As I was catching up with a group of colleagues, one of them used the adage, “I would rather be lucky than good.” I paused for a moment, and then without thinking, I blurted out, “Whoever said that must not have been very good to begin with.” They all looked at me with a familiar expression of sarcastic acknowledgment before one person took the brave step to ask me to explain myself.
While the tone in my answer may have seemed a little cocky or overconfident, my answer and belief in the lack of luck are deeply rooted in preparation. I am not one who hits a windfall — big wins through scratch-offs and raffles have escaped me. Sure, it would be nice to cash in on a big win, but the lack of a quick windfall doesn’t mean fortune hasn’t found its way into my life. I am certainly very fortunate and recognize that good things happen to me and around me. But good occurs because you do good things and put good things out into the universe. For me, those good things are steeped in a foundation of preparation.
Think about how you get good at anything. It begins and ends with preparation, practice and persistence. You gain the knowledge from solid research and repetition. Persistence fuels the motivation to keep going — to get good. Do you think Michael Jordan thought each time before each shot attempt, “I hope I get lucky?” Not a chance. The six-time world champion’s shooting wasn’t even up to pro standards when he first entered the NBA almost 35 years ago, said his coach and mentor Phil Jackson. For Jordan, it was the hundreds of shots taken every day that built his confidence to sink the shot when it counted.
So, is selling a car luck? Is it truly based on the lead you get or the customer who shows up? Or, is it your response, your patience with follow-up or being the first to respond? Did the customer think, “Oh I hope I am lucky and get a good salesperson today” or was the customer expecting a great experience from the outset?
The best I know exemplify a quote from a presidential source — Thomas Jefferson — who said: “I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” The best professionals I have been around created their own luck. They put themselves in the best position for the right time and use the right tools for the job. They shift the odds in their favor by being ready and overqualified for the opportunity.
The good all understand the reality that the opportunities we are presented can be few and far between, which is why preparation for that opportunity is a must. The good are ready for that one shot and to make the opportunity count, not conceding that do-overs are even a possibility. For the good who endlessly prepare — luck has little to do with the outcome — they not only create the chance and opportunity, but more importantly recognize the opening and, through solid preparation, conquer it.
Start your day with a look inward. Ask yourself if you want to stake your future or career to chance — because that is what luck really would be, wouldn’t it? The chance you might succeed, win or achieve. No, I would much rather be prepared and be good than leave things to chance. When you perfect your skills for your profession and consistently work to improve, you can create your “luck.”
Don’t depend on chance — turn trackable activities into actionable task lists. Use your technology tools to keep your tasks organized, know your customers and be ready for any opening. With the right tools, you can turn these lists into reports that help you pinpoint your successes and what you need to improve. Most of all, planning and preparation alleviate the anxiety that the right opportunity will present itself, and eliminates the need to look for luck.
Know your customers. Leverage technology tools and customer data to understand what your customers want — and why. Too often, people launch a pitch without listening and instantly lose the opportunity. Taking the time to review the information you already have enables you to offer what people want to buy, not just what you want to sell.
Take a moment to think about how you can better prepare, what more can you learn and what good thing you can proactively do to put yourself in that “lucky” spot. You’ll learn it wasn’t luck after all; it was all you.