Do You Feel Lucky?

Do You Feel Lucky?

St. Patrick’s Day is coming up and with it, the hunt for the lucky four-leaf clovers. My wife is one of those people who when we are out will sit down and intentionally look for four-leaf clovers. We could be out with friends, but if there is a patch of grass nearby, she will put her butt down on the ground, comb through the green grass with her fingers, and more often than not, she actually finds them. Like almost every time. Not just one or two; but handfuls of them. I don’t think I’ve even found a single four-leaf clover in the past four years. I used to think she was just lucky, that maybe her spiritual gift is four-leaf clover finding. Or maybe she’s just done it more than I have.

The Roman philosopher Seneca wrote, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Up until recently, I had never thought of that idea for anything outside of business and sales. Usually, it would relate to the idea that a sale or a client was a by-product of the opportunity and the effort put in beforehand; if someone called it luck then they didn’t see the blood, sweat, and tears that went into putting together the presentation or the pitch.

Opportunity + Preparation = Luck

One of the first times this clicked for me outside of the business world was when I was reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers. It’s a fascinating read on how the most successful people in any field across the board are by and large people who have put in the raw hours to master their craft better than anyone else. Look at professional athletes, musicians, innovators, or thought leaders. They have all subscribed to the 10,000-hour rule of putting in the time and effort to develop themselves beyond where everyone else ends up.

But only part of it is the preparation; the other half is the opportunity. Gladwell looks at a case study of hockey players in the NHL and their birth dates as an indicator here. Because youth players are registered in leagues based on their year of birth, the biggest and strongest players tend to be those born in the first few months of the year. This selection process starts as early as age eight, and so you end up year over year with the kids who are just a bit bigger (by birth date alone). They end up having more opportunities, are pushed to the higher level teams, are selected for the more committed coaches, etc. Over time that leads to a whopping 40% of NHL players being born between January and March.

Opportunity + Preparation = Luck

I often talk about how I want to be someone who leads by example, who makes a difference in the world. My friends and I will talk about how we want to be people who are there for others in times of hardship, who serve the community, and make a change. But it struck me recently: are we taking the time to prepare for when those opportunities come around?

A few nights ago at my church, we talked about how to love people who are going through seasons of hardship. Having experienced some seasons myself, I can look back and be so grateful for the people who came alongside us. It was saving grace at the perfect time.

But when I think of my friends, my community, the people I know that have or are at this moment in a season of hardship, it’s downright uncomfortable. I feel like I don’t know what to say or what to do when someone tells me of their addictions. I think, “What could I ever do to help?” when a coworker shares their recent loss. I close up out of being uncomfortable when a family member shares their struggles. So I know I need to take some time and learn how to serve the people I love because:

Opportunity + Preparation = Luck

When I think of the people who came alongside us and were there for us in seasons of hardship like when we had a miscarriage or when we’ve experienced financial challenges, oftentimes they didn’t do anything out of the ordinary; they just showed up. And that meant the world to us.

So to be the change you wish to see, to respond to the opportunities you have in front of you, one must take the time to prepare.

What does that look like for you?

One thought could be if you want to help the homeless, you could prepare a box of food, warmers, wipes, and medical equipment, and put it in your car for the next person you meet who needs help. Have it prepared and give it to them instead of avoiding eye contact.

If you want to help an organization financially, then look at your budget (do you have one?) and be real about what you can cut out or minimize to start giving regularly instead of saying, “One day when I make more I will.”

Opportunity + Preparation = Luck

I realized a while back that my wife isn’t this magically lucky four-leaf clover finder; she just put in way more time to do it well. I realized the people who seem to be able to walk into any situation and be there to support others aren’t these perfect people; they’ve just taken the time to intentionally do it over and over again. The people with the biggest hearts that I admire most have prepared time and time again for the opportunities to arise and then they were able to step in and make the difference. The piece to consider though is they made the decision to step in.

I’ve felt so lucky time and time again in my life to be supported by such a strong community of awesome people. My challenge is simple: are you taking the time to prepare yourself for the opportunities that will present themselves, to be ready when the time comes to change the life of someone else and have you decided to act when you see it next?

If not, start today. Take action. Make a difference.

Opportunity + Preparation + Action = Change

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