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Lend Lady Luck a Hand

If you want to change your fortune, put yourself in a position to benefit from happenstance.

I have yet to meet an ultrasuccessful person who didn't believe a great part of their success was due to luck. In fact, most businesspeople would tell you that they firmly believe in the saying "It's better to be lucky than smart."

I am currently working on a new book called

Sages of Business

, which relates stories from successful entrepreneurs such as Jack Bogle, founder of Vanguard, and Pat Croce, former president of the 76ers and author of three best-selling books. These luminaries understand the important role luck plays in business success.

From my own 46 years of experience, I can tell you that luck played an enormous part of my own successes. But don't think you can sit on your couch popping M&M's and watching ESPN or Oprah and that luck will yank you to professional success.

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The first thing you should do to put yourself on the right path is to develop a personal business plan of what would make you want to fly out of bed every morning. Make a list of your skills and experiences. Write down what you enjoy and how you might be able to make it into a full- or part-time opportunity that would lead to personal satisfaction and monetary rewards.

Second, the only way opportunity knows you exist is to put yourself in a position for opportunity to see you. How do you do this? Here is what I have learned and applied to my own career.

There are basically four ways to put yourself in a position to improve your situation:

  • Education: Education is important, whether it's college or trade school, for several reasons. The world is changing rapidly, and you need to improve your overall skill set. You also make a lot of contacts at school that could lead to new and interesting opportunities. If you have an undergraduate degree, getting a master's in business, management or marketing can lead to contacts that will lead to new business adventures.
  • Networking: If you don't go to events and meet new people, there is no way you can get lucky. Every time I go to an event, I make sure I have business cards, and I set a goal of meeting 10 new people. I contact those with whom I think I have a shared interest or future possibilities, and I set up a breakfast or lunch. I consider meeting for coffee to be cheap and not a good way of making a strong impression.
  • New venture: A good way to put yourself in the way of opportunity is to start a new business. Starting a new venture gets the creative juices flowing and forces you to interact with people you've never met and to read books and magazines that you had never thought of or had overlooked. Starting a new venture also encourages you to join trade associations and local business-networking groups. If you don't join these groups, there is little chance that your enterprise will succeed.
  • Speaking: Organizations are always looking for speakers, especially Rotaries, Lions Clubs and Chambers of Commerce. People are anxious to hear about other people's businesses or different ways of doing things. My wife and I started because we found that I met new people through speaking who wanted to retain me for help with marketing, who introduced me to other people or who invited me to join them in a new enterprise.

At the end of the day, you have two choices: You can sit and moan and ask yourself why everyone but you is successful, or you can work at changing your luck by putting yourself in a position so others can engage you to work with them. Make something -- anything! -- happen. If you say you can't, you've already put up the biggest roadblock to getting lucky!

Kramer is the author of five business books on topics related to venture capital, management and consulting. He is a faculty member at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and the veteran of over 20 startups and four turnarounds.