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Is success just dumb luck?

Author says prosperous people create their fortune

By Kate Lorenz

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Have you wondered why some people get all the breaks? It's not that they were born under a lucky star, but they seize opportunity when they see it.

If you think a person is just plain lucky when it comes to success, you're probably completely wrong.

In her new book, "How to Create Your Own Luck," Susan RoAne shows how you can become your own good luck charm by using the "you never know" approach to networking, taking chances and opening yourself up to opportunity.

"What we often think of as good fortune is really of our own making," RoAne writes.

There are key action steps, such as turning lemons into lemonade, surviving "happy accidents," experiencing "small world" moments and straying from a career path, that can parlay coincidences into success.

"The actions and behaviors of people who create their own luck must not be underestimated ... ever," RoAne says.

They remain open, and that openness is the key to their so-called luck.

Bottom line: "People who create their own luck live large, remain open to possibility, and expect that good things will happen -- and they do."

They take experiences we call kismet, karma or serendipity and turn them into success.

RoAne says the so-called lucky ones possess eight specific counterintuitive traits that set them apart from the rest. Take on these traits and you have the chance to parlay opportunity into something positive, thus creating your own luck.

1. Talk to strangers: "If you take a moment to think about it, you have had an experience that started with talking to someone you didn't know," RoAne writes.

"Such incidental, serendipitous conversations can sometimes score huge successes and make a dramatic impact on the bottom line."

2. Make small talk: RoAne says those who create their own luck don't wait for a great opening line or start with big talk. You'll attract coincidental opportunities by talking about the little things: weather, traffic, movies and the like.

Small talk can occur in ordinary places -- on an elevator, at the airport or at a party. It might start with a simple, "Hello, how are you?" Then listen to the answer.

3. Drop names: "Dropping names of people, places, and events that you might have in common with a stranger creates connections that open the door to opportunity," RoAne advises.

Even if you think you might sound foolish bringing up a name, take a chance and see if you have that person in common. It can lead to bigger things.

4. Eavesdrop and listen: Keep your ears open to court information, learn, assess and get a feel for the market -- a sort of low-cost market research.

Remember, there are benefits to being the eavesdropper, but also to being eavesdropped on.

5. Ask for or offer help: In contrast to the adage of making it on one's own, people who create their own luck are willing to ask for help.

Consider New York Times best-selling author E. Lynn Harris. When he could not get a publisher for his book, he self-published it and asked friends to throw book parties and small businesses to leave copies in their shops.

One phone call of praise came from a woman at Doubleday publishing who saw his book in her beauty salon. This call led to signing with an agent and a book deal. His willingness to ask for help yielded the coincidences that led him to where he is today.

6. Stray from the path: You make decisions through research, advice, peer pressure and gut reactions. When the "Aha" light goes on, let yourself detour from the path to pursue new ones.

Take risks and listen to the voice inside. This can take you down a new path in life. RoAne asks, "What if we had (or had not) taken that proverbial fork in the road that, as Robert Frost famously said, 'has made all the difference'?"

7. Timely, gracious exits without burning bridges: Consider those entertainers, sports figures and executives who call it quits at the peak of their careers: Jerry Seinfeld, tennis champ Pete Sampras.

A gracious and timely exit can prevent you from burning your bridges, which is important because you never know what will happen in the future. A gracious exit and burned bridge can mean the difference between a recommendation, contract work, a rehiring or none of these possibilities at all.

8. Say yes when you want to say no: Saying "no" to something the first time may not give you the chance to say "yes" in the future. This can be anything from helping a neighbor to volunteering in your professional association.

You never know what this can mean for you in the future, from funding a graduate degree to a job offer.

Kate Lorenz is the article and advice editor for She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

© Copyright 2005. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority
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