Getting lucky involves opening your eyes to every small win you have. Every year at our business planning meetings, we come up with ideas for new features for our email marketing service that would take a very large amount of engineering time to build. Some of these are feature requests from customers, others are things we think would be pretty cool. What sometimes gets overlooked is what you might call the “small win.” These are the little projects, the ones that took just a few days or weeks to do but left a tremendous imprint.
The thing with a small win is that people can forget about it. Yet tracking small wins can make you happier and more productive. When I look back at my last 12 months, I sometimes have trouble remembering each small win. They might have seemed insignificant at the time. And often, they do not end up on my company’s action list of top priority projects – those that do tend to be our long-term projects.
Every small win has an impact. Prof. Teresa Amabile of Harvard Business School writes “Big breakthroughs at work are really rare. But small wins are something people can experience pretty regularly.” She found that 28 percent of small events of all kinds had a major impact on inner work life.
The opportunity to recognize small wins lies all around us. A recent small win my team had was to make some seemingly minor changes to our pin pad security feature. This took less than a week to do and resulted in a much stronger trial-to-paid conversion rate. All of the other features we were working on, all of the marketing we were doing and all of the customer support we were providing was wonderful, but this little tweak that took so little time was a home run.
Acknowledging that small win was also important. It became a catalyst for other things that followed, helping us to create more of our own good luck. Once we saw the impact that this quick project had, it got my team looking at the other seemingly small projects on our list. I know not all of these tasks will have a major impact, but each “win” is motivational.
Our pin pad task was on our project list for a long time. It just didn’t bubble up to the top of our priority list for a variety of reasons. Once we implemented it, it was like a bolt of lightning hit us – why didn’t we do this quick and easy task earlier? Was it worth breaking open a bottle of Dom Perignon? No. But if you can count a dozen small wins in a year, you’ve got a lot to feel lucky about.
Your limiting beliefs are holding you back. Even high achievers develop a hidden demon – a mental block that stops us from getting what we really want, from attaining what we would like realize, from naturally thinking we deserve better. This demon stops us before we can act. It’s the conversation that goes on in our heads, the negative self-talk that adds to our anxiety, the presumption that things always go an unlucky way. The demon is our limiting beliefs.
Everyone’s demons are different. They grew in our minds because of our experiences and what we were taught. Our beliefs can limit how we grow. There is a flip side to this. If we learn to expect that the normal path things take is positive and that we should just presume that we will get what we want, we would view the world in a completely different way. Imagine the mental freedom you would feel if your natural thought was “oh, I’ll get that client” or “it’ll work out – I’m confident about it.” You would be the luckiest person in the world. You would dispel the things that hold you back.
Knowing What Stops You
Knowing what stops you is the first step to overcoming your limiting beliefs. Here’s a technique I use to clarify my own limiting beliefs. It can help you figure what stops you from gaining ground toward a happier, luckier life.
- Write down something you want but don’t have. Some ideas:
- Vacation to Hawaii
- An advanced college degree
- A new car
- A better job
- A house
- For each item, write down why you don’t have it now. Examples:
- It’s no fun traveling alone
- I can’t save enough money on my current salary and expenses
- I probably wouldn’t get a loan for the amount I want
- I don’t know how to start so I keep putting it off
- It’s just a pipe dream anyway
There you have it. You now have a starter list of your limiting beliefs. These are the things that stop you from getting what you want and from being that lucky person you would like to be.
The Law of Attraction says that universe responds to you in kind with your thoughts. Thinking “I can’t buy a new car because I probably won’t get a loan” results in you achieving exactly what you expect: no loan, no car.
How to Get Lucky
There is an amazing opportunity here. Just knowing what to challenge about yourself gives you the power to redefine and reinvent. Take the next two steps:
- Think about – and write down – what you can do to remove each obstacle in your way. Start with “I can”:
- I can join a singles travel club and meet people on the trip
- I can explore student loans and scholarships; plus I can study hard to score really well on the admissions tests
- I can find out about new opportunities within my current company, update my LinkedIn profile and check out job boards
- I can learn how to start my own business by reading books and talking to others who have done it
- Create calendar entries to block off time and focus on what stops you. This one’s easy and very important (start with “I will”):
- Next Monday after dinner, I will research singles travel clubs and sign up to attend their next meeting
- Wednesday morning, I will call up all 5 of my local universities and find out the loan and scholarship requirements so I know what to shoot for
- After work today, I will buy a book on writing a great resume and read it by Saturday; Sunday after breakfast I will create a new resume; Monday at 8:00 a.m. I will start my job hunt
- This Saturday at noon, I will go to the library and check out books on starting a business; I will return to the library every 3 weeks when the books are due and check out more books so I know how to start
- Friday morning at 9:00 a.m., I will identify 3 professional networking events to attend each month to grow my circle of contacts
Go ahead, do it. Overcome your limiting beliefs. What’s stopping you?
Those are two of the most negative words you can say – and think. There are so many things in this world to do. So many places you can go. So many people you can help. There is no reason to ever be bored.
A study reported in the Journal of Neuroscience reports that negative words shut down higher level mental processes in your brain.
When I hear someone say they are bored, it always surprises me. Lazy Sunday mornings are a great time to catch up on reading, learn something new, practice an instrument or go for a stroll.
If you find boredom setting in, don’t say those poisonous words “I’m bored.” Instead, reset your thinking. Get your bucket list out and pick a goal you want to achieve before you die. Take action at that very moment to make strides toward that goal.
Don’t have a bucket list? Then it’s a great time to write one – it’s a lot of fun since it is a painting of words that describe experiences you want to have in your life.
Avoid turning on the television or hopping onto Facebook. Take a slow moment in your life and turn it into a deliberate pause, one that gets you thinking and taking action.
You will feel a dramatic change, one of accomplishment and not boredom.
I know you’ve had this experience: you talk to someone at customer service about an issue you are having and they are not being helpful. Then, they drop the bomb: “That’s just our policy.” Just your luck.
Those words probably elevated your blood pressure. Unless you were being unreasonable with your request, this unwillingness to help the hand that feeds them will eventually lead the way to fewer customers. It’s the corporate way of saying that they really don’t care about your issues and that profits (i.e., the company’s issues) come first. The company is not creating good will, which leads to good luck.
Your Personal Policy
Companies aren’t the only ones with policies that shun people. Individuals can have a personal policy that can be a turn-off, too. These policies don’t have to be written. They are conveyed through our actions.
People will interpret our behavior as a personal policy. If we shut out others, it can have a negative effect on our own good luck. Examples of personal policies you might have, but might not be aware of:
- I wait until someone else says hello first
- I don’t look people in the eyes when speaking to them.
- I comment on difficult discussions by email or online, preferring to avoid face-to-face conversations when possible.
- When I attend business networking events, I find someone I know and hang out with them instead of meeting new people.
- When my colleagues go out for lunch, I don’t offer to drive.
These seemingly innocuous behaviors send a strong signal to others about you. Those who don’t know you typically won’t understand the nuances of your personality during your first interaction. Introverts might have a bigger hump to overcome than extroverts when it comes to engaging people. Make sure you are sending the right message.
How you come across matters. Your body language and actions convey your personal policy. Just be sure it adds to your good luck and doesn’t take from it.
Try this test the next time you are looking for any type of service:
- Visit several companies’ web sites.
- Fill out their contact form explaining what you are looking for.
- Count how many of these companies reply.
According to AMR Research, you can expect only 30% to follow up. Why is follow up so rare?
- Your request falls outside of the scope of the company’s services.
- The size of your potential business is lower than their minimum threshold.
- There was no way to determine your level of interest or ability to purchase.
- You have a lazy sales rep.
- The company doesn’t instantly forward leads to sales reps for follow up.
If the company’s online form did not collect enough information, it might be hard for a sales person to know whether you are ready to buy. Commission-based sales people look for a return on their time quickly so they filter out unqualified leads to focus on ones that can result in real business opportunities.
Unfortunately, a delayed or non-existent response can be frustrating from the buyer’s perspective. This can create ill will that affects the company’s reputation.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
You may not be a sales person, but all of us receive requests by people that require a response. How quickly do you follow up when a colleague or acquaintance contacts you about an opportunity or needs assistance?
When you respond fast in every case, even if the answer is “can you send me more information, it will help me to give you the right answer” or “sorry, I can’t help you” you solidify your reputation as a trustworthy person who can be relied upon for timely follow up and honest feedback.
It is a competitive world and creating a personal brand of integrity has the ripple effect of increasing your day-to-day luck because people will remember their experience with you.
An old friend and I were chatting about luck. He isn’t a believer in luck so I posed this formula which I use to define luck:
Luck = Preparation + Opportunity
The catch is that we often overlook opportunity because of preconceived notions. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Here are some famous missed opportunities:
- Decca Recording Company passed on the Beatles, saying “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”
- Digital Equipment Corporation Chairman Ken Olson in 1977, just before the PC revolution said “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
- Xerox invented the graphical user interface with mouse, not Apple. Xerox just didn’t know what to do with it since the PC market didn’t exist. Apple saw it and ran with the idea.
- Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPod either. Engineer Tony Fadell couldn’t get Real Networks and Philips (Fadell’s employer) to bite on the idea for a new kind of music player. Jobs did.
- One of my favorites: 1876 – Chief Engineer of the British Post Office, Sir William Preece, said “The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.”
Thomas Edison once said that opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. The fact is that opportunity is everywhere. You only have to look at every situation a little differently – without preconceived notions.
Was Bill Gates just plain lucky?
At a Columbia University Business School town hall meeting hosted by CNBC, a student asked Bill Gates the role pure luck played in his success. Here is how Gates responded:
“I was lucky in many ways: I was lucky to be born with certain skills. I was lucky to have parents that created an environment where they shared what they were working on and let me to buy as many books as I wanted to, and I was lucky with timing. The invention of the microprocessor was something profound, and it turned out that only if you were young and you were looking at that could you appreciate what that meant. And I was obsessed with writing software, and it turned out that was the key missing thing that allowed the microprocessor to have this incredible impact. So in timing, in skill set, in some of the people I was lucky enough to meet – it’s unusual to have so much luck in one’s life, but it’s been a major factor in what I’ve been able to do.”
If you read his words carefully, you will see a lot of the luck he had was something he created himself – his obsession with writing software, his realization that software was the missing ingredient to making the microprocessor’s huge, his desire to read many books (which he could have gotten at the library if he didn’t have the money to buy them). The universe took care of the timing. It was his tremendous focus and drive that did the rest.