Every month I get to engage with some interesting people on an email list/group called Really Think, which is run by my friend Derek Flanzraich. Last month we talked about a number of topics including our thoughts on Color.com, what kind of apps we use each day and other tech/startup/business/productivity oriented things. But the topic I found most interesting was on “luck surface area”, which was suggested by the awesome Patrick Stockwell of Volta.
Would love to hear other people’s thoughts on the idea of increasing “luck surface area.” I’m not sure who coined this (TechZingLive’s Jason?), but without researching, what does this mean to you? What are some ways to increase your luck surface area and how can this be beneficial to your personal life and professional life?
The post that Patrick referred to was by Jason Roberts of the podcast TechZing called “Increasing the Surface Area of Luck“. In the post Roberts shares a big lesson he’s learned:
The amount of serendipity that will occur in your life, your Luck Surface Area, is directly proportional to the degree to which you do something you’re passionate about combined with the total number of people to whom this is effectively communicated. It’s a simple concept, but an extremely powerful one because what it implies is that you can directly control the amount of luck you receive. In other words, you make your own luck.
A few people on the thread argued that luck comes from working hard, doing a lot of stuff fast and being prepared. Others mentioned luck as making connections – connections of ideas or of people. I think they’re right. But those points aren’t really actionable. Here’s a more concrete answer to Patrick’s question:
Building a personal blog is one of the most powerful and tangible ways to increase your Luck Surface Area
Being in the right place and being exposed to the right ideas / people / opportunities is what gives people their “lucky break”. If you want to be an actor, you’re not going to get a lucky break in Atlanta hanging out with small business owners. It just doesn’t work like that. Location matters. Context matters.
Writing a blog puts you on the internet, where anyone can find you and engage with your ideas and your experiences – even if you’re sleeping! Growing your readership is a scaleable way to interact with people. If you’ve got goals you want to achieve, building a blog can help you connect with the people and opportunities you’ll need to become successful.
Lingbo Li, a web designer (Sauced Media) and Harvard senior, shares my sentiments and adds some thoughts about meeting new people in general. Here’s what she said in the Really Think email thread in response:
Agree with Jason the blog front – nothing, nothing has been as luck-producing as writing a blog. (Which reminds me, I should update it…) I’ve met so many people through it and been offered opportunities I could have never predicted in a million years.
I think a large component of luck has been accepting the bad that comes with the good. Placing myself in unlikely or risky situations inevitably means you meet some bad apples, get ripped off, get lost, waste time with unproductive meetings, etc. Having a public blog has won me a deranged cyberstalker or two, for example.
I randomly strike up conversations when I can. And I always accept opportunities to be introduced to a like-minded person. While this seems obvious, I’ve noticed that a lot of friends don’t care for general introductions, or are scared of not knowing what to say to a stranger. But the more I embrace awkwardness, I’ve found, the more luck I’ve had.
This attitude is great and very much reminicent of rejection therapy. You’ve got to put yourself out there – both online and in person to get lucky. Meeting people person can be very powerful, but it takes time, effort and money and generally results in 1:1 (maybe up to a 1:5) effort to reward ratio. You get what you put into it. Writing a blog starts off at a 1:0 ratio but can grow to a 1:10, 1:100 even a 1:1000 effort reward ratio as you build up a real personal asset for yourself.
One very small example of this is that I met a guy named Jeff Bajayo via him tweeting my blog posts. I looked into what he was doing, thought it was cool, and interviewed him. Later on he came to LAUNCH and stayed at my apartment. I met a bunch of interesting people through him and I’m sure our relationship will continue to provide valuable and interesting experiences for the both of us.
The thing is – he lives in NYC and is a high school senior. There’s no way I would have ever run into him and vice-versa if I did not have a blog!
Last datapoint – my coworker and buddy Ryan Hupfer has been keeping a blog with his then-girlfriend, now-wife for 3 years at HupandSteph.com. Ryan is the guy who convinced me to start blogging again in the first place and I’m so glad he did. As I mentioned in my post “Who Did You Learn From in 2010?“, Ryan was able to land an apartment in Palo Alto that had a number of buyers at the open house because he sent an email to owner and said basically “Hey – I know we didn’t talk much but we’re great folks. We love BBQ’s (link to bbq video) and going for hikes (link to post on hiking) and we’re just decent folks (link to family post).”
That’s another small but powerful example of how blogging can help you “get lucky”.
So yeah – if you want to increase your life’s luck surface area, start a personal blog. Just write about things you’re interested in and share it with people. I guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.
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