The Harder You Work, the Better Your Luck

The Harder You Work, the Better Your Luck

The intrinsic value of hard work is deeply rooted in human society.  If one works hard enough, success is not only possible but probable. It’s the rags to riches story, or the American Dream, which according to 40% of people in a recent PBS poll, is dead.  Compare that to the mere 36% that still believe hard work brings success and the 24% that claim they “aren’t sure”.  The new pervasive attitude replacing it appears to be that one’s station in life is just that: stationary.  Improvement in unlikely and success is less about effort and more about luck.

It is not uncommon to hear, “I’m so lucky I got the job!” but what does it really have to do with luck?   That rings just as true for the other, less favorable outcome: “What’s the use in applying for that job?  I won’t get it because I have terrible luck with interviews.”

Bad things happen. One doesn’t always get what they want, but the second failure is attributed to bad luck is the second someone becomes subject to a helpless mindset that leads to less hard worn the next time: “It didn’t work this time, so why should I break my back the next only for the same outcome?”  Expectations become psychological limits, and superstitions become self-fulfilling prophecies.  Samuel Beckett famously penned the words, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”  Imagine if he had believed in the power of luck over work, the quote would have read something more along the lines of, “Ever tried. Ever failed. Why try again?” Believe you won’t be successful because you are unlucky and, well, you probably won’t.

“Is the American Dream Dead or Alive?” WGBH Educational Foundation. 2016.  Web. 26 July 2018.


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Undervaluing hard work in the role of personal and professional success is the single most self-sabotaging act. Believing in the value of hard work is motivation, if nothing else. Those who believe they have some control over their success are more likely to work toward it, to listen to advise from successful people, to seek mentorship, and to not blind themselves to opportunities right in front on them.

Alas, explaining things through luck is pervasive in modern society. It is easier to explain failure by avoiding personal fault and instead attributing it to some arbitrary, omnipotent roulette wheel. Somehow it stings less to know one didn’t get that dream job, not because they were an incompetent candidate, but because they did not display their middle initials or were born in the wrong month. Born in June or July? Don’t count on becoming a C.E.O. Both farcical sounding examples are real correlations expounded upon by recent research and subsequent articles on the relationship between luck and success. How I put the odds in my favor and went from losing to win, you should not play games without knowing this.

People attribute stunning athletic upsets to “lucky shots” paying no mind to the thousands of hours of practice those athletes have put in to that very shot throughout their careers.

In business, there are the “lucky ones”, referred to as such mostly by begrudging lesser entrepreneurs with no mind to the process leading to the profit. In reality, the “lucky ones” get lucky through knowing their worth, taking risks, and being unapologetically driven. For those unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices, then, that is all reduced to luck, a far easier and self-satisfying explanation that allows one to avoid admitting one’s own shortcomings.

Consider an example: Yvonne Chouinard, founder of Choudinard Equipment (the company that became Black Diamond) and later the wildly successful eco-friendly outdoor company Patagonia, started with nothing, and hand made his early products himself in a shed. Over decades, that backyard enterprise that targeted poor rock climbers turned into a monolithic corporation. Calling that luck is an insult to Mr. Chouinard.

Business magnate and investor Richard Branson states in the essay “Success From Hard Work Is Not Luck”, “Sadly the vast majority of people seem to view their chances of “getting lucky” in much the same vein as the likelihood of being struck by lightning, as if it is something over which they have zero control. Well, in my humble opinion they couldn’t be further from the truth – anyone who wants to make the effort to work on their luck can and will seriously improve it”[i].

[i] Branson, Richard.  The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership. New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2014. Print.

How to do so? While good things do not just fall from the sky, one can increase their chances of being exposed to “lucky” happenings.  Creators can create more and get their work in more places.  Writers can submit as many book and article proposals as possible, despite 100:1 rejection ratios. Businessmen can get their hands in as many ventures as is financially wise.  The list goes on, but the point is that anyone can subject themselves to greater exposure in whatever their occupation is. The more exposure one receives, the more likely they are to stumble upon that highly coveted stroke of good fortune.

Another common attribution to success is the “right place, right time” explanation, but statistically, you can increase your odds of achieving a desirable end by putting yourself in that right place more frequently.  Staying alert and researching upcoming opportunities can be a great tool of prediction as well, and far more reliable than passively waiting for right time.

Imagine a scenario in which a person finds a $10 bill on the street; random things do happen independent to personal effort. Yet consider that one could search a large shopping mall parking lot, actively seeking out loose change, and probably acquire a greater sum than $10 in a couple hours of searching. The latter is more work, but in the end, yields more money on a more regular basis than waiting to randomly find cash. The key is repeatability and hard work is nothing if not habitual.

Even luck, it would seem, is a product of hard work, merely acting as the middleman between the self and success.  Just because an outcome seems unlikely or too good to be true, doesn’t mean it cannot be brought about through direct, intentional action.  Practice that unsinkable shot.  Apply for that prestigious job.  Put in the time and energy to manufacture good fortune, and when it comes, own the success.  Attribute it to nothing less than sheer effort.  It takes resilience, perseverance, optimism, even; all synonymous with hard work.

For more information on how to direct your hard work in a productive direction and make your own luck, download this free eBook and subscribe to this blog.

For more information on how to direct your hard work in a productive direction and make your own luck, download this free eBook

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[1] “Is the American Dream Dead or Alive?” WGBH Educational Foundation. 2016.  Web. 26 …

Why You Avoid Conflicts (And What You Miss)

Conflicts are painful and scare. It is tempting to avoid them. On the other hand, if I consider conflicts as something that is fundamentally part of life and growth, then I will develop myself. I can be open and curious again. This involves researching three perspectives: my own, those of the other person, and the conditions that contribute to our conflict. You also find that interpersonal or internal conflicts are difficult to endure and try to avoid them if possible? Then welcome to the club. Would not it be nice to live in a world without these conflicts? It probably depends on how you look at a conflict.

How you look at a conflict:

Quick solutions to reduce pain and anxiety

If you are primarily aware of the pain and anxiety that a conflict causes in you, then it makes sense to seek a quick fix. So why not quickly agree with what you would actually reject; why not give in quickly so that everything is harmonious; or why not quickly prevail where you have more power; or ignore the one with whom you are experiencing a conflict?

Yes, such quick fixes have the distinct advantage of not having to endure the intense feelings and pain of a conflict at the moment. Instead, you bypass all the issues associated with the conflict; these issues are often hard to bear - feelings of addiction or lack of self-esteem may be affected; and not infrequently, conflicts go straight to the roots, their own identity, their own roles and expectations.

An example

I take an example from myself: how many internal and external conflicts I experienced alone, that I moved from Hamburg to Copenhagen a few years ago. All of these conflicts had to do with my identity, in this case my origin, my language, my culture, my job and my new role as father.

Find the solutions

During this time, I met several other foreigners who seemingly elegantly solved this problem: They told me that you had "sacrificed" or "abandoned" your culture, or that your future was "exclusively" in Denmark. Oh, how I wanted to be happy - and how reluctant I was to find the solutions they had come to expect.

Transformation instead of fast solutions

No, there were no quick fixes. Rather, I learned (once again) that conflicts can be viewed from two fundamentally different perspectives.

  • The conflict is a problem that I have to solve as quickly as possible in order to get away from the pain and the violent feelings. The conflict has little to do with me and my growth.
  • The conflict is intense and painful, and I take time to explore and get to know it, to become clearer and grow. I see the conflict as an opportunity to learn something new and go directly to it.

In Example 1, I probably perceive the conflict, in particular the pain or the violent feelings such as fear or anger. In Example 2, I perceive the conflict as something that makes me curious to know more.

The three perspectives to explore the conflict

This "more" I'm interested in ultimately consists of at least three perspectives.

The first view is my own, as I experience the conflict at the moment. What is important from my perspective? What are the reasons for this conflict? What is going on in me?

Second, I can look at the conflict from the perspective of the other person (s) - how does she experience this conflict? How does this person experience me in this conflict? It is also possible to ask how an outsider would describe the conflict.

Thirdly, it makes sense to take a somewhat broader perspective: Are there any other factors that play a role here? Do cultural differences matter? Is there an indirectly involved, other group or structures, eg the family or the workplace?

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Important in these questions is that it is not about truth or right. You can assume that there is always something to be completed and still more perspectives. It's about the process of describing and exploring that helps you find more than "quick fixes".

In the long term you will learn to understand conflicts as learning opportunities and actively seek them instead of avoiding them.

Find Expectations And Conditions And Put Into Words

Pressure is often only diffusely perceptible, because he is so used to us. Therefore, a first step is to put the expectations or conditions behind them into words. Expectations in the form of rigid rules, commandments or prohibitions are best suited for this:

- I have to ...

- I should ...

- It is forbidden ...

- I can not ...

Take time to make a list of all the commandments and prohibitions that you expect from yourself. Make sure that commandments and prohibitions not only affect actions, but can also affect particular thoughts, feelings, etc.

If you like you can add an "Else" to each line. Think about what would happen or what you fear if you did not meet that expectation - and write it down to the expectation.

Exercise 2: Slowing down and anchoring

Going slow is an important skill, especially if you are trapped in suffering. Being trapped means that you are only superficially aware of your body and, without testing, you are taking over what is floating in your thoughts and feelings.

However, if you go slowly and take your time to become aware of your body and gain your attention, it is possible to become open and curious about what is happening in you.

Take the time to look at your list and experience your body at the same time. Here is your body and your breathing ... and there are expectations written down. Take time to just keep these expectations company. It can be helpful to put one or both hands on your body to help you really be present.

This exercise is about being completely with you. The clearer you can be with you, the more open and unconditional you can see what's going on in you (or around you). In such a moment you emerge from what limits your vision.

Exercise 3: To perceive expectation pressure and to learn to use it

If I break a rule, I get the feeling, for example, that I'm taking something out of my hands. Maybe there's a threat in the room that something bad will happen to me; or I'm in danger of not belonging or being punished. This creates shame and guilt, and other feelings can arise, such as envy or anger at others who do not abide by my rules - and thus hold the mirror up to me.

Active expectations are therefore recognized by the fact that you feel bad. Generally it means "Be different than you are"; and this pressure does not feel good - and is usable in two ways.

How can I use this for myself? Expectations are filled with the rules, ideals, (unfulfilled) desires, ideas, values ​​or needs of others - including the pressure to adapt and embrace them. That this does not feel good makes sense. If I can feel the pressure as an unpleasant feeling, then I can understand the feeling in the first step. I can see, "Attention! Something in me puts pressure. That does not feel good. Something is wrong here ".

At the same time, you can deduce what you need instead. You can actively invite this in a second step, for example by saying, "I take the time to realize what it would take instead." Or as a sentence supplement: "Instead of pressure it needs ..." or "At the core and without pressure, I wish me …"

Be curious about what appears here as the equivalent of pressure, eg connection, recognition, collection. As soon as I understand that the pressure is about connection and a sense of belonging, for example, I can start to relax. The more I understand what it is all about, the easier it is to be left to the pressure of expectation - while at the same time following the positive and constructive aspects that are contained within it.

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5 Ways To Avoid Conflicts In Your Work

About 10 hours is what Mexicans work in a single day , a situation that is not only stressful, but creates problems in your work. A good way to deal with stress and increase productivity is to foster an atmosphere of peace and happiness .

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) points out that Mexico has the longest working hours, with respect to the countries that comprise it. That is why it is urgent to know the best methods to avoid conflicts at work.

Put them into practice!

On the occasion of the International Day for nonviolence and peace, which is celebrated this January 30, learn to resolve conflicts in your work, where you spend much of your time.

  1. Do a self-analysis

 María Luz García, director of ADAMS Training , says that before criticizing a classmate, you should examine yourself. Do you do the same? Can you do something to remedy it?

  1. Avoid distrust

Relax and avoid seeing undue “intentions” in the behavior of the partners. Do not act before thinking it over. Try to be cordial and apologize when you affect third parties.

  1. Forget the assumptions

Be proactive and if you want something, ask for it directly. If you’re not comfortable with something, express it. Never give something for granted, because maybe it does not mean the same thing to others.

  1. Cooperates

Do not see your colleagues as a competition, but as allies. Remember that they are a team and everyone’s effort generates job growth. Respect the activities of others and focus on yours.

  1. Share

Try to share your emotions, the good news, the worries and the victories. The more you do it, the better you will communicate and get to know your coworkers.

Envy or work jealousy can bring out the worst in ourselves, so have a positive mind. “To educate in equality and respect is to educate against violence”. Benjamin Franklin

So We Must Always Face Conflicts?

Not necessarily. Facing conflicts does not mean making a whole conflict.

In fact, the idea is to prevent them, but not avoid them when they are already presented. What difference there is?

Prevent a conflict

When you drive, you avoid hitting other cars.

Cause a conflict

Deliberately crash your car with another.

Avoid a conflict

When you crash your car with another car, you face the problem in the best possible way. What would not help is to run between the cars leaving your car?

If possible, solve the problem and the issue is not so important, avoid it permanently or temporarily.For example; enter into conflict to determine if the movie you just saw is good or not maybe not worth it, because they will not determine if you are good and in the end, it will probably not make a significant difference in their lives.Sometimes it helps to avoid it temporarily so that things “cool down”, but if the problem is recurrent or serious it must be resumed. In couples, using the “we have to talk” formula even for things as simple as using the “wrong” glass to drink milk is counterproductive.

John Gottman says that couples who last a long time and are happy to have these attitudes in relation to conflicts:

  • They know that making a drama for whatever it makes no sense.
  • They recognize that seeking to change aspects of their partner’s personality will bring more frustrations than satisfaction and they will not create conflict over this.
  • When they come into conflict, they first seek to let it go and if not then they seek to resolve it.
  • They recognize that avoiding conflicts brings benefits.
  • Avoiding conflicts do not involve for them giving up relevant needs, it does not damage their identity and they do not see it as losing.

 What to do?

  • If you are with someone like that and is a significant person for you.
  • Make disagreements or conflicts something natural, that seeks resolution and puts less drama on the issue.
  • Avoid basking when you are right and make a tragedy when you are not.
  • If you are a conflict avoider and that brings you problems with yourself or with others.
  • Recognize that facing conflicts may not be pleasant and that is normal.
  • Identify if the matter can be resolved or you have to learn to live with it.
  • Keep the attention more on the resolution of the issue and less on the emotions, which are inevitable.