Opportunity + Hard Work = Good Luck
I had to clear a day in my schedule this week. There was a death in my partner’s family and attending the services requires a short road trip. So I did what we all do, pragmatically looked at my schedule and figured out how much of a logistical nightmare it would be to clear the day. To my relief, the day was full of long-time clients who are totally cool. I knew I would be able to reschedule them all quickly and with no griping. And I thought, “That’s some good luck right there.”
Of course, it wasn’t luck at all.
A client told me about the Opportunity + Hard Work = Good Luck equation years ago and it stuck with me.
I’ve worked really hard for a long time to build a business full of great clients. I very rarely cancel or move appointments, so when it does happen, client are extremely understanding. They aren't annoyed because they still remember that time I canceled because I got concert tickets, or some shenanigans like that. That doesn’t happen in my world, so forgiveness comes fast when I do screw up my schedule or need to make a change in an emergency.
It’s very easy to attribute success to ‘luck’. I catch myself all the time. I catch other people when they suggest that my success comes from ‘luck’. That annoys me. It’s also easy to blame ‘luck’ when things don’t go our way. But both are a cop out, and both ultimately hurt us. We either sell ourselves short, or we let things slide. Neither is a good way to run a business.
What exactly is ‘hard work’? I would argue that it’s THE work.
Hard work is consistency and commitment. In your finances and business practices. In marketing. In the level of customer service you provide in and out of the massage room and every interaction a person has with your business. In the evolution and expansion of your hands-on skills. In building a community of colleagues and referral partners.
Hard work is homing in on your expertise, articulating your services well, a professional approach to record keeping and finances and finally, having a safety net for the inevitable bumps in the road.
Hard work is dressing ‘up’ at the right times, so you look extra professional and make a good impression when you bump into the business loan officer at a networking event. Hard work is learning your money software and basic business terms so you can hold a decent conversation with that loan officer. And it’s pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to even get to that event.
Hard work is all the ‘stuff’ that makes it possible for you to grasp and excel at the opportunities that come your way. Hard work is the details, the nurturing of relationships, the very foundation supporting a full and thriving massage business.
What is ‘opportunity’? It’s all those times when helpful business situations present themselves. When you are thinking of expanding your oncology massage work and a client’s sister becomes the chairperson for the local Relay for Life.
Opportunity is when you’re at a networking event and you end up sitting next to the president of the running club.
Or when you get offered a chair massage job at the last minute. You can’t do it, but you have a trustworthy referral partner who can. You get to be the hero to the client and the colleague who could use the work.
Or when you join an online networking group, and hey! There’s that special needs dance teacher you met awhile back, but never followed up with (because you weren’t always good at the hard work) and you’re ready and excited to collaborate and cross refer to benefit your clients.
You know where this is going. I think that we make your own luck. We make our businesses by doing the hard work, by being ready for the opportunities that come about from that hard work. By knowing which opportunities are right for us.
For me, it was hugely valuable to hear this Opportunity + Hard Work = Good Luck equation. It helped me take control of my business, be proactive, and stop waiting for a big break. It helped me see that success wasn’t about getting one great client who referred all their friends, it was about being a committed business owner and laying a strong foundation.
Conversely, it’s important to recognize that opportunities can be limited due to economic factors, family situation, race, gender, orientation and religion (among so many other factors).
There are plenty of hard-working business owners who may not get the same opportunities that I (a white, suburban, child-free, single lady) have. It’s easy to brush off other people’s lack of success as “They just didn’t work hard enough,” and ignore the myriad of factors that impact our careers.
Caring for our families, an injury or illness, a financially devastating accident or divorce can derail even the hardest and smartest of workers. A racist, homophobic or sexist boss or teacher can wreck a career before it starts. Sometimes we fail because it takes a long time to get good at hard work, or didn’t have enough time to lay a foundation before calamity hit.
Captain Picard said it best,
Be mindful of this when you’re evaluating your own successes and failures, and also when you are helping others.
I won’t say that it’s anyone’s responsibility to build anyone else’s business. It’s not. You get to decide who you help, and how you help. (For me, I make it a point to welcome and mentor male practitioners and parents who are business owners.) But if you are successful, consider how you can help other businesses succeed, too.