How to Get Lucky by Hiroshi Mikitani presents a great way to describe being “lucky” as being able and ready to take advantage of and grasp great opportunities. He hears that his e-commerce business is successful because it rode the wave of e-commerce. Success, however, is created out of the small improvements every day (which reminds me of The Progress Principle by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer) and being prepared for it.
Two of my favorite examples of taking advantage of opportunities come from the world of politics. Paul Tsongas was one of Massachusetts senators when John Kerry was elected Lieutenant Governor. Unfortunately, Senator Tsongas got sick and was unable to continue as Senator. This presented an opportunity for John Kerry who was elected Senator and went on to run for President.
Similarly, Father Robert Drinan was a congressman from Massachusetts when the Pope John Paul II said that priests had to withdraw from electoral politics. This created a vacancy and Barney Frank, then a state representative, took advantage of the opportunity, was elected to Congress and served in Congress for over 30 years. Were they both lucky? Perhaps there were fortunate to be presented with the opportunity, but many others had the same opportunity. Both Senator Kerry and Congressman Frank were each prepared and capable of taking advantage of the opportunity presented to them. Being “lucky” has more to do with hard work and being prepared.