Luck versus Effort

Luck versus Effort

Many amateur writers, in fact many amateurs in any field, believe in luck and the power of unfair advantage. People continually talk about ‘who you know’ and ‘being in the right place at the right time’ to explain why someone else’s movie script or business idea or job application is successful over theirs.

Seth Godin writes about the reality of how this luck is created. That’s right — the majority of effortless success is anything but effortless. Removing highly improbable and random chance, such as lottery tickets, success and achievement may seem easy to some but comes from that old maxim of ‘making your own luck’.

Godin suggests putting aside a couple of hours a day to pursue avenues that, cumulatively, can produce the effect of knowing the right people or being in the right place.

Seth Godin’s Recipe for Creating Luck

  1. Delete 120 minutes a day of ‘spare time’ from your life. This can include TV, reading the newspaper, commuting, wasting time in social networks and meetings. Up to you.
  2. Spend the 120 minutes doing this instead:
    • Exercise for thirty minutes.
    • Read relevant non-fiction (trade magazines, journals, business books, blogs, etc.)
    • Send three thank you notes.
    • Learn new digital techniques (spreadsheet macros, Firefox shortcuts, productivity tools, graphic design, html coding)
    • Volunteer.
    • Blog for five minutes about something you learned.
    • Give a speech once a month about something you don’t currently know a lot about.
  3. Spend at least one weekend day doing absolutely nothing but being with people you love.
  4. Only spend money, for one year, on things you absolutely need to get by. Save the rest, relentlessly.

Creating My Own Luck

Apart from the last principle — one I am traditionally terrible at — I not only actively do the other three but believe they are directly responsible for my current success and career path. My Outlook calender is set up to block out the first two hours of every working day for ‘research and reading’. In this time I read blogs (such as Godin’s) to gather thoughts and ideas and learn new concepts. I visit relevant forums. I read the news, particularly the tech and business pages as this is what I write about professionally. I may write a quick blog post to share my findings, such as this one. I network on Twitter, Facebook, Sphinn and other places to build valuable connections.

It was sticking to this daily routine — a habit which some other office workers may characterise as wasting time surfing the net instead of working the deadline tasks — that allowed me to learn enough about my industry to become an authority. The knowledge I learnt led to my monthly presence on a panel of experts for Nett Magazine, furthering my profile and increasing my employability. It allowed my bosses at Netregistry to see me as an asset who knew more about the industry than employees who had been with the company for years (they have no problem with my research routine). It allowed me to move from merely reacting to management requests to contributing to the decisions of the marketing department and eventually to become responsible for running an entirely new branch within the marketing department with complete independence and trust.

To an outsider, my incredibly fast rise within the company may seem effortless, or even favouritism. I know for a fact that the effort was in allocating time towards preparing for my next step. It is not enough to merely complete my current tasks well. It is essential to also consider where I want to be in a few months time and preparing for those goals.

So, to all the amateur writers out there, start planning part of your day to include research and networking. Spend enough time away from your script or articles or novel to learn more about the industry and the people within it. Network with them online – we are lucky in this new century to be able to network with virtually anyone we want without leaving our desk, thanks to Twitter, Facebook etc.

Above all, remove from your mind the notion that merely reading an industry magazine is time wasted, that Facebook is for playing with pirates and zombies (delete all those silly time-wasting applications), that a day with the family away from the keyboard is a luxury (just as I reboot my computer regularly, I reboot my mind as well by switching off work at least one day a week). These things are all part of the effort put in by the modern successful writer.


  1. Very well said! You deserve all the luck you’re getting.

  2. “The harder I work, the luckier i get.” – Sam Goldwyn
    “Diligence is the mother of good luck.” – Benjamin Franklin

  3. Luck is as luck does.
    In terms of success, I think there is a certain degree of luck. A lot of it is just being in the right place at the right time.
    I also tend to believe in the law of attraction and if someone is on the right frequency, they will draw things to them.
    I also believe that life is about balance – so getting away from the ‘puter is a good thing. I also spend time reading, because a writer reads.

  4. 99% Perspiration

    “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” Thomas Edison Reading the proofs for the next edition of Nett Magazine this morning, I came across a wonderful quote in an interview with Kelly Baker, founder of Edible Blooms. “A l…

  5. I agree that not only being at the right place at the right time, but having the right person read your work helps a lot. It takes a big break for a site to get popular, sometimes more breaks then one. All it can take is for a popular blogger to talk about your site, post, whatever and it can be the start you needed.