"Good luck!" is a phrase I never appreciated hearing as a competitive swimmer.
How is luck going to help me in this race? Maybe I'd luckily get a lot faster once I dove in? Or maybe I was hoping my competition would have a bad race? Swimming has very little to do with luck.
But success in most other pursuits has everything to do with luck. "Luck" is often considered a sort of randomness that can't be controlled. And while it's true that luck cannot be controlled, it absolutely can be influenced. I love the concept of "luck surface area." I don't know its exact origin, but it boils down to this:
What can I do to improve the quality and quantity of opportunities that land on my plate?
This is what makes reading biographies or interviews of successful people so interesting. They're usually extremely skilled at bending their circumstances to increase their chances of success. And because they're now considered successful, when their story is played in reverse, it can even appear that they completely controlled their own luck. Though the honest ones will admit this wasn't the case.
So what does it actually look like to increase your luck surface area? I'm in the middle of job search right now. Culinary school has ended and sommelier training is coming to a close, so I'm deep in the job search to find a challenge I'm excited about that combines my food and tech/startup backgrounds. Though I by no means have this process figured out, for illustrative purposes, here are some of the ways I've gone about increasing my own luck surface area in the job hunt:
1. Make people aware of my goals/interests. People can't help unless they know what you're after. Asking for help is one of the greatest respects you could ever pay someone. Help and be helped.
One of my tactics has been to create an Airtable (pretty spreadsheet) of the opportunities I'm eyeing, and emailing that short list to a select few trusted friends to see if any of it pops out at them as being a good or bad fit, interesting or not-so-interesting, etc.
Thinking to share this sort of information with close friends can be obvious, but some of the biggest surprises can come through mere acquaintances. Example: Back in June while I was visiting California to clear out my storage unit, I sold my cajon drum to a middle-aged woman who asked why I was moving to NYC. When she heard my goals/interests, she insisted that I talk to her son who lives in NYC and works at Aerofarms, one of the largest urban farming companies. I eventually met up with him for a beer when I got back to NYC, and he introduced me to several other interesting people related to what I'm trying to do–all from small talk during a Craigslist deal. Which leads me to #2...
2. Meet with as many strategic contacts in the space as possible. My Craigslist example is one of many in which after hearing my story, someone said "oh, you have to meet _______." And ______ usually says the same about their friend, ________. And the cycle continues. I use the word "strategic" here because it's a waste of both mine and others' time when there's no good reason for meeting. I only want to take meetings in which I'm very aware of my why and I think there's a chance I could offer value to the other person in some way.
3. Hang out where the opportunities appear. I've been living on AngelList and LinkedIn lately. So much so that I've hit LinkedIn's "commercial use limit." And I PAY for LinkedIn. So this isn't to say I hit a limit for a free user. I hit a level of usage where LinkedIn is asking me to pay for a recruiter-level subscription:
And meet ups/events fall into this "hang out where the opportunities appear" category too. These can still be a little nerve-racking for me, especially when attending alone, but I always end up hearing about things that I would have missed out on had I stayed home.
4. Stay super organized, as to not let any opportunities fall through my fingers. When meeting new people, it's been important for me to remember how fragile first impressions are. I've been early to all my meetings, always come with resumes and cover letters on deck (if there's employment potential), and I always always send thank you notes afterward.
Job hunts are always unpredictable. Something can look like the perfect opportunity one day, then go south the next. I keep reminding myself that there are a lot of things I'll never be able to control. But where I can influence my luck, I will!
Increasing Your Luck Surface Area
Active time to complete: 3 min
What's an area of your life (professional, personal, relational) where you've been hoping for something very specific to occur? Write the thing down. Then spend some time brainstorming all the elements linked to that outcome actually occurring. Are there things you could do to influence these?