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How to get Lucky – Understanding the Nature of Luck

In this 4 – part series of posts, I will demystify the dreaded “luck” for you. And will try to provide frameworks to conquer luck. 

What is luck ?

Just how many times have you heard these statements:

” He is very lucky, dude ! But I can’t take that risk.”

” She is lucky to have gotten into that college.”

“He is very lucky – he again got that hike.”

“She is lucky, she got a lovely husband.”

I have myself heard these statements from some very talented individuals. Many of these fall in the top 10% (if not less) privileged population.

  • I heard it when I secured 96% in GATE and got an interview call from a top institute.
  • I heard it when I got my first job, and later when I made a switch.
  • I heard it when I got into the Indian School of Business
  • I heard it every time I got a better career switch in terms of learning and earning potential.

In this article I will try to dissect what we call luck based on what I have learnt about the subject. 

Realisation # 1  – We only see the tip of the iceberg of attempts

Realise that every successful attempt has multiple failed attempts behind it. 

However, since we can see only the ones that get successful, we are looking at just the tip of the iceberg. 

We only see tip of the iceberg – Successful Attempts of Successful Individuals

This creates a sample bias in our minds that some people get exceptionally lucky. In reality, these people may just have better perseverance than others. For example, Thomas Alva Edison is known to have perfected the light bulb in 10,000 attempts. Many more inventors share similar stories. 

Many of us already know this fact as we have all pursued some goals in our lives which took multiple attempts to reach. 

Realization # 2. Luck is nothing but probability. 

Luck is the probability of successful attempts calculated over total attempts. 

The more the attempts, the more you stand a chance to find your lucky shot. You may find it in your first one or your tenth one, but you will find it if you persevere enough. 

Talking about myself, my list of failures goes fairly long:

  1. 2002. Failed to become a Fighter Pilot in the Indian Air Force. I bombed the Pilot Aptitude Battery Test, a pretty basic test which one can only take once in a lifetime. But I decided to opt for engineering. 
  2. 2003. Got miserable marks at the IIT entrance exam and settled for an ordinary engineering college. But I studied hard and graduated in the top percentile. 
  3. 2007. Lost chance for top Engineering MS. Secured 96% in post-graduate engineering entrance (GATE), failed to attend the interview due to date-clash with university exams. ( Decided to go for a job first.)
  4. 2010. Failed at 7 out of 8 top MBAs I applied to. And could not afford the one that selected me. Got rejected at ISB 2 times before I got selected in 2014. ( Roughly, 10% hit rate over 4 years.) 
  5. 2015. Rejected in 20+ applications. So, I kept optimising my resume and leads for better alignment , till I hit a 50% selection rate for interviews. 
  6. 2017. 2 years of efforts in vain. A travel startup , my first stint post ISB, failed to raise extension funds. But I learned to grow systems and teams from scratch. 
  7. 2019. Another 2 years. My own startup could not scale after 2 more years of effort. I had to interview for jobs again before my marriage. I decided to work only with people who I could see as mentors. (Learning > Money)

If you see the pattern, there are successes and failures. Work , life – everywhere – pattern is the same. 

You try and fail, you learn and try, and you succeed after some attempts. 

I finally tasted some major success in 2021, where I was able to take a sales team to exceptional outcomes in  a year. ( Roughly a 25% hit rate.) 

However, when people see my successes – GMAT, MBA, Growth in startups, they cannot see the failures that made them.  

Once we start seeing life as a learning journey with successively better outcomes, we will be able to work on our dreams with more confidence. 

And Find success.

Read Part 2. How to turn failures into learning outcomes?

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