My Life System #29: Luck

All of us have experienced luck in our lives – some good, some bad. It is often hard to tell when luck comes our way whether it is going to be for making things better or worse. Many times, the initial feeling turns out to be wrong.

It is not easy to identify luck. Our belief tends to be that the good things happen because of our efforts while the bad – that is something or someone else’s doing. And so, we assign smartness where it’s not needed, and ascribe luck when it’s our own folly which caused it to happen.

When I was trying to raise money during my IndiaWorld years and all those efforts failed, was it bad luck? Or was it good luck because eventually I got an acquisition offer which perhaps would not have happened had I been successful in raising capital. And then when I think about the eventual deal, was I smart or was I just lucky?

Was it luck that I picked up a copy of “Competing for the Future” (by CK Prahalad and Gary Hamel) in 1994? The book helped crystallise my thinking over the two days I spent reading it and that became the business plan for IndiaWorld. (Coincidentally, I met CK Prahalad a few days later when I had gone to meet Prof. Ramesh Jain in San Diego, with the book in my bag! Was that luck?)

Jim Collins and Morten Hansen offer a good definition of a “luck event” in the context of a business – “one that meets three tests. First, some significant aspect of the event occurs largely or entirely independent of the actions of the enterprise’s main actors. Second, the event has a potentially significant consequence — good or bad. And, third, it has some element of unpredictability.” A similar definition can work well for the individual also: an event that occurs independent of one’s actions, is consequential, and has some unpredictability about it.

At some level, decisions we make cause us to be in situations where we can get lucky. Had my initial efforts at creating a successful business not failed, I would not have started IndiaWorld. When I got an offer to sell Netcore in 2011, was it luck? And when I look back, was it good luck that the buyer backed out at the last minute? What would my life have been had I sold Netcore a decade ago?

Life is all about a stream of events and decisions. What we think of luck are just decisions either we made or someone else did. At times, it is better to ascribe it to an unseen force than take up ownership especially when things are not going right!

We cannot wait for good luck to come our way. We have to chart our path by making decisions we feel are right. And then there are some events which can help accelerate the journey we are on. Think of luck as a tailwind that can propel you forward when you are heading in the right direction. And bad luck? An unexpected headwind that you have to battle and which will create a better you. Either way, you come out ahead.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.