Napoleon, Pasteur, and luck

July 14, 2013 by Joshua
in Blog, Entrepreneurship

I read that when considering officers for promotion, Napoleon would ask if the man was lucky. Napoleon responded “Give me lucky generals,” aware that “luck” comes to leaders who recognize opportunity and seize it. Consider all the words he could have used instead of luck.

Louis Pasteur, pioneer of the Germ Theory of Disease, said “In the fields of observation chance favors only the prepared mind.”

How do you reconcile two of history’s most successful and famous people valuing luck and chance so highly? Needless to say they are just two examples of many more.

What are luck and chance from their perspective? I think it’s clear they aren’t talking about gambling. They’re talking about skills you can develop that look like luck and chance to others but to you are not.

More importantly, are you lucky? Do you know how to create luck? The luck they’re talking about doesn’t happen in Las Vegas.

In my seminars I talk about how people “create their worlds” and how you can. I’ve learned, for example, how to make my world the type of world I want at the time. If I want an entrepreneurial world, I know how to behave to surround myself with entrepreneurial people and not too many people who would hold me back. If I want a fun world, I know how to behave to surround myself with fun people.

I think to the outside world these changes in my world might look like luck or chance — that just when I decide to, say, work on a business I happen to run into a few venture capitalists or people looking to join a start-up. You could call one or two instances lucky, but when it happens consistently enough, it no longer is.

Pasteur talked about the “prepared mind,” which I consider the main clue. Note also that he used the word only. Preparation lets you make the infinite little things and people who pass you by in a day useful to you. It will look like luck to others.

Preparation requires knowing what you want to do, what you can do, and what you need to succeed. In other words creating luck begins with awareness.

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