Sure, Work Hard, But Also Create Your Own Luck

Some things are just beyond our control, but there are things we can do every day to tip the odds in our favor.

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By Stephen Key

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I used to think that I could achieve success simply by working harder than the next guy -- not necessarily smarter, mind you, but harder. I would wake up earlier and go to bed late. I would work on the weekends.

This belief stemmed from my success as a high school athlete. When my competitors called it a day, I kept on pushing. And you know what? It worked! My skills were average at best, but working harder than my competitors really did enable me to beat them. I was determined to be better, and I was. As a result, I thought winning was that simple.

For many years, I applied the same line of thinking to my professional career. To an extent, it worked. But I discovered that luck was also extremely important to achieving success. Hard work and determination will only take you so far.

Related: 4 Tips for Attracting That Bit of Luck Every Entrepreneur Needs

You don't have to let that reality depress you. Forget what you've heard: Luck doesn't just happen. I believe it is possible to create your own luck.

Of course, there are many events that will occur over the course of your career that you will have had nothing to do with -- you may benefit from them, or you may suffer from them. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try to set yourself up for opportunity at every turn.

Luck is about being in the right time and the right place. Here's how to make sure that you are:

1. Be positive. If you project positivity, people will flock to you. Successful people surround themselves with people who share their positive attitude. What does it mean to be positive, really? It means that you exude gratitude and are willing to share your knowledge and friendship with others. We have enough dark thoughts and insecurities on our own -- spending time with people who are negative only exacerbates them.

The more effort you put into cultivating professional relationships, the more opportunities will be presented to you. Others will turn to you with their problems, because they know you have a can-do attitude. Whereas others might see only frustrations, you'll be able to come up with a solution. People want to work with those that can provide solutions.

2. Listen more than you talk. If you listen closely to what people are saying, you will find opportunities that are ripe for solutions. The easiest way to figure out how to be more helpful -- and therefore, invaluable -- is to listen.

Related: Get Lucky Way More Often

3. Be helpful. Little jobs lead to big jobs. Big jobs lead to fabulous opportunities. If you help others be successful, they will never forget it.

People who are capable of seeing the "big picture" know that no task is too small or unimportant. On that note, make sure to give people full credit when credit is due. No one likes feeling undervalued! Doing so speaks volume about your character and integrity. I'm amazed at how much investing in other people has done for me.

4. Love yourself. This is a big one. If you love yourself, you won't be able to help loving others. Loving yourself means accepting your faults and giving yourself a break when you make a mistake. If you love yourself, it will be easier for you to put yourself out there in the face of rejection, whether that means pitching a new company or making new friends. You'll be able to knock on many more doors. Why shouldn't you be successful?

5. Open your mind. Most of us have a very narrow vision of what we think is possible, whether we realize it or not. Things are black or white, impossible or possible. You will miss out on opportunities if you have tunnel vision. It's hard, but you should try to keep your expectations at bay. Alternatively, focus on dreaming bigger. We all know the saying: If you shoot for the moon, even if you fail, you'll land among the stars.

You don't have to wait for luck to happen to you. Create your own luck by setting yourself up for opportunity to strike. Good luck!

Related: Incorporate These 5 Habits to Take Advantage of the 'Highly Improbable'

Stephen Key

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Co-Founder of inventRight; Author of One Simple Idea Series

Stephen Key is an inventor, IP strategist, author, speaker and co-founder of inventRight, LLC, a Glenbrook, Nevada-based company that helps inventors design, patent and license their ideas for new products.

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