You can improve your luck by working hard, learning from your mistakes and putting yourself out there.

Share story

Very often when successful people look back on their careers, they mention the role that luck played.

Perhaps they entered a new industry on the ground floor while it was still wide open. Perhaps their brother-in-law introduced them to the right person at the right moment. Perhaps they just happened to be on the spot when a lucrative position opened up.

Feeling jealous? Don’t. While we may think of luck exclusively as something that happens “to” people, the fact is that we do have some control over our fortunes, good and bad.

Think about the traits and behaviors of successful — i.e., “lucky” — people. For starters, they tend to work a lot harder than average. They put in the time to become very good at what they do and constantly strive to become even better.

Lucky people do not hide their lights under a bushel. They build and maintain wide and diverse networks (including brothers-in-law). They regularly seek out new experiences and environments. They are always on the lookout for new opportunities, and when they do spot one, they take action to pursue it, even if it involves some risk.

When opportunities don’t pan out, lucky people are willing to shift directions. They aren’t afraid to try something new, seeking advice and input from those who are more experienced and/or knowledgeable. A key characteristic of lucky people is that they are unwilling to give up in the face of failure. Another is that they learn from their mistakes, making a point of changing their approach and behaviors.

In fact, successful people (lucky people) fail more often than unlucky people, because they try many things. Trying many things ups their chance of succeeding at any one of them. You could even say that failure is an essential component of success.

If this is starting to sound less like “luck” and more like “hard work,” then you are definitely catching on. Lucky people don’t just sit around waiting for good things to happen to them, they go out and hunt them down. (Later, when they do succeed, people tell them, “You’re so lucky.”) Whoever it was who said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get,” had it exactly right.

So why leave your success to chance? You can work hard and get lucky.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at wg@karenburnsworkinggirl.com.