What makes someone successful?
Right place, right time?
What if I told you that I believe “luck” is one of the most important traits.
Hear me out:
It seems that many of the most successful people of all time attribute their success at least partially to “luck,” to being “blessed,” or to having great fortune in one or many key parts of their lives or businesses.
And they are right!
Key connections, funding, inspiration, and breakthroughs often come about by chance, rather than through the direct planning or efforts that we take to get there. In fact, luck is defined as “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.”
While you can’t predict luck — and you can’t predict whether any given event will have a positive, negative, or negligible impact on your life or business — you can improve your “chances” of getting lucky. You can do this in three ways:
- You can increase your ability to recognize those events that will make you lucky versus those events that will have no impact or negative impact.
- You can increase the frequency with which you expose yourself to people/situations likely to produce a lucky outcome.
- You can increase the ability of others to bring luck to you.
As the BiggerPockets resident expert on luck, I’ll talk about the ways that I believe I have set myself up to experience lucky outcomes — and how you can do the same. I believe that this can be achieved by following these three simple steps.
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Step #1: Be Able to Recognize Luck
How does one recognize luck? A stroke of good fortune is not always readily obvious to the casual observer. In fact, it’s possible that an opportunity that others could only dream of has been dangling in front of you your whole life — or is sitting right next to you right now.
The problem with most people is that they are unable to see how lucky they are because they have no goals, no vision, no plan, and no dreams, at least none that they can clearly articulate.
If you don’t have a clear goal, then you will probably not be getting lucky, and the rest of this article will be of no help to you.
Do you have a goal? A plan? A passion? If not, how on earth will you be able to tell when that key connection comes into your life, when that key event comes to your town, or when an opportunity with a key organization appears before you?
Here’s a personal example: My goal is to increase the size and scale of my portfolio and to build passive cash flow and wealth in the form of appreciating equity in rental properties. I want to do this in Denver, CO, and I am willing to hustle for it, plan for it, and grab any opportunity I can to work towards my goal.
My stated goal means that every time I come across other investors that do real estate here in Denver, and I have the opportunity to pick their brains, I get lucky. This would not be a fortunate event for someone with a different goal; if I wanted to be the next big country music star, a Denver real estate connection is not a lucky meeting.
As an aside, I did have the chance to meet Taylor Swift’s little brother once. If I were an aspiring country singer, that might have been very lucky! Because that is not an aspiration of mine, however, the fact that I had this chance meeting is at best mildly interesting.
If I had no goals, then neither meeting Taylor Swift’s brother nor meeting real estate investors would be lucky.
Let’s look at some of the places where I’ve met key real estate connections — through my employer BiggerPockets, while going for a run in the park, and even through my rugby team (yep, rugby players are sometimes big shot investors, too!). In fact, all three of those sources have provided absolutely critical connections in helping me succeed in real estate.
I was able to recognize luck, and the moment that I realized that an individual was an investor or interested in real estate, I was able to identify them as a connection that I wanted to be more involved with.
Most people wouldn’t expect a chance meeting in a park or their social sports team to provide key connections, and I didn’t either. I certainly had no intention of meeting investors through those activities. The point I’m trying to make here is that these things wouldn’t have provided these lucky connections if I didn’t have the goal of investing and building a real estate business in the first place!
If I did not have that written, clear, dedicated goal set firmly in my head, a chance meeting with a real estate investor would not be a lucky event for me. Nothing would have come from these connections that would further my goal, and I’d be another unlucky guy!
The reason I feel that I am fairly lucky is because I know exactly what I want to do with my life over the short-medium term.
This makes spotting luck very easy.
If you don’t have any goals and aren’t sure what you want to do with your life, how on earth are you going to even know when you are getting lucky? You have no “chance” at good fortune because you don’t even know what good fortune looks like.
Step #2: Put Yourself in a Position to Get Lucky
Though I’ve experimented with it many times, I have yet to get lucky with a connection, bit of inspiration, or fortunate business development whilst watching Netflix or TV or while playing video games. It seems that hanging out in your apartment by yourself, not working towards a goal is a behavior that is unlikely to produce a lucky outcome.
I’ll let you know if that ever changes for me.
Instead, most of my luck comes when I spend my leisure and free time meeting with people, having conversations with strangers, attending events, and joining organizations that I am passionate about. When I position myself out in the world with at least the chance of meeting other people, when other people are at least around, that’s when I tend to get at least a little bit lucky.
I actually go a step further, though, and try to put myself in positions where I am not only around random people, but instead am around very targeted people who can help me with my goals. This has thus far produced even more luck than hanging around in places where random strangers who are unlikely to be interested in real estate congregate.
I meet many key connections spending time at networking events, meeting with local friends who like real estate, and hanging out on targeted real estate sites like BiggerPockets.
A great example of this is when I had the meeting that I consider to be the most fortunate of my life (in the sense that it started a chain of events that led directly to the favorable circumstances of me buying my first property and gaining employment here at BiggerPockets).
I was simply running my friend’s little dog through the park and had stopped to take a break on a park bench. While resting, I had a conversation with an elderly gentleman who was enjoying his Saturday and the beautiful Denver weather. One thing led to another, and we began talking about investing, real estate, and entrepreneurship.
This gentleman ran a weekly mastermind group with several businessmen involved in real estate here in Denver, and as a result of our conversation, I was invited to attend (meetings began at 6:00 a.m. once a month on Thursdays).
Wow! How lucky is that? This is luck, by the way, produced from just hanging out somewhere with other people — a random, yet happy chance occurrence.
After the first meeting, I met with every single member of the group one on one for lunch, my treat. At one of those lunches, I toured the businessman’s shared co-working space and ran into Joshua Dorkin, host of my favorite podcast (a real estate investing podcast, of course).
Wow! How lucky is that? This luck, by the way, is a little bit more targeted. I had chosen to go to a mastermind group that was very likely to be influential in helping me with my goals. It’s no stretch of imagination that I met other interesting entrepreneurs while getting lunch with these folks.
I told Josh how much I loved his show, and because I felt that I would have exposure to more opportunity to achieve my goals by being a part of the BiggerPockets real estate investing world, I offered to work for him in any capacity he had available, after hours at my current job, and I told him that I’d do it for free. He declined, but offered me a full-time position the following week instead.
I now spend my days building a real estate community, learning the ins and outs of website development, business development, and of course, real estate investing and personal finance.
Wow! How lucky is that?
I do believe that very few people will experience this kind of luck back to back to back. That’s probably unrealistic.
But I also believe that by simply putting yourself in a position where a lucky meeting or event is highly likely, or at least possible, you can get a little bit luckier than you have been in the past. I didn’t meet Josh while sitting in my cubicle at my old finance job eating a sandwich at my desk. I did, however, meet him during lunch — after traveling across town to meet with real estate investors and spend that time productively.
Of course, positioning yourself to get lucky is only possible if you have mastered step one above, defined your goals, and have the ability to both recognize luck and put yourself in a position where the odds of having positive chance events happening are excellent.
Step #3: Tell the World About Your Goals Early and Often
Maybe I’m a naive optimist, but it seems to me that it is quite a bit more difficult to create luck by holding your cards close to the chest, rather than letting everyone know your ambitions and aspirations.
EVERYBODY I talk to knows I work in real estate. I talk about it to people that I’ve met at real estate networking events, to friends, to family, to random strangers I meet at the park, and I even talk about it to people who are not even remotely close to being in a position to buy real estate or help me with buying real estate.
Is this annoying? Probably.
But it also brings me opportunity.
A great example of this is my rugby team. This great group of guys is well aware of my tendency to get enthusiastically carried away with real estate discussions. Many of these players have other interests in life and are not inclined to be interested in my lengthy discussions of Denver real estate. In fact, I was actually “accused” at a recent mock trial of crimes against the team for “incessantly and relentlessly talking about real estate.”
I was unanimously declared guilty.
But guess what? I met a multimillionaire real estate investor who used to play for my team because of talks like that. He gave me some incredible advice, which I was able to apply immediately to my investing strategy. This included access to information that I had not thought to take advantage of previously, a clearer grasp on the local market conditions, and even some insight into the state of the local commercial real estate market.
I am extremely lucky to be able to pick this investor’s brain when facing big, strategic decisions.
Now, if I didn’t tell anyone about my professional and real estate goals and kept my cards close to my chest, that opportunity (and others like it, including my meeting with the gentleman at the park, described earlier) might never have materialized. I would have never known he invested in real estate, and he would have never known about my aspirations.
In other words, I’d have been out of luck.
Many smart people believe telling the world what you are doing, spilling your secrets, sharing numbers, and telling others about your best practices is a bad plan. They believe this because they think it encourages competition and allows others to copy, mimic, and take away their patented systems.
I think that’s baloney.
Sure, some of the folks that I talk to about Denver real estate might develop into competitors and bid on properties that I would want to buy. That’s entirely possible, and perhaps even likely, as I continue to share my strategy with other local investors. However, I believe that the opportunities that this brings to me in staying on top of the market and finding deals that I might not find through other channels vastly outweigh the competition and copycats out there.
It seems to me that guarding corporate or business secrets is at best a short-term play. Sure, you can eek a little more cash flow out of your current business model, but what about next decade when it comes time to adapt?
Maybe then you’ll want to hear from others and open the door for them to help you, your business, or your vision.
Don’t let the fear of others taking advantage of you get in the way of the many, many more folks out there who are happy, willing, and able to help you achieve your goals.
Luck is real. I believe in it, and I believe that I have been extremely blessed in the good fortune that has blown my way thus far in life. But I also believe that I am perhaps luckier than most because I am better than most at recognizing luck, putting myself in position to get lucky, and inviting the whole world to point luck in my direction.
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What do you think? What does luck mean to you? Are you lucky? After reading this, do you feel empowered or hopeful that you can bring more luck into your own life?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!