Why you Need to Plan for Luck

For all of our skill at planning and driving success, Lady Luck wields the power to put the wind in your sails or dash your hopes against the rocks.

In business school, we don’t talk about luck but the reality is, it’s inevitable.  Surprisingly, Collins and Hansen have come up with an approach to harnesses it.

“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.

— William Shakespeare


It sounds like an oxymoron – how can you plan for luck? But in “Great by Choice”, Collins & Hansen’s 9 year research project, they’ve found that what drove great performance was not being in the right place at the right time, but what you did with those events that counted.  They found that your ability to generate a return on luck is one of the key factors that distinguishes the great from the average.

The concept is this:  everyone has their share of luck over time, good and bad. Most people accept these events as outside their control and roll with the punches. They might acknowledge it, but rarely do anything specific in response to it.

The opportunity is not to take a passive role when luck arrives but rather to recognise the situation and ask “how can I amplify or make the most of this?” – even if it’s bad luck


Reflecting on this concept, I decided to try it out on myself and asked “what luck events are present in my life right now”?  I came up with the following:

  • Good Luck:  I landed a role working with a prestigious consulting firm.
  • Bad Luck:  My landlord told us they were selling the property we loved and that we had to move.

I then asked “how could I capitalise on these events to really make the most of them?” I came up with the following:

  • New role = opportunity for new networks, knowledge and income
  • Having to move house = opportunity to purchase a new home – an opportunity to invest & add to our portfolio.

I hear you say “well of course, that’s not revolutionary” but it’s the next step that delivers the return.

Like most people, I could have said “phew, that was lucky” and then mentally moved on.  Instead, I took it a step further and asked “what do I need to do to capitalise on this luck?”  So I put the following in place to maximise my ROL:

  1. I contacted the bank and started looking for a property which met both our housing needs AND represented a good future investment.
  2. I studiously connected with and looked for opportunities to add value to my new network of clients & partners, nurturing this long term asset.  I’ve scheduled time in my diary to invest 30min in this each day.
  3. I’ve put aside a weekly time slot to reflect on the things I’ve learnt and incorporate them into my own body of knowledge (another long term asset).  In these sessions I expand and refine my models and IP.

Before learning about “return on luck”, I probably would have taken these luck events at face value and been happy to accept the cards dealt to me.  Now, I have a plan in place to make the most of them, giving life and fortune a little boost in the right direction.


Here’s a Return on Luck exercise for you to try:  List the luck events going on for you right now (good and bad).  Ask yourself the following (you might have to distance yourself from them a little to get an independent perspective):

  1. How could I make the most of these?
  2. What opportunities do they present?”
  3. What would it take to turn a bad luck event into a positive outcome?
  4. Plan a set of actions you can take to make the most of these opportunities
  5. Hold yourself accountable for execution.  Put time aside in the diary.  Add them to your priority list – whatever works for you.

The biggest lesson here is that luck happens to everyone, in both business and our personal lives.  It’s not the absence or presence of luck that counts, it doesn’t even matter whether it’s good luck or bad.  The decisions you make and what you do as a result will determine your fate.

Image Credit:  mentalfloss.com