Good luck…starts with a decision.

This is what I believe. People think good luck is something that comes to some people and doesn’t to others. This might be partially true? But not entirely. my firm belief is that, for most people, they can build to have better luck, to an extent.

Let’s starts with the definition of luck.
The dictionary says:

success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.

Sometimes, yes. Pure good/bad luck from outside factors puts you in certain positions you didn’t ask for.

For other times, when it comes to good luck, I believe this is slightly different. Luck for me is, for the most part, a proper chance that came to be due to a series of (micro) decisions and actions taken by a person at some period of their lives, that the person is unaware of the connection in between. These actions prime the person to be in a position to get lucky.

I’ll explain in English.

A simple example will be, say you got a scholarship of some sort to a university. The scholarship didn’t come just because you were simply lucky. It came because you made a series of decisions & actions that put you in the right place at the right time.

For example:

  • Studied a little bit harder than others.
  • Did one thing better than the others, and that was the thing that was valued more.
  • Were very competitive in athletics.
  • Did something extraordinary at some point that got someone’s attention.
  • Helped the old lady across the street that her daughter’s husband happens to be someone big at X university.
  • …etc

There are just some reasons that can be thought of. Of course, these are not single decisions or actions. We can even dive deeper into each one. For example, say in athletics, you didn’t become competitive overnight. At some point in your life, you decided to join the basketball club in your school, then you took action and registered for that. Then every day you had to decide to go to practice and you took the action and went to practice. If you are competitive that means that you worked on your mentality a long worth. You made split-second decisions of whether to press over your self and run at extra speed through the court to finish within time, or just give up and try another day. You decided to come just a few minutes earlier to get in shape and ready for practice. You took action at some point and decided to throw hundreds of shots from a specific angle just to improve a certain mechanism. All of those micro-decisions and serial actions build-up to make that one awesome dunk that got you all the attention, or that extra amazing pass to your teammate that made your team win, hence built to the next step, and the next step, till someday you got the scholarship in your hands.

This is just a small example of how a series of micro-decisions can affect everything around you and lead to results in your life that you didn’t expect because you didn’t comprehend the relationship too.

~ Pause ~

The Michael Jordan/Chicago Bulls documentary airing in Netflix now “The Last Dance” is a great example of great people building their luck capital over time.

My own experience of this has been rather enlightening. I can see positively that all the micro-decisions I’ve been taking for the last decade have accumulated to a great momentum of luck that I can only make good use of. The reason I am saying that, is that when a chance comes now, I started to see the connection with a past action that I’ve done previously or a micro decision. 

To give an early example. I was lucky to enter a good university in Japan through recommendation. I am sure I wouldn’t have been able to enter that university have I gone through their normal entrance process. 

But how did that happen? 

I can trace it as back as 2nd year in high school. I decided I wanted to study engineering in Japan. I studied hard. My high school score wasn’t that super great, but I got a decent score at other complementary national tests that amounted to me being able to go to the top university in Saudi. I was lucky to have a good math teacher in high school, so math was a piece of cake for the orientation year level. Nevertheless, I studied hard for it. It was in English, so everything is opposite (in Arabic, we wright math a little bit differently). I spent half a year at that university. But then they announced the scholarship results, one was of Japan, and I was accepted. 

In the Japanese language school, I did my best to learn Japanese. Math classes were also a piece of cake because I just came out of the other university in Saudi. Fast forward 9 months later. The Japanese university shows up at our language school trying to recruit students. I was in the right place at the right time. Talk about stars aligning. We were the first Saudi batch from that particular scholarship, the professor who came from the university was recruiting students for the first batch of this new department. Since yours truly was doing okay with math and Japanese, long story short, they decided to offer me a seat, and I got in.

Full disclosure: university years were full of hardships as much as good things that happened. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg of the whole thing. I can point out precise actions and practices, rather micro-decisions, that led to that thing to happen.

There are things related to privilege and advantages that I had at the time (will talk about it in a different article). But here are some micro-decisions that I made that change the outcome entirely:

  • Never missed class. Always there on time. It’s a daily decision. Every day, I decide to leave at a specific time, to reach school early and learn.
  • Put extra effort into learning Japanese. That extra mile of learning one more new grammar rule, being able to write one more new kanji, competing with my friends for one more new word.
  • Doing one more rep in memorizing kanjis.
  • Improvising in finding new ways to learn Japanese. (Singing karaoke, listening to podcasts I understood nothing form, doing some mental tricks…etc). 

I could go on and on. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t expecting that certain outcome at all. I had very different intentions. To go to other universities and was aiming for something different. This just came in, and I had a 3 days-window to decide. But I was lucky to get in. 

I hope the idea is clear. What I want to convey is that you can make your luck better by building momentum of better micro decisions. Every person has a different situation, and sometimes there are realities that you can’t escape that easily. But you can always make it a little bit better. Over time, you’ll be able to see opportunities as they come, and you’ll be ready to take them.

One more insight. I’ve dealt with different people from different walks of life. Those who have better luck seems to always show up on time no matter what. They have an overall positive attitude, and always put a little bit more extra effort into what they are doing to make it better.

Cover photo by Howard Chai on Unsplash

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