I have always maintained that pretty much everything that one needs to learn about life can be found in Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture.” Such is the case with the topic of ‘luck.’ Pausch observes, “Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.” The statement drips with pithiness and profundity in equal measure. As I reflect on the numerous instances where I have been blessed with “opportunities”, be it in a personal or a professional setting, I find one common ballast to all the buoyant moments – people, and their kindness. Several people have opened doors for me. Doors that have led me into castles of joy or havens of peace.
As I chalk out a list of moments from my professional life where I have considered myself fortunate, the one common theme is how people took a chance on me. I have gotten job opportunities where my prior background did not exactly align to the requirements. But a hiring manager might have sensed a mix of potential and passion in how I might have made a case for myself. While I can take a portion of the credit, I would be incredibly remiss if I were to be oblivious of the risk that the person would have taken, when ‘safer’ choices may have been on offer. The “preparation” part might not be sufficient but is absolutely necessary. We need to, as Harsha Bhogle eloquently says, exhibit a combination of “ability, attitude and passion.” It is hard to find a trifecta of success factors more potent than this. If the “opportunity” part of luck is the uncontrollable, “preparation” certainly is not.
In my personal life too, I have been incredibly lucky to have a small set of people who share their vulnerabilities with me. Of all the things that I can feel lucky about, why did I choose vulnerabilities? The answer is simple. They didn’t have to, but they chose to. To share their deepest fears, insecurities, and above everything, giving us the license to be a shoulder for them to lean on. I have felt immensely lucky whenever I have been given these privileges. It is an honor to be entrusted with one’s vulnerabilities. They say that eyes are the windows to a soul. Eyes filled with tears, be it of anguish or of happiness, are akin to the center of a courtyard house. A bird’s eye view might suggest an open layout. But only a trusted visitor would gain actual access to it. There are the same people with whom I can share my highs and lows without fear of resentment or judgement. As I introspect about my meaningful relationships, it is hard to pinpoint who among us was the first person to share something significant. But nevertheless, when the sharing is both ways, the bond is immeasurably, inextricably strengthened.
While I consider ‘luck’ in the personal and professional settings to be of different flavors, some of the fundamental ingredients are identical. The generosity of spirit that characterizes people who take a chance on me and give me an “opportunity” to be part of their trusted circle, be it a team at work or the inner circle of a friend. The presence of psychological safety and the absence of judgement that give us the confidence to let the truest version of ourselves shine. And the “preparation” part is what we bring to the table. In the workplace, it is our commitment to put our best foot forward, to adapt with agility and act with empathy for our coworkers. In our personal lives, we must be prepared to do something very similar. That is, to bring the authentic, unfiltered version of ourselves to the people that matter. If the elements of this concoction are in the right portions, then the end product of luck is rarely a matter of chance.