“A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world,” once cautioned the famous British fiction writer, John le Carre. While travelling beyond our work-from-home environments has made getting out behind our desks more difficult, spreading your wings virtually can be the next best thing.
Today’s Monday Morning Mojo is dedicated to improving your luck in everything you do. It focuses on a concept called Surface Area of Luck.
Surface Area of Luck
In its most basic form, Surface Area of Luck is the amount of serendipity that will occur in your life, your Luck Surface Area, which is directly proportional to the degree to which you do something you’re passionate about combined with the total number of people to whom this is effectively communicated. Here is a basic graph by which experts explain this concept.
I first learned about Surface Area of Luck listening to the podcast below. It is an interview by Tim Ferriss with Guy Raz, the famous podcaster who does a wonderful show called, “How I Built This.” They introduce this concept and it really resonated with me. If you have around 90 minutes, I believe this would be a great use of your time, however if you only have a few minutes, start listening around the 1:12:00 mark. Guy Raz talks about Surface Area of Luck and relates it to a great story. According to Raz, “it’s about taking opportunities when they come and understanding that luck passes us by sometimes multiple times, and it is really what we end up doing with it.” You can find the podcast here.
The Tim Ferriss Show : Guy Raz — Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs, The Story of ‘How I Built This,’ Overcoming Anxiety and Depression, and More
The core lesson I take away from this concept is this: don’t be lazy in building new relationships. Make that extra call, go to that additional meeting, put yourself in unfamiliar situations and don’t be afraid to make a connection with that person you feel won’t be interested. This is not only a message for all those recent graduates out there, but to anyone who wants to improve their luck with whatever they want to achieve.
I can’t tell you how many times this concept has worked for me. I remember one banquet I attended years ago I was inclined to miss given how busy I had been, but I decided to go the extra mile to demonstrate to my staff my commitment. I sat next to a woman at the dinner who later invited us to pitch for her business and she became one of our largest clients.
Another example relates to Nita Wang who I wrote about in the last blog post. The way Nita has lived her life exemplifies Surface Area of Luck. Nita, after attending university in Norway, went on to study in the US, London and Spain. Along the way she met people who were interested in her story, a young Chinese girl who grew up on a farm, born with spina bifida and resolved this would not limit her. The people she met became part of her support network globally as she went on to earn a dual Master’s degree.
I am sure there are tons of stories out there. You just need to put yourself in the path of opportunity.
Related to Surface Area of Luck is a second concept I recently learned about, Who Luck, from an interview I listened to with the management guru and “Good to Great” author, Jim Collins. Collins describes Who Luck as the occurrence when you come across somebody who changes your trajectory or invests in you, bets on you and gives you guidance. Again, you need to spread your wings a bit to meet new and interesting people who possibly can be categorized in your Who Luck community. I consider many of the people who receive the Monday Morning Mojo in my Who Luck universe so thank you for that.
Finally on the concept of luck, here is a very good Ted Talk by Tine Seelig, an entrepreneurship professor at Stanford University. Seelig reinforces both Surface Area of Luck and Who Luck in her talk and offers some tactics on what you can do to increase your luck opportunities.
Have a great day and thanks for being part of my Who Luck universe.
I send this to my kids after reading this….
This is from a friend of mine, Scott. He’s from downbeaten Flint Michigan not far from Detroit. He and I played basketball together in Beijing and though he’s prone to fouling and a little cheating, he was/is a special guy. After you read this and read the article, check out his profile and contemplate taking chances in your own lives to ‘increase your surface area of luck’.
David, you are a good man and you have my basketball history 100% right :-). Thanks for reading.