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Successful people create their own luck

If you’re betting on the spin of the roulette wheel, luck is probably what you need more than anything else at that precise moment. If you’re trying to build a successful career, on the other hand, it’s only through putting in the hours and effort that you’ll be able to create the opportunities and conditions that bring about ‘lucky’, or good, outcomes.

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Read time: 3 minutes | Author: Geoff Fawcett - Directeur Hays UK

How many hours does it take?

According to the highly-acclaimed author and speaker, Malcolm Gladwell, it takes 10,000 hours of practice (about ten years at 20 hours a week) before you become an expert at something. He says luck also plays a part in any success you do achieve, but adds the important point that luck is invariably earned.

In one of my favourite books of his, Outliers, he cites the example of The Beatles, who amassed more than 10,000 hours’ playing time at clubs in Hamburg before returning to the UK where they got their ‘lucky break’ and the commercial success that followed.

Bill Gates hit the 10,000 mark after he gained access to his school’s computer and before he got lucky with Microsoft.

Often great success is facilitated by a ‘lucky break’, but that ‘lucky break’ only comes along because you’ve created so many opportunities for luck over the years.

Work hard, get lucky

I don’t know how true the 10,000 hour rule is (some people swear by it), but I do believe that when it comes to furthering our careers, we create our own luck through the effort we put in and the commitment we show.

I reached a point in my life some years ago that in order to take my career to the next level, I’d have to move to London. It was a tough decision to make because it would mean living semi-permanently in a hotel and being away from my wife and daughter for extended periods of time. After some serious soul searching and discussing it over with my family, I decided to take up the challenge.

In some ways, being on my own in London and not having my usual home comforts and family life to look forward to at the end of a working day helped me to work the long and hard hours I needed to make the move a success. I could commit fully to my career.

Perhaps some of my colleagues thought I was lucky to get the subsequent promotions I did and climb the corporate ladder as quickly as I did, but I know it was more than just being the right guy in the right place at the right time. Did I get lucky along the way? Absolutely, but I know how hard I worked for that luck, and the sacrifices I had to make before getting the ‘lucky breaks’.

A lazy excuse

Attributing someone else’s success to luck is often just a lazy term used by some people as an excuse for not going out there themselves and trying hard. Maybe it’s partly to do with fear of failure as well.

Make no mistake about it; everyone who has ever achieved anything significant in their life has done so through hard work. Because successful people often only show up on our radar once they’ve achieved their success, we attribute their accomplishments to good fortune.

It’s easy to point to Cristiano Ronaldo’s good fortune in being matched against Phil Neville in Sporting Lisbon’s match against Sir Alex Ferguson’s side as the reason why he was signed to the club soon thereafter. However, such is the resolve and determination of characters like Cristiano Ronaldo that, had Sir Alex overlooked him on this occasion, it would only have been a matter of time until Cristiano created and then seized another ‘lucky’ opportunity from which to progress his career.

There is no shortcut to the top. Those who reach the pinnacle of their profession do so by toiling relentlessly behind the scenes over the years, and so will you if you want to match their achievements.


You’ll need to match your talent with hard-work and ambition if you are to progress to the top of your chosen career. There may be no way of explaining why someone wins the lottery other than by saying he or she was lucky, but when it comes to explaining success in someone’s career, you can be sure that hard work was the biggest contributing factor.

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