Luck does exist, but business is both a science and an art

Some say “luck” is defined as the place where experience meets opportunity.

Seneca, a Roman philosopher and adviser to emperor Nero, is often quoted as saying, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

These statements are kind of saying the same thing. After all, experience has the potential to leave you better prepared. Of course if your experience has taught you nothing, you are no more prepared than you were previously. But if you learn from experience, especially from those times that you falter, experience does indeed mean that you are better prepared the next time.

But does luck really exist?

Well, kind of. How many of us bought lottery tickets when Powerball went to $1.5 billion? We all had the same odds that any one of our plays would be drawn. Some people got lucky and won a portion of the big jackpot, or hit on enough numbers to receive a payout. I got squat. So, yes, luck does exist on some level.

However, betting on luck to generally get by is a fool’s game. You have to make it, which may be the same as saying, “success doesn’t just happen to you; you create it.”

Think about this in business terms for a moment. I strongly believe that business is both a science and an art. The best artists know that rigor is a key to success and that successful creation requires the methodical approach of a scientist.

The artist in us creates the vision, defines what “success” means, in his or her own terms, and imagines the path forward. The scientist in us applies practice, methodology and process (strategies, plans and measurable objectives). The combined result is “preparation” — half of the equation.

So how about opportunity?

Opportunity is often less about being in the right place at the right time and more about being open to possibility and listening. It may also very well be about expectation. If we expect failure, that’s probably what we will get.

In fact, from a multi-year study on the nature of luck, Richard Wiseman, a professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, England, concludes that, “Lucky people generate their own good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophecies via positive expectations and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.”

Sounds a lot like “I got this,” doesn’t it?

Back to the original question, does luck really exist, and more to the point, “Is luck the place where experience and preparation meet opportunity?” The answer to both is a resounding “yes!”

1.       Luck does exist on some level and we needn’t look any further than the Powerball lottery for evidence of that. Of course you can’t win if you don’t play, so, even this example suggests on some small level that preparation and opportunity factor in.

2.      Experience equals preparation if you learn from it.

3.      Defining the meaning of success (in whatever terms are right for you), envisioning the path forward to that definition of success, and laying out a plan to get there dramatically increases your odds of success.

4.      Research suggests that the power of positive thinking is real and creates opportunity.

5.       Common sense tells us that actively listening increases the likelihood that we will spot opportunity when others may not.

All of this equals what the casual observer might see as luck, then wonder why it always seems to happen to someone else.

Jon Umstead is a business and executive consultant. His book, Business is ART, is published by Figure 1 Publishing, and paperback and ebook copies of are available in book stores including Barnes & Noble and online at Amazon. Contact Jon at [email protected] or visit