Dave didn’t really want to go to the networking meeting. It was the fifth one this month, and he was getting tired of the bad coffee and the too-soft bagels. But he had promised Shannon after bumping into her at the store. She invited him, saying it was some exciting new group, and he would really enjoy it, and meet some great people, and yada yada yada.
Dave slapped on a name tag and a smile, and walked in. He met Shannon at the door, who introduced him to Christy. Dave and Christy did the usual networking chat — What do you do? How long have you done that? I’m surprised you still have all your fingers — and hit it off, so they agreed to meet for coffee the following week.
During coffee with Christy, Dave mentioned he was looking for another job. He had one, but was ready for the next step in his career. It just so happened that Christy had a friend from her last job, Stephen, who had moved on to a management position at another company, and he was looking for someone with Dave’s skills and experience.
Christy sent an email introducing Dave to Stephen. He checked Dave out on LinkedIn, and called him in for an interview.
Three weeks later, Dave had a new job.
Sounds like Dave had some pretty good luck.
But where exactly did that luck happen?
Was it because Christy knew Stephen? Or maybe because Shannon knew Christy. Or because Dave bumped into Shannon at the store. Or because Dave met Shannon at another networking event seven years ago, which led to a great friendship. Or because another guy invited Shannon to the event himself three weeks ago?
When you go back and look at all the circumstances and relationships, even beyond the story, that happened to create that meeting between Dave and Stephen, it’s mind-blowing.
That’s also what we call luck. It’s when all the stars align, and we happen to be in the right place at the right time to take advantage of it.
We create our own luck. It’s not just a matter of being in the right place for the first and only time in your life, it’s being in the right place at the right time a lot of times, knowing that one of them will hit.
In Kyle Lacy’s and my book, Branding Yourself, we talk about how to create your own opportunities, and meet the right people. But we only spent a couple pages on it, and I’ve always wanted to expand on it more.
So I’m doing that now. Here are three ways you can create luck for yourself, or at least improve it.
1. It’s Not The Thousandth Strike, But The 999 Before It
In the book, we mention an old saying that if you hit a rock with a hammer 1,000 times and break it, it wasn’t the 1,000th strike that broke it. It was the 999 before it.
Translation: Do the work. If you haven’t had any luck, you’re not done yet.
It doesn’t matter how great your idea is, or how much money it could make. It’s a matter of how hard you work at making your idea stand out, hammering the rock. It means getting to the office at 7, not 8. It means working until 6, not 5. It means answering emails at home and listening to books during your commute. It means watching less TV, and doing more work.
And, it means doing it more times than anyone else.
How many people do you know who worked on a new business, tried to get a new job, or tried to launch a new product, and it failed? Did it fail because the time wasn’t right, or because they weren’t any good at their job? Maybe so.
Or maybe they stopped too soon.
When I’m looking for new clients, new speaking gigs, or new writing projects, I pitch ideas over and over again until I find them. I don’t stop until I’m done, and I’m not done until I’ve filled the slots I’ve set aside. I don’t stop after 10 meetings or 20 emails. I stop when the slots are filled. And sometimes they’re not filled until that 1,000th strike.
2. It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows You
Networking is also considered work. In addition to doing your regular work, you need to meet people, speak with them, and drink coffee or eat lunch with them. They need to hear about what you do, so they can tell people for you. The more people who know you, the more people you have out there creating luck for you.
I can’t count the number of writing projects, speaking gigs, and clients I’ve gotten because a friend told someone else about me. I have also seen a definite dip in the numbers when I have to make myself scarce for a couple months to get work done, so there’s a definite correlation.
When I first learned networking, I went to 6 – 8 meetings per month for a year, and I had at least two coffee meetings every week. But rarely did I land a client or new project as a direct result of one of those networking events. That is, I didn’t meet a new client at a meeting. I got a new client through someone I met at an event. I met a Christy, not a Stephen.
But I didn’t meet the Christies of the world right away. I had to go and go and go to those damn meetings. And then I had to go again. Even in networking, it’s all about striking the rock over and over.
3. Sometimes You Really Do Just Get Lucky
Scientists have calculated that the chances of something so patently absurd actually existing are millions to one. But magicians have calculated that million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten. — Terry Pratchett
This is where all the hard work and all the networking pays off. I need to be ready when that million-to-one chance pops up. It doesn’t come up with the first person I meet at the first networking meeting I go to. It comes after the 15th event, when I talk to the same person several times, and he finally knows me enough to trust me.
But once in a great while, I meet that once-in-a-lifetime person. That woman who got promoted and wants some content marketing help, and I happened to be the first person she met. Or the woman I met who just left her job that week and wanted to start freelance writing, so I introduced her to another woman I had met five minutes earlier who hired freelance writers. Or the time I became a travel writer (and still am, four years later) because I just happened to see a single tweet from someone who was looking for travel writers.
This is where all that preparation comes into play. Where the work pays off. Where all your meetings, your book reading, and your information gathering finally help you. You won’t be caught off-guard by this new opportunity. You’ll be able to do whatever it takes to take the next step. And without knowing it ahead of time, all that rock striking and people meeting is going to pay off, because you were in the right place at the right time talking to the right person.
Because that was the thousandth time.
Erik Deckers is the owner of Professional Blog Service, a newspaper humor columnist, and the co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing. His third book, The Owned Media Doctrine, will be available this summer.