Around 5 years ago, while in the process of building part of my business on Amazon.com, I came across an industry selling servies for Amazon sellers which seemed intriguing. I wanted to understand more about the industry and how the economics worked, so I dug further. The more I looked into it, the more I discovered why so many businesses were competing within the industry – there was a fair amount of passive money to be made in a growing market.
Driven by this discovery, I spent around 3 hours building out a site of my own to compete in the industry. My thought was two fold – on one hand I wanted to setup something purely for the practice and interest in building out the website to learn more about the industry, and on another hand it was to build it and see if anything came out of it.
Those 3 hours in hindsight proved to be time well spent, as that site grew into a sizable business over the years. At the time, it was impossible to know what would come of it, but by spending those 3 hours, it transformed my entire business for the next 5 years. Those 3 hours could have also produced nothing other than a website no one visited, the difference was really just a matter of luck.
The industry was competitive, but I was confident there was opportunity. Part of the game of the internet is capturing attention, and if I could build out a business that captured attention more effectively than others, then I would profit. The lucrative part of this business is that if you can automate capturing attention, you run a sizable passive business.
This story is a simple example of luck in my own life, a topic I want to talk about more.
Life & Luck
Luck is a factor in life. It influences certain situations, sure, but fundamentally it has affected the outcomes of our entire lives (see Free Will post). It’s easy to miss attributing luck to “hard work” because when you work hard work and the outcome turns out to be what you expected and worked for, instead of saying it was luck, you say it is hard work. It’s a common fallacy people make when attributing a successful outcome to hard work rather than luck. But what gave you the motivation, inspiration, desire, and/or genes to make you work hard? Did you choose them?
The way I’ve looked at business on the internet is very much in a luck sense. There is a huge amount of luck involved, and the way to set yourself up to potentially get lucky is to constantly be building businesses that help people or provide some sort of value to society. The more chances you give yourself, the greater chance that one of the chances will work. It’s doesn’t guarantee success, but it increases the chances and therefore is the best route to take, if you’re wanting to get lucky (ie. successful).
This sort of thinking is described in many quotes, such as:
I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.
Opportunity favors the prepared. You can’t control your luck, but you can take actions which increase the chances you’ll get lucky. In other words, you can’t guarantee a home-run but you have to step up to bat to even have a chance.
The other key in building processes and habits in life, that increase your chances of getting lucky, is how you approach the actions. Because I don’t know if 1 in 10 attempts will end up with a lucky outcome or 1 in 50, I try to make every attempt a forward action, regardless of the outcome. It’s what Tim Ferriss has called “failing forward”. This sort of thinking means that when you approach a project with a goal in mind, even if the project fails, you’ve got something out of the process (ie. knowledge, a new skill, the enjoyment of building the project, a new perspective, etc.). Then even if you fail at every project you attempted, you still have learned a great deal since each project brought you forward, led to an improvement, or allowed you to grow as a person. Failing forward really matters since it’s all about the journey, not the result.
If I look back over my life, in many situations I was unlucky, and in many situations I was very lucky. Because humans want to be lucky more than unlucky, we need to strategize our lives to increase the chances of getting lucky. This is why building processes/systems into our lives is important – it steers our lives in a general direction to where we want to be, and increases our chances of something good coming out of it.
It’s easy to dismiss luck in life. You’ll find a lot of people who say work your ass off, get off your ass and push yourself to do things you don’t want to do, and just take action. While this is true and increases your chances of succeeding, it doesn’t guarantee it. It requires some luck for success to actually happen. Hence why many successful business owners don’t attribute luck to their lives because they worked hard and therefore attribute the success to that, but many other people worked just as hard and didn’t have such success. You also see many people in life who attribute much of their success to luck. I’m certainly one of them – while I’ve worked hard, spent a lot of time thinking about strategies, spent time hanging around the right people, I didn’t give myself the genes I have that make me as motivated as I am or as hard working as I am. Because of this, I’m more willing to have sympathy for people who try hard but still fail. The pursuit of solving problems, overcoming challenges, and building things is what matters – enjoy the process, not the result.
So, if what I’m saying is true, in that luck is a big factor in the outcome of life, what should we do? We should prepare ourselves to get lucky as much as possible in whatever pursuit that is. Read books to increase your knowledge, awareness, and decision making, make friends who inspire you to increase your motivation and accountability, take care of your health so you have the energy to create and take action, and take action to step up to bat.
I could have just as easily not taken those 3 hours to build that website. But I did, and it made all the difference. If I look back on my career, my relationships, and my life, the times where I felt confident my decision would succeed, it failed, and where I wasn’t so sure, it often worked. As a result, you just have to put yourself out there, learn as much as you can about as much as you can, fulfill yourself with solving problems and challenges everyday, making progress in your life, seeing every day as an opportunity to grow and improve, and being open to talking with people of all different beliefs and views about things to broaden your own perspective.
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you’re the easiest person to fool
– Richard Feynman
Don’t fool yourself, create chances to become lucky.