Thursday, November 22, 2012

Can you make luck happen?

This is a question which i often encounter in my career talks and seminars. There is a technical answer to this question, which i had found very difficult to simplify until i met Anushka last week. And, in her scenario, the luck equation fitted so well that the whole 'mystery of luck' got unravelled for me. So here is an attempt to articulate.

So let us define luck first..

 Luck is the emergent property of a system** ( caused by multiple stakeholders who are working for their own interest) that becomes 'favourable' or 'unfavourable' to someone in the system.

When it is favourable , we call it good luck. When it is unfavourable, we call it bad luck. We discussed case of Manmohan Singh in an earlier blog. Narsimha Rao picked Manmohan Singh in 1991 because it perfectly matched his need of a good finance minister who will help India get out of the big financial mess. Similarly, Sonia Gandhi picked him for PM in 2004, because his profile fitted the need of hour. This is a perfect example of how the emergent property of system became favourable to Manmohan Singh, not just once, but twice. Manmohan Singh was the right man at the right time. And if you read the above blog, you will find that but for the support of Narsimha Rao, Manmohan Singh may not have survived the tough baptism ( third time lucky!). In other words, one has to wait for luck to happen

There is another way. One can 'read' the system and wait for the emergent property to happen. One of the best example of this is in cinema making. Anurag Kashyap, Anubhav Sinha or Tingmanshu Dhulia could not have made their type of movies in 1990 ! It took lot of events to alter the 'cinema system' to make these new type of movies work. For instance, the emergence of multiplexes ( that enabled audience of 300 economical to see a movie), deregulation of TV ( that brought in lot of new actors and directors on the horrizon), availability of finance due to corporatisation of cinema production made it possible for 'niche' movies to be made 'commercially successful'. When the system is too big to be influenced, one has to wait. If these directors were born 20 years back, we would not have been able to hear about their work, despite their honest intentions, hard work, and enthusiasm. 

So can you make luck happen? You have three options.

Option 1: If you can read the system relevant to your work area and make yourself 'ready' to benefit from the emergent property of the system, you can make luck happen. For instance, if you were working in software industry, you could have read the emergence of Data Analytics like Dhiraj RajaRaman did in 2004, and made luck happen like him.

Option 2: You can also make the luck happen, if you are able to re-program your mind and understand the inherent unpredictability of outcomes. This is what Andy Murray did with his career. He lost two Grand Slam Finals in 2012. But despite these losses, he did not forget that 'Outcomes are not in one's control'. By adhering to this simple rule, he managed to keep 'stress' under control. And when the opportunity came in US Open Finals, he won that finals despite playing poorly in the final.

On the other hand, if one fails to follow this rule of 'Outcome not being in one's control', one tries to 'change' the system too forcibly. If one tries to force the system to suit for oneself, one can only be breaking one's head against the wall. The effort is misdirected and often does not produce the desired result. Observe the career of Sharad Pawar, a very astute politician of NCP. He tried too many things to 'alter' the system to 'suit' him, but despite his good credentials, he is unable to become PM. 

Option 3: Instead of waiting for the system to alter, learn to 'read' the system and then learn to influence the system slowly and carefully. If you are working in a bounded system like an organisation, this is more easy to do. I have helped professionals who wanted to 'grow' in an organisation despite heavy odds stacked against them. It takes patience, tact and capacity to 'read' the system, but it is possible. 

Do you want to make luck happen in your life? 
***Systems thinking is a 'thinking' where properties of 'whole' take predominance over 'parts'


Anonymous said...

Dear Sanjiv,
Brilliant article. Can you tell me how to read a 'system'?
what are the major rules or attributes to monitor?

Anish Hole.

Sanjiv Bhamre said...

Please start understanding 'systems'. Start with a primer 'Thinking in Systems' by Donella Meadows