It was now becoming too good to be true. She was still in her final year at drama school but had already signed with one of the UK's most respected agencies, which led to bagging a major gig to step into immediately upon graduating and regularly self-taping for the likes of Marvel and Netflix. And yet, signing with her world-class agent — the lead domino that effortlessly knocked down those to follow — had happened completely by chance. She was grateful, of course, but also kind of uneasy… Had she really earned the right to stand where she now stood?
We came across a book titled Success is Not a Fluke. 99% of the time, we'd wholeheartedly agree with this assertion. But now and then that 1% strikes — as it did for our Dojo friend above. When it does, how do we process and navigate this?
It's a discussion that may seem to speak to an audience of few — those that, for some reason, found themselves bestowed with an opportunity that can only be chalked up to the whims of Lady Luck. And maybe we feel these fortunate folk shouldn't need a discussion. What more could they possibly want after being "spotted" by a leading casting director while walking down the street?
As we'll explore below, there's more to the story than we may first assume. And, given none of us fully understand the forces at play here, who's to say it won't be us next? Maybe then we too would benefit from such a niche discussion.
The formula for success
We often like to think of "success" as being the result of talent and hard work. It's simple, neat, and offers two factors within our control (which we are absolutely all about). However, scientists and psychologists tend to work with a definition of success closer to talent, hard work and luck. Which is a little scarier, because "luck" is an ephemeral, untameable entity, right?
Cognitive scientist, Scott Barry Kaufman, has spent his "entire career" studying the psychological characteristics that most correlate with achievement and success. From Dr Kaufman: "While I have found that a certain number of traits — including passion, perseverance, imagination, intellectual curiosity, and openness to experience — do significantly explain differences in success, I am often intrigued by just how much of the variance is often left unexplained."
Intriguing, no? Even super-smart people with lots of abbreviations after their names can't entirely pin success down to black-and-white controllables alone. Fortunately, however, these same smart folk have also offered some suggestions for how we might increase our likelihood of being the one that lightning bolt of chance happens to strike.
Increasing our luck surface area
Richard Wiseman, a professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, has identified four principles "lucky people" seem to employ to "create good fortune in their lives":
- Maximising chance opportunities
- Listening to hunches
- Expecting good fortune
- Turning bad luck into good
Notice all four underscore the importance of mindset — a mindset that believes we can get lucky if we "aren't", a mindset that champions our right to luck if we are. A mindset that Tennessee Williams depicted as "luck is believing you're lucky".
Responding to luck like a boss
Because we like making things as simple and systematic as possible, here's our three-step game plan for wielding our response to the advantage of all.
- First things first, let's side-step the guilt, yeah? Of course, it's a totally valid response to have, but let's get it out of our system and move on.
The way we may choose to process this emotion will vary from individual to individual, but a few common methods of exorcism include journaling, talking to a trustworthy someone, composing music, painting, and running. Whatever calms our farm.
- Next, we want to check to ensure the rest of our actor training is on point. That is, we're still sincerely striving towards our goals and controlling the controllables we can. If we find our encounter with luck has resulted in complacency, let's put a plan in place to assure we get ourselves back on track.
- Finally, let's take a moment to FEEL SOME GRATITUDE, amigo! "The universe is divinely orchestrated", goes the saying. Smile. Nod in recognition.
For a little more "science" to justify our commitment to doing so, studies from Northeastern University have shown that, "When we are reminded of luck's importance, we are much more likely to plow some of our own good fortune back into the common good". If momentarily bathing in appreciation for the benefit of our own wellbeing feels weird, do so for the benefit of others. Now we're lucky and benevolent.
Yes, let's 100000% make sure we haven't started down the slippery slope to complacency town, but enjoy the figurative lotto ticket, damn it! Life doesn't have to be so serious.
If Lady Luck chooses to favour anyone, we're stoked she choose a Dojo actor. You're the people we most need making magic in this world.
Thoughts / feedback / challenges? We'd genuinely love to hear.