Why are some of us often Unlucky?

I have often heard people say, “you have to be at the right place, at the right time to be successful”. I am not sure how anyone can plan for that. If this statement is true, then each one of us has to be plain lucky to be successful. Let me share a few thoughts from my life.

When I joined a startup venture coming up with “internet parlours” in Bangalore 16 years back, my friends & family thought I was nuts. It turned true, as the company went bust in 6 months and I had to join Unilever soon after. It was my first experience with a startup and I had 2.5% equity in that company, estimated value of Rs. 2.5 Crores then. Well, when the company sank, the equity was akin to tissue paper. Now I can say I was plain unlucky. If the company had clicked and if the value of my equity had gone up to Rs. 25 crores, people would have said you were damn lucky. The same friends & family who thought I was nuts, would say “what a wise decision you made to join an early stage startup.”

What is the point I am trying to make here? We often do not take responsibility for the choices we make by using alibis like lucky, unlucky etc. It is the time we as individuals own up the choices we make, which enables us to win or at times fail in life. While at Unilever, for many years I argued in my head that since I was not an alumni from XLRI or TISS, I did not grow as fast as my other more accomplished colleagues. I complained that there was an Institute bias in the company (which may have been true) etc. etc. However, once I started looking within and asking myself a key question, what choices am I making? Do I want to complain or do I want to address the perceived skill gap, if it exists? When I chose the latter, which is focusing on the perceived skill gap, my focus shifted to improving myself vs. worrying about the environmental factors around me. I was able to grow well in my career over the next 10 years, not due to luck but driven by my choice — to focus on developing my skills & attitude vs. complaining about extraneous factors around me.

It is possible that good or bad luck exists in some form. However, I believe most of what happens to us is not external to us, but is internal to us and is driven by the choices we make every day, every moment of our life… deep in our mind.

PGC is a boutique Management Consulting firm engaged in the business of enabling its clients to transform their Org, Culture & Capabilities.