Opportunities come and go. People succeed or fail. It happens all the time, 24-hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks out of the year. But what we want to know is what determines the failure or success outcome. What essential factor differentiates the losers from the winners? Is it dumb luck – either good or bad? That’s certainly a popular theory. How many times have you heard or thought “that person has the best luck” or “I can’t catch a break, I have the worst luck,” as luck gets credited or blamed for the results?
Numerous studies have analyzed the relationship between “luck” and success or failure, but have produced only inconclusive evidence. They cannot say for sure that luck has anything to do with results – or that luck is even a tangible force or real factor in the universe. But if we take luck off the table, how do we explain why some people succeed while others fail?
There is a great old saying that does a good job of addressing this puzzling issue: “Luck is nothing more than preparation meeting opportunity.” If you are prepared and you take advantage of the right opportunity, you’ll appear lucky – but your luck is intentional, not random. You create it and invite it into your life. It’s not about hitting the lottery based on Las Vegas odds.It’s about setting goals, staying focused, working hard while also working smart.
But we have to add another factor to that equation, and that is timing. Time itself is the most precious commodity on earth. That concept also applies to the aspect of time we call “timing.” Timing is the wild card that can make the difference between whether or not an opportunity will ultimately succeed or fail. When timing is unpredictable or random it is often disguised as luck, so sometimes an apparently “lucky” person will have a great opportunity land in their lap.
The concept of luck is a fascinating topic that has puzzled great minds for centuries. But we encourage you to consider that perhaps luck is nothing more than differing circumstances of good or bad timing. If you are prepared, focused, and motivated to take advantage of opportunities when the timing presents itself, then you increase your likelihood of being "lucky". Don’t do those things and you likewise increase the odds of being "unlucky". So for our purposes in learning how to recognize and capitalize on opportunities while avoiding common mistakes and pitfalls, this working definition of luck works best.
The saying “I am waiting for my ship to come in” means, for example, that someone is waiting or hoping for luck to get them to where they want to be. They are hanging out in anticipation of that magic lantern with a genie washing up at their feet while they’re fishing on the river or for a treasure map to Blackbeard’s lost trunk of buried gold to appear in a corked bottle while they are strolling down the beach. Whether you believe in luck or not is irrelevant. That’s not the point here. What we want you to understand is that you cannot rely on Lady Luck or blame bad luck for your circumstances if you are just sitting around waiting for something lucky to happen.
As Bob Dylan once wrote in a song, “Advertising signs they’ll con you into thinking that you are the one who can do what’s never been done, that you can win what’s never been won – meantime life outside goes on all around you.” Opportunities to do what has never been done are swirling all around you. But you have to make the effort to seize them. Just laying around on the sofa fantasizing about success will not make it a reality. Life will pass you by as others go out and seize great opportunities – not because you are unlucky or they are charmed by luck, but because they took advantage of timing while you did not.
Of course there are extremes or exceptions to every situation. Many people have been struck by lightning twice. Others have walked away from horrific accidents without a scratch. What about the people who win the lottery? What about those people who have won the lottery multiple times? Some people certainly must have more “luck” than others. Or maybe it is possible that those lotto winners are just people who stumbled into an opportunity by playing the lotto with the kind of perfect timing that made their numbers come up. If they played those numbers a week later or a month earlier they would have been no different than the millions of losing lottery contestants.
So the point is that even if there is a mysterious force at work in the universe known as luck, it’s all about timing. So if you are the type of person who views yourself with no luck or even bad luck then you have to shift away from that perception and adopt a new perspective. Stop fixating on your luck and start paying attention instead to your timing, because timing may be the real culprit behind your perceived misfortune. The good news is that while you cannot magically change your luck you do have the potential to intentionally and methodically manipulate your timing.
Timing is everything! I bet you have heard or voiced those words many times. How many opportunities have you missed because of lousy timing? How many decisions have you made only to look back and feel regret that you did not have better timing? How many mistakes have you wished you could “unmake” because of bad timing? When we look at assessing the value of previous decisions or taking advantage of present or future opportunities, timing plays a huge role in determining favorable or unfavorable outcomes.
Timing plays an important role in all aspects of life – whether in sports, relationships, raising a family, buying a home, getting a job, investing in stocks, or just about any other endeavor. Timing can dictate the difference between huge disasters or simply nothing eventful happening at all.
Think about the advent of the Internet as an example. If you launched a business a few years before e-commerce existed you may have gotten no customers because they couldn’t find you. You may have closed down shop a year before the Internet boom launched. But had you started your business just as cyber marketing got started you might have had global customers and a wildly successful pioneering online business.
Timing also has a compounding effect on future events. One event can happen because of good or bad timing and that can trigger additional sequential events. This is why it is imperative that you understand how to recognize and evaluate what role timing will play in the opportunities that are presented to you.
Let’s look at a simple sports example to demonstrate how one event of timing can trigger additional outcomes down the road. In football, the timing between a route that is run by a wide receiver and the quarterback’s throwing of the ball is crucial to making a successful pass completion. If the ball is thrown too late or too early, for example, the play will fail and could mean the difference between a win and a loss. Or maybe you’re in the NCAA March Madness tournament and you shoot the basketball right at the buzzer. If you get the shot off a split second after the buzzer sounds it’s too late and won’t count. But if you shoot before the buzzer and sink a basket your team could win the championship.
So the lesson here is that if you want to court Lady Luck, remember that she likes for you to always be extremely punctual.