This post is based on episode 45 of the ProBlogger podcast.
How many times have you heard or read about an entrepreneur’s latest opportunity and thought, How lucky were they?
And yes, in some instances it may well have been luck that gave them that opportunity. A simple case of being in the right place at the right time, and all the planets coming into alignment.
But while some people believe luck is random or based on personality, I believe you can increase the chances of lucky things happening to you by creating conscious habits. And today I want to talk about some habits you can develop to grow your own luck as a blogger and entrepreneur.
My own taste of luck
That’s not to say I’ve never been lucky myself. In fact, I may not have even become a blogger if I hadn’t had a bit of luck come my way.
On a rainy Friday afternoon in November 2002, I received an email from a friend. And that email basically consisted of four words: “Check out this blog”.
Back then I had no idea what a ‘blog’ even was. And so out of curiosity I clicked the link, which took me to a blog called tallskinnykiwi.com.
I thought the blog was quite interesting. But what really grabbed my attention that day was the medium. I started my own blog that day, and it changed the trajectory of my life completely.
Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to speak to a lot of entrepreneurs (something I may never have been able to do if I hadn’t opened that email). When I ask them whether they attribute their success to luck or strategy, a lot of them say something like, “You know? There was some luck involved”. And after that, they worked hard and used strategy to achieve their success.
But there’s something else I’ve noticed with the people I’ve talked to: they all seem to share similar traits, qualities and habits. And they tend to all do things that increase the chances of lucky things happening to them.
Here are seven of those traits, qualities and habits.
1. They are avid learners
All of the entrepreneurs I talked to seem to be avid learners. Not all of them have high educational qualifications (some don’t have any), but they all gather information and knowledge by reading, listening to podcasts, going to conferences, asking questions, etc.
A lot of them also have mentors. They’re often part of mastermind groups, and put themselves into situations where are learning new information. And as the Roman philosopher Seneca once said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”.
So how can this improve your chances of being lucky? Well, when you have all that knowledge and information you have a better chance of making educated guesses that are correct. You’re more likely to be able to connect dots that haven’t been connected before.
So set aside some time for learning. Not only will you have more raw material for your posts, you will also improve the chances of luck coming your way.
2. They embrace problems
Most of us are wired almost from birth to avoid problems at all costs. We see them as roadblocks to run away from (or get around by taking a shortcut) and complain about afterwards.
But ‘lucky’ entrepreneurs view problems in a far more positive way. They see problems as springboards to opportunity. One entrepreneur even calls them “signals to solutions”.
How do you respond to your own and other people’s problems? Do you even notice other people’s problems? Perhaps you should start taking notice, because every problem could be an opportunity for you to help them on your blog.
3. They’re curious
Once they encounter a problem, ‘lucky’ entrepreneurs tend to get very curious about it. They look at it from different angles, and come up with different scenarios they could try. What if we try this? What if we try that? What would happen if we did this?
And because they’re just playing, rather than focusing hard on trying to solve the problem, they’re much more likely to have the ‘light bulb’ moment when a solution pops into their heads seemingly out of nowhere.
Next time you come across a problem, whether it’s your own or someone else’s, don’t try to avoid it. Instead, set aside some time to play with it a little and start asking some of those “What if?” questions. Who knows? You may have your own ‘light bulb’ moment.
4. They experiment
Unfortunately, a lot of people stop once they have their ‘light bulb’ moment. To turn your ideas into reality you need to get them out of your head. And this is where ‘lucky’ entrepreneurs tend to excel because as soon as they get their idea they start experimenting with it.
Looking back on all the products, eBooks, courses and events we have created on ProBlogger and Digital Photography school, nearly all of them came about because of a tweet, Facebook update or blog post. Once I came up with the idea, I tested it by telling my readers and followers about it and seeing how they respond to it. It’s my way of experimenting with the idea.
So when you have an idea you think might work, experiment with it. That could mean building a prototype, creating a part of it and getting people’s feedback (such as one chapter of an e-book), or just bouncing the idea off other people.
5. They set aside time to watch for sparks
While experimenting with ideas is worth doing, is a good idea, you need to set aside time to see how they pan out. Otherwise there’s not much point doing it in the first place.
But setting aside that time can be quite challenging. We all tend to lead very busy lives, and it’s hard to make time to observe and watch for those sparks of opportunity.
Quite often when I go to a conference—I just got back from the Inbound Conference—it was interesting to see that there was this recurring question that I was asked at that conference. I reckon about 10 times in 3 days I was asked, “What’s your next big thing? What’s the next big thing for you, Darren?” It’s a great question, I love getting that question, I’ve asked it myself but the realization that I’ve had over the years is that my big thing, the biggest things that I’ve done have always started out as really tiny, small things.
The biggest products that I’ve created usually start as an idea that I get lying in bed at 1:00 in the morning, that I then test and I put it out there as a tweet or a blog post to watch to see what happens. It usually comes back as a small positive reaction from my readers. These little sparks of resonance, these little sparks of energy that I get in myself but I also see in other people, it’s paying attention to those little things that actually you can fan those little sparks into flames.
Your next big thing might actually be the tiny little thing waiting to be noticed right in front of you right now. The question I have for you is do you have time to notice the sparks? Do you have practices to help you unearth those sparks of opportunity?
One of the things that I do everyday is at the end of the day, I ask myself two simple questions. I quite often ask myself these questions either before I go to bed or even in bed. I encourage you to do it before you go to bed because sometimes when you ask these questions, you have to get up and write down the answers. These are the two questions I ask myself every night.
It’s kind of a meditative exercise, although not a spiritual one, it’s just a mindfulness exercise in some ways. The two questions are these. One, what gave me energy today? What did I do today that gave me energy? This is about paying attention to the ideas that you’ve got, the things that you feel excited about or at least feel warm towards. By paying attention to the things that give us energy, we might just unearth something that is becoming a passion for us, becoming something that excites us. It’s often these things that can become our next big things.
The second question is related to the first and it is, “What did I do today that seemed to give other people energy?” This is where you pay attention to some of those experiments that you do. What did you create today that other people responded to in a positive way? This might be a blog post that you write. Did you write a blog post story? Did you create a tweet that got lots of energy? Did you have a conversation today where when you talked, someone else got really excited about something that you said? By paying attention to what gives other people energy that you do, you see opportunities, all kinds of opportunities.
This is really something I learned to really pay attention to over the years, whether you do that kind of exercise, whether you get some other journaling exercise, or whether it’s just paying attention during the day to the opportunities that come. This is really important. My suspicion is that a lot of people aren’t lucky because they have no time to observe the opportunities that come their way. I suspect that lucky things happen to us all the time but many of us just don’t have the time to observe those lucky things.
6. Allow time for creation and construction
Let’s get moving. The sixth habit of lucky entrepreneurs. I’ve noticed that lucky entrepreneurs are people who spend a lot of time creating, initiating, and constructing. Again, this is something I’ve talked about in previous podcasts but I suspect that most people don’t spend much time doing this.
Most people, in my observations, spend a lot of their time reacting to the agendas, the demands, the expectations of other people. Their time is spent in a reactive state. This is why most people work for other people, this is why most people spend a lot of their time in their email responding to emails. We respond to the demands, the expectations, the agendas, the questions of other people and there’s nothing wrong with that. Even as an entrepreneur, we need to learn to do that.
But the best entrepreneurs that I’ve ever come across are people who spend significant time creating. They spend significant time initiating, they spend significant time constructing. They don’t spend the majority of their time responding to what other people want them to do. They spend time forging forward on what they feel they need to do. Lucky entrepreneurs spend most of their time in constructive mode. This is what sets them apart, the most successful entrepreneurs, from the rest of us.
Here’s my big question for you on this front is are you spending most of your time being responsive or constructive? I’ll probably add another category. Are you spending a lot of your time being passive? Most people I come across are doing one of these three things. They’re being responsive and just responding to the agendas of other people or they’re being passive doing very little at all. Perhaps you might call them lazy, or are you being constructive? Are you being creative with your time?
As I said a few podcasts ago, this is something that I was challenged on earlier this year. I realized I was spending a lot of my time being responsive, I spent a lot of my time on social media responding to people and the agendas I had, I spent a lot of my in emails responding to the agendas of other people, and I needed to rebalance the way I spent my time. I set aside time in my week to create.
The seventh habit of lucky entrepreneurs is that they have this ability to pivot. Success is rarely the result of traveling in a straight line. Almost every successful entrepreneur I ever met has told me stories of pivoting. Sometimes, pivots are massive pivots, 180 degree turns. But many times it’s just a small pivot, a change in direction, a subtle change in trajectory. This is the thing I’ve learned. Even small changes today, changes that you might not even notice looking from the outside can take you to a very different place in the long term. Just a small change in trajectory takes you into a different place in the long run.
The question that I have for you today is are you evolving? Is what you’re doing in building your business what you’ve always done? If you’re doing the same thing today that you were doing three or four years ago in exactly the same way that you were doing three or four years ago, it could actually be a sign that you are in a rut. It could be a sign that you have a problem because we’re kind of designed as beings to evolve and to change. Changes are a sign of health. If what you’re doing today is the same as what you’re doing a couple of years ago, you might want to ask yourself, should you have evolved? You should be changing at this point? Choose to change, choose to evolve, choose to pivot.
I’ve just talked about seven habits of lucky entrepreneurs and as I said in the start, these are just seven ideas that I’ve had, seven observations that I’ve made, and I’d love to hear what you think. Here’s the thing about each of these seven things. They’re not personality traits. Some of us are maybe wired to do these things more easily than others but these are not personality traits, these are choices.
Lucky entrepreneurs choose to spend time learning. They choose to embrace problems and to respond to them with curiosity. They choose to spend their time experimenting, taking out ideas and their hypothesis, and testing them. They choose to spend time watching for sparks of opportunities. They choose to spend time building, constructing, creating. And they choose when the opportunity comes to pivot. As a result, I would put forward the argument that we can choose to do things that increase the chances of lucky things happening to us.
I guess the question I’ll have for all of us today is are we spending our time choosing these things? It’s very easy to drift along in life. Just drift, to be reactive with their time, and to be passive with their time. The most successful entrepreneurs that I have come across actually unintentional about these things.