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Monday, September 01, 2014
Volume 20 | # 463
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Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. » Arthur Ashe

As Luck Would Have It

I’ve shared with sales training groups that in my branch manager days, I’d half-joke with my staff that our strategy for success would rely heavily on luck.

And we were going to be lucky by putting ourselves in positions to be lucky.

I’d tell them that opportunities to be lucky were all around us, but I wasn’t smart enough to know exactly where. However, I did know that luck wasn’t behind our counter.

We never met anyone new or uncovered any opportunities back there. Our goal needed to be to get out there and, well, run into luck.

Years later, I came upon a quote by Louis L’Amour that made me do a double take. My luck theory apparently wasn’t a unique thought. L’Amour said, “Luck comes to a man who puts himself in the way of it. You went where something might be found and you found something, simple as that.”

I revisited those thoughts this week when I read a column by Nathan Kontny titled, “Why Are Some People So Much Luckier Than Others?” In it, he tells the story of the recently deceased James Garner.

Garner was universally liked by all who worked with him, from directors to crew members.
As a young man, he had no acting ambitions. In fact, he only tried it after failing to get a job on an overseas oil rig. But before leaving L.A. and heading home, Garner looked up a guy he had befriended years earlier while working at a gas station.

His old friend worked in a drug store when he met him. He had since become an agent. And he agreed to represent the inexperienced Garner, who went on to become one of the most popular actors of his time.

In his autobiography, Garner shared multiple, seemingly random and lucky occurrences that propelled his career through the years. But Kontny points out how career advancements that some would chalk up to pure luck were not just flukes.

They resulted because Garner was always keenly observant of his surroundings and (albeit shy) continually sought opportunities to befriend others.

In a ruthless and cutthroat industry, he became one of the true good guys. He was famously polite and gracious and made it a point to get to know as many folks as he could at his worksites, including the names of their children.

He considered himself lucky. But he made his own luck.

There are “lucky” opportunities all around us today.

Are you going to put yourself in front of any?

Going Pro

Money Magazine released the results of their recent survey on “employee happiness” this week. I couldn’t help smiling just a bit, but not because I found the news particularly good… or bad.

I found the results to be pretty, well, predictable.

I’m sure the purpose of the piece was to startle folks. Shocker of all shockers, 7 in 10 employees claim they “aren’t very interested” in their jobs.

(Okay, don’t start naming people. That’s rude.)

Money labels this group as “disengaged”. And sure, that’s not a desirable situation.

But I’ve worked with (and for) individuals before whom I know were not always “very interested” in their jobs. Yet, they were pros and, quite often, high performers.

Another “startling” finding was that only 14% of people state that they are in their “dream career.” That actually made me chuckle.

Hey, it’s the human condition to become dissatisfied now and then.

One of the more eye-opening conversations I ever had as a young(er) banker was when I asked the very successful bank president I worked for, who was a decade-plus into that job, at what point in life did he know what he wanted to do for a living.

Without missing a beat, he said, “I still don’t know what I really want to do.” He wasn’t kidding.

I remember sitting there thinking that all my peers and I were killing ourselves to get a “dream job” like his… and here he was, not sure if it’s what he really wanted to do.

Now, I had no doubt that he also once dreamed of getting that position and had worked hard for it. I also knew he was (more often than not) very happy in that role.

But we humans are wired with a (usually) healthy discontent for the status quo. We long for new challenges and opportunities.

That doesn’t mean we become slackers in our current jobs. Well, at least the professionals out there don’t.

And you can have a professional attitude and approach whether you’re a bank president, salesperson, or part-time manual laborer.

Professionals have days when they are “feeling it” and days when they aren’t. But you likely couldn’t tell on the surface by watching them.

My point to folks is that having days or short periods of “disengagement” doesn’t mean you aren’t in a good job or positive situation. It means you’re a human.

If folks around you can’t tell when you’re “not feeling it”, it means you’re also a professional.

Do something wonderful. People may imitate it. » Albert Schweitzer

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any affiliated entities or sponsors.
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