’s not the same because I feel like I’m kind of growing the pie with my videos, with my business. It’s much more satisfying, less stressful, because I know that I can actually grow a new niche, a new industry, grow new customers just through my passion, my style that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. That’s how you have to try to position yourself.
Take Ownership Of Your Life
I think this is a good discussion if you really want to start to pursue your life purpose, you’re not really sure how, you’re afraid to do it and you have some of these limiting beliefs. This is one of the limiting beliefs that I had, this difference between luck and success. My ultimate message here is just that you want to really take ownership here. Stop giving your power away to other people, other businesses, your employers…
The strategy that I pursue nowadays in my life is trying to remove as much randomness as I can. I don’t want a strategy for my life where I’m relying on luck. That’s why I don’t care about things like lottery, I don’t care about things like gambling, I don’t really care about going into business where I have to compete head to head really hard with somebody.
I don’t care about entering some sort of contest where I’m going to get a bunch of freebies if I win because this stuff to me, it’s just like noise. It’s so much better to focus on creating the thing that you want, be really certain about what you’re going for and then just give it your all. I think that’s your best chance of success. You know what? Along that way, what’s going to happen is you’re going to see opportunities.
As you’re working really hard on yourself to create this amazing thing that’s independent of any opportunities that come, you’re just working on it. That’s great. Now, an opportunity comes by, let’s say a couple of years later. You’re on this narrow road, you see this amazing opportunity you can ask yourself, “Do I want to seize it? Is it a good opportunity?”
When you see it it’s a great opportunity, you have the skills because you’ve been working so hard on this business that you want to master, you have the skills now you can tap into this opportunity. Maybe it’s going to be good, maybe it’s going to fail. If it fails you can get back on track. If it doesn’t then you’re on your path to success. Now your track might shift a little bit but you’re still going ahead and you’re still being creative.
I think that this is ultimately the approach that you want to take with your success. What you’re going to find is it’s really amazing. When you buckle down and you work on improving yourself, building up your inner resources, doing personal development, also working on mastering your career or whatever business you’re in, when you’re doing that, opportunities almost magically – that thing they say about law of attraction, stuff just starts coming to you when you’re really focused and you know what you want in life, that’s very true.
I don’t think that this is some sort of magical superstitious kind of thing. It’s just simply that when you’re very prepared, you’re able to see and seize opportunities. Opportunities are around us everywhere despite what it might seem. I know when I started with my business I thought, “There’s so little opportunities nowadays compared to what there was before.” Actually that’s not true at all. That’s a limiting belief.
Its’ just that you have to have a certain lens that you’re looking through to spot the opportunities. Once you get the right lenses in your own mind – I’m talking about beliefs and mindsets – once you get those correct lenses and part of that comes with doing lots of training and knowing exactly what you want very long term in your life, then you start to see all the little opportunities that are everywhere.
In fact what’s going to happen is there’s going to be way more opportunities than you’ll have time to seize. You’re going to be left with a quality problem which is cherry picking the best of the best of those opportunities and only taking that one or two opportunities per year and really seizing on it. That’s a really great position to be in in life.
That’s my message to you, train yourself hard. Don’t worry about luck and opportunities will come and you can be successful even when the odds are really, really against you because even though your chances of becoming a millionaire might be one in a million, that’s not actually the case when you put hard work into your goal.
Just because you set the mission of becoming a millionaire already that puts you in the top one percent of all the people that are out there because the average person has never set that vision for himself. Not seriously. They just wish about it. They wish about being rich but they’re not really serious and determined about it so just by setting that intention, already you’re in the top one percent.
If you go and you pick a particular industry where you want to start a business and you start finding business mentors, reading business books, you start playing around and tinkering and starting your own little businesses, that already puts you in the top one percent of the one percent that you’re already in. So already you’re cutting out another ninety nine out of a hundred people by doing that. As you go and you invest more and more time, effort and intelligence into what you’re doing with your business, the odds, all of a sudden they really, really improve in your favor.
The more and more you work, the better the odds get. By that point it’s no longer luck, it’s all about the effort that you put in. Every successful person, even though they acknowledge all the amazing opportunities and amazing people that came along in their life, in the back of their mind I think that they are also proud about how much effort they put forward.
When you do something like that like you start an amazing business or you kick ass in your career, what you discover is, “I have to work so hard to make it happen. There’s no luck involved. It’s really, really hard work. Every day I have to get up and I have to struggle, stay very, very focused on my objectives. When I do that I see that success comes to me. When I don’t do that,I fall off track. I see that no matter luck can never help me.”
When you do finally achieve that amazing objective of yours and you’ve reached those dreams, you’re going to feel really good inside because it wasn’t by sheer luck that you did it. You did it by all the preparation and the hard work.
All right, this is Leo, I’m signing off. Go ahead and post me your comments down below. Like this video too, click the like button for me if you liked it. Also, throw it on Facebook, share it with a buddy, with a friend so that these video spread around.
Finally come and sign up to my newsletter Actualized.org right here. It’s a free newsletter. I release new videos every week, I’ve lots of exclusive free content that I have planned in the months ahead so make sure you sign up for that.
The reason you want to do that is because I’m really excited and passionate about giving you the mindsets you need to master your life. Just like the mindset we talked about here, success versus luck, how important is it? One of the little nuances that you need to know in order to overcome these doubts that you have in yourself. That’s what I find is that the fears and the doubts that we have, our mindsets hold us back the most from creating that extraordinary life that we want whether it’s with career, business, finances, relationships… all that stuff.
For me finding these mindsets and really understanding them is so fascinating. I think that will provide a huge value to you because when I started learning these mindsets they really changed the success that I was getting in my life and I’m positive that they’ll do the same for you. Sign up and you’ll be all set for that.