And we also got lucky

When you listen to a business leader describe their company’s success you will inevitably hear them discuss the clarity of their strategies and the quality of their execution.

What you rarely hear them say is that they were also lucky and, by extension, opportunistic.

The fundamental attribution error of success in business is the belief that it happens through pluck, ingenuity and hard work.

Since good luck is typically the byproduct of hard work, generosity and awareness, I don’t understand why so many leaders of successful organizations have difficulty owning their share of it.

To humbly accept the role of luck in the success of any enterprise is to admit the truth that the forces of randomness and change are far more powerful than our ability to control the status quo.

shallow focus photography of four leaf clover

Photo by Djalma Paiva Armelin on

A little more risk, a lot more luck

Here’s a little inspiration for your Monday:

Years ago, just starting out in my business as a leadership coach and organizational consultant, I decided to market myself by doing a bunch of pro bono speaking engagements. Organizations like Rotary Club always need speakers and this newly minted “freelancer” needed the practice.

On one occasion I accepted a lunch time engagement at a restaurant about 40 miles from my home. I was assured that there would be “at least 20 to 25” participants which sounded fine to me. Upon arrival, I discovered that the restaurant was more like a diner, and that the meeting was in a backroom that was connected to the kitchen. It was loud and noisy.

And six people showed up.

Between tentative bites of my Cobb salad I began to feel doubt, regret and a healthy dose of self-pity. “What the hell am I doing here?” echoed through my mind along with a few other colorful thoughts.

And then I made a decision. I saw the faces of my mentors, I examined the truth of my own intentions and I simply decided to take the risk of speaking to those six people with the energy I might give to 60…or even 600.

I gave them all I had…my very best. And as a result – would you believe it? – one of those six (1 of 6!) invited me to his organization and offered me a project that turned into a multi-year engagement. It was the most significant financial transaction of my first year in business, by far.

It happened because I took the risk of showing up and because I took the risk of playing big.

I was inspired to share this story after watching this short, sweet and totally compelling talk by Tina Seelig. In the spirit of small risks and big luck, I hope you’ll take 10 minutes to check it out.

DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.