Have you ever met someone, listened to their story, and thought to yourself, "That person has all the luck"? That's a common reaction. But if we carefully analyze situations, we learn that luck has little to do with success. What matters most are the actions taken by that seemingly "lucky" person, as well as the behaviors they wisely chose to avoid.
Through my research for my book "How to Create Your Own Luck," which involved over 50 interviews with business leaders and more than six months of writing and revisions, I discovered that while the lucky ones pay attention, work hard, and have a tremendous capacity to follow through and persevere, they also possess several of eight counterintuitive traits that allow them to solve problems and make the most of the opportunities that come their way.
Here are eight things "lucky" people tend to do.
Talking to strangers is the best way to increase possibility, coincidence, serendipity, and luck in our lives, because it allows us to connect with people we don't know. Why? You never know who or what they know. It doesn't cost anything to reach out and build your network, whether you're in a business setting or chatting with a stranger on vacation.
While many people might think that small talk is banal and not worth the effort, people who create their own luck see small talk as a bridge. Building a rapport with those introductory chats can lead to bigger conversations, relationships, and key information that they can parlay into truly game-changing opportunities.
While being an excellent listener serves people well, I've found that you can increase your opportunities by not actively engaging in conversation. Eavesdropping is something that those seemingly lucky people do. Sometimes you will overhear something — a thought, a fact, or an idea — that sparks an action, a revelation, or a question.
Video by Courtney Stith
While it is something we are taught not to do, don't be afraid to name drop. If a job at your dream company opens up, it means not being afraid to ask your old roommate, a former colleague, or your cousin if they can connect you to their friend who works there.
Even if it doesn't work out the way you hope, you've still developed a valuable relationship.
Whether leaving a job, a relationship, a career, or just a room, having a positive parting allows people to return, even briefly, without hard feelings, bitterness, or embarrassment. Make people feel seen and understood, and they will return the favor.
Being able to do both is the foundation of savvy networking. Successful people don't just give support, they let others know they need help and what that help is. And they acknowledge the help and express their gratitude.
When Sara Blakely first launched Spanx, big names like Neiman-Marcus, Bloomingdale's, and Saks agreed to sell her products. But still she needed help. So she went to her contacts and acquaintances and asked that they request Spanx specifically when they went shopping at those stores. She promised to send a check as a token of her appreciation.
Over two decades later, she is still in business in part because she wasn't afraid to utilize her network.
Although they may have professional training, education, and experiences in one area, the lucky ones often decide to follow the road not taken.
Take Jansen Chan, for example. He graduated from the UC Berkeley School of Architecture, but after two years as an architect, he decided he wanted to pursue his passion for creating and designing pastries. So he went to France to study, apprenticed with chefs, and was hired as the pastry chef at New York's Oceana. Today, he is the director of pastry operations at the International Culinary Center. He still uses his design skills, but now his creations are edible and delicious.
Video by Courtney Stith
Many productivity experts advise us to say "no" in order to manage our time. The lucky ones do the opposite. Because they said "yes," they were often in the room where it happens. And they benefited from the opportunities that surrounded them.
My client-turned-friend Anna Bertacchi Rinaldi decided to return to college as an adult. She had a full-time job and was very active in her community. Early on in her studies, a woman at her church, Elizabeth, asked if she could ride with Anna to Bible study. It was the one night Anna had off, and her first instinct to say "no" and stay home. But she agreed, and the two women developed a friendship through their carpool. When Elizabeth moved to be closer to her son, they remained in touch.
When Anna's computer died, she realized replacing it was out of her budget. She told Elizabeth during one of their regular calls she was afraid she might have to drop out of school. But two week later, Elizabeth's son called and asked how much it would cost to buy a computer and cover the rest of her courses. A check arrived in the mail shortly after.
Two years later, Anna walked across the stage to receive the B.A. that helped her get the PR dream job that changed her life. It was that moment of connection that made all the difference.
The best part of knowing these eight traits is that you can adopt and adapt them as best fits your career and life plans and, ultimately, create your "luck."
Susan RoAne is a sought-after speaker, consultant, and bestselling author of "How to Work a Room," "How to Create Your Own Luck," as well as "The Secrets of Savvy Networking" and "What Do I Say Next?"
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