Can you “make” luck, or must you be content with waiting for it to happen? And why does this matter to nonprofit marketers and managers?

Let me start with the latter. Most of the biggest marketing breakthroughs are just that … breakthroughs. They happen because someone applies gut instinct against the grain. Not shooting from the hip, but often relying on imperfect information. They gamble and get lucky. No guts, no glory.

I'm firmly in the camp that believes luck “happens” much more to those who stack the deck in their favor. How do they do it? Mostly it boils down to adopting three habits:

1. Lift your head up — if you keep your head buried in the weeds all the time, opportunities — good fortune shall we say? — will pass you by. Make time to take in the bigger picture. Imagine the longer term.

2. Broaden your horizon — head up is good, but not enough. You also need to expose yourself to entirely “foreign” ideas, patterns, perspectives from which you can import fresh insights and provoke new questions. Pursue an interest or two that require markedly different mental approaches and pools of information.

3. Just do it — luck and flux are joined at the hip. You need to set things in motion, not stand by and wait. After all, luck is an interruption of the status quo.

You don't need to buy this counsel from me (though I'll stack my luck up against anybody's). Here's the advice of two guys who've been extremely “lucky” over and over (at least judging by their remarkable standing in the marketing & organizational consulting worlds).

From perhaps the biggest name in management consulting, Tom Peters, here are no less than fifty strategies for finding luck. Three of my favorites: “Ready. Fire. Aim!” And: “Avoid moderation in all things.” And yes: “Race yaks.”

From direct marketer extraordinaire, Denny Hatch, this riff called Tunnel Visionaries on fostering “serendipity” (luck's twin). Denny cites this observation: “Serendipity is looking in a haystack for a needle and discovering a farmer's daughter.”

He calls that “serendipity” … I call it “getting lucky.”

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