Make Your Own Luck

Richard Connor

THERE’S A FAMOUS quote that’s often attributed to Thomas Jefferson: “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”

Making your own luck is a concept I’ve long believed in, and have written about before. Clearly, luck plays a role in all human endeavors—finances especially. I’m particularly intrigued by the intersection of luck and hard work. But how exactly can we add to our store of good luck?

The answer may lie with a concept called “luck surface area.” The term immediately grabbed me, perhaps because it has a tangible feel to it. It was invented by Jason Roberts, an entrepreneur and coder in Southern California. In a blog post, Roberts describes it as “the amount of serendipity that will occur in your life.”

He writes that luck surface area “is directly proportional to the degree to which you do something you’re passionate about combined with the total number of people to whom this is effectively communicated.”

Roberts reduces his concept to a simple equation: L = D x T. In this equation, L is luck, D is doing and T is telling. Roberts believes that by passionately doing something, you’ll develop an expertise that’s valuable. But without communicating that expertise to others, it may go unnoticed or unused, hence the need for telling.

The more people who know of your abilities, the greater the chance someone will want to employ them. It may not be in a way we expect. It could be purely serendipitous.

Although Roberts developed luck surface area as a mental model for entrepreneurs, I think it can be applied to many areas of our lives. In our careers, the more we’ve done and can do, the more value we represent. By telling people you’re open to new opportunities, and by telling them about your skills and accomplishments, you increase your chances of discovering a great job.

The same is true of our financial lives. We can dig in and learn as much as possible, then start investing and building expertise. When we share our passion with others, we find like-minded people. They, in turn, share their experience and expertise with us. This can lead to opportunities we never would have expected.

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1 year ago

But without communicating that expertise to others, it may go unnoticed or unused, hence the need for telling.”

Humans don’t need to be told to go and communicate that which they’re passionate about. Humans are social animals. This isn’t new. Ask Aristotle. Communicating what one is passionate about is part and parcel of being passionate. Communitarianism–which has it that we’re now alienated and isolated from each other, and need to be rescued from this condition–has subverted sound reasoning.

Roboticus Aquarius
Roboticus Aquarius
1 year ago

Great article! I’ve been accused of being lucky, and I accept the accusation, though perhaps in a different spirit than intended.

I too find that luck is as much a result of effort and outlook as anything else. Better said, as posted in my high school weight room: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity”.

Lucky people often see themselves as lucky, and tend to be consistently lucky, which implies a certain skill or process that yields a consistent result.

I think a lot of people really struggle to see past their object of focus and find opportunity. It’s like that video that was shown to people where a guy in a gorilla suit walks past a bunch of people, and the video observers fail to even see the gorilla because they are so task-focused.

I also like the D x T model. It’s not always easy to articulate your interests and make the real world practical connections, but I am convinced that it is worthwhile.

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