Success Pillars - a life journey foundation

Updated: May 9

Our adaptability transforms preparation into opportunity, our pursuit energy drives our success.

“Luck is where preparation and opportunity meet.”

This is an aphorism by the Roman senator and Stoic philosopher Seneca. It is one of my favorite aphorisms. I have seen it play out in many contexts, over time, for me and for others. I agree with the aphorism, but I also believe it is incomplete. Luck has an element of pursuit energy that goes beyond preparation and opportunity.


(Please note, if you would like to watch this talk, please see video at the bottom of this article)


That is, one may prepare by study, by practice, and by involvement with those in similar fields. Preparation often involves technical skills development and the building of leadership and management abilities to leverage those skills. Preparation is an endogenous factor, generated by self or as part of a similarly focused team.



Opportunity exists in many forms and fashions. Opportunities may have obvious connections to your preparation or may appear as more tangential to your preparation. Opportunities may come very quickly or may lay in waiting. Opportunity is generally related to one or many contexts, like business, science, government, technology, etc. Opportunity recognition is a key attribute, as opportunities are not always obvious and the less obvious opportunities may be more valuable. Opportunity is an exogenous factor, generated by the environment.


A necessary additional element is personal energy to pursue the opportunity. This is the needed energy to transition the preparation and opportunity building blocks to a successful outcome for you. Some of the actions include 1) analyzing your preparation alignment with the opportunity and 2) adapting your preparation alignment to capture the opportunity. More specifically, the pursuit actions may include learning more about the opportunity; learning from those that understand the opportunity; and networking with those that act as gatekeepers to the opportunity. Opportunity pursuit may involve the personal sacrifice of time, talent, and treasure. Opportunity pursuit involves risk, the risk your sacrifice is not immediately rewarded or that the opportunity changes in unexpected ways.


One must understand, the opportunity will not find you, you need to find and drive the opportunity!


An example could be a new college graduate looking for a job. The preparation is the college education and previous work experience. The opportunities are company job listings. Now, a healthy dose of personal pursuit energy is needed. Remember, no one is going to make this happen for you, you need to drive the opportunity. Some of the pursuit activities include:

  • tailoring the resume,

  • performing network searches for people who know related opportunity people,

  • arranging informational interviews with the network,

  • attending networking events,

  • engaging with recruiters,

  • networking with hiring managers, and

  • selling oneself on social media. It may include

  • undertaking relevant certification training,

it could be many other activities.


I'm sure it did not go unnoticed, especially since the words are bolded.... All these activity descriptions all use action verbs. The point is, other than preparation and opportunity, luck also requires energetic pursuit!


So perhaps, an update to the aphorism could be:

Luck is where preparation and opportunity meet with energetic pursuit.

I like Tina Seelig's perspective on luck and bringing entrepreneurial energy. She said preparing for luck relates to the wind. The winds of luck are constantly blowing. The wind can be erratic and unpredictable, blowing hard, light, or in unexpected ways. The idea is to build as big a sail as possible to catch the winds of luck.


Here are Dr. Seelig’s three ideas for building a big sail:

  • Take risks / get out of your comfort zone

  • Show appreciation

  • Be open to new ideas and possibilities

Tina Seelig is an Entrepreneurship professor at Stanford University.


Adaptability

A close cousin to luck is adaptability. Adaptability is the lubricating grease between preparation and opportunities. Your ability to adapt your preparation to current and anticipated opportunities is important to luck realization.


Natalie Fratto provides some evaluation points to understand your own adaptability:

  • Do you regularly ask “what if” questions? - this indicates how comfortable you are stimulating counterfactual thinking.

  • How flexible are you with active unlearning? - this indicates your ability to quickly error correct.

  • Are you an explorer? - this indicates whether you prioritize exploration (testing) v exploitation (harvesting).

Natalie Fratto is a Venture Capitalist and evaluates business investments based on the adaptability of their owners and operators


Case Study

A great example of luck and adaptability is the Netflix and Blockbuster video market competition in the early 2000s. Blockbuster was the dominant movie rental business. (Blockbuster’s revenue peaked in 2004 and they filed for bankruptcy in 2010) Netflix was a small upstart that saw an opportunity to adapt how the industry provides movies. The adaptation was from in-store DVD rentals to mail and ultimately to streaming movie delivery. Blockbuster was unable to adapt, even though they had incredible preparation as a giant in the business and they could presumably see the opportunity given technology momentum. (mail was certainly not a new technology and streaming existed at the time, as necessary bandwidth challenges were being solved.)


The real difference is, Netflix was adaptable and was able to apply focused pursuit energy:

  1. Netflix asked the “what if” questions regarding movie delivery. They believed people wanted more convenience of home delivery (whether mail or streaming),

  2. Netflix was willing to unlearn the current movie delivery model, though, one could argue they didn’t have much to unlearn at the time. Whereas, Blockbuster was unable to unlearn its movie delivery model. They had substantial investment (i.e., inertia) in their bricks and mortar delivery model.

  3. Blockbuster was exploiting their market dominance, with little energy given to testing. This was an enabling factor for Netflix’s opportunity to explore and pursue the new movie delivery channels.

Ironically, it would seem Blockbuster did not even realize it was in competition with Netflix until it was too late.

"Neither RedBox nor Netflix are even on the radar screen in terms of competition,"

- Blockbuster CEO Jim Keyes, 2008 interview with the Motley Fool


We all know how this turned out, Blockbuster went bankrupt and Netflix has since become one of the most dominant media companies in history. Netflix demonstrated luck, with pursuit energy, and adaptability!


Please see my article on scale and resilience and Wayne Gretzky and creative-divergent thinking for more information.


 


 

Further Reading:



Foundation

1. Our Brain Model

2. Changing Our Mind

3. The Education of a Sport’s Parent - Top Ten suggestions for developing the athlete’s mindset


High School Students

4. The benefits and risks of college – An employer's and risk manager's perspective

5. The College Decision: Framework and tools for investing in your future

6. The College Stoic: The Stoic's Arbitrage and making a great college decision

7. Be like Rudy: Community College as a smart, lower-cost path for Higher Ed


College Students

8. Shattering the Teacup Label: Honing Adulting Competencies and Building Resilience

9. How to make money in Student Lending

10. College Success!

11. Diamonds In The Rough – A perspective on making high impact college hires

12. Higher Education Reimagined


Career and Beyond

13. Do I need to be a data scientist in an AI-enabled world?

14. Success Pillars - a life journey foundation

15. They kept asking about what I wanted to do with my life, but what if I don't know? - Part 1

16. They kept asking about what I wanted to do with my life, but what if I don't know? - Part 2


 

The Stoic's Arbitrage: Your Personal Finance Journey Guide


Core Concepts

1. Our Brain Model

2. Curiosity Exploration - An evolutionary approach to lifelong learning

3. Changing Our Mind

4. Information curation in a world drowning in data noise


Making the money!

5. Career choices - They kept asking about what I wanted to do with my life, but what if I don't know? - Part 1

6. Career choices - They kept asking about what I wanted to do with my life, but what if I don't know? - Part 2

7. Career success - Success Pillars - A Life Journey Foundation

8. Career choices - Do I need to be a Data Scientist in an AI-enabled world?

9. Career choices - Diamonds In The Rough - A perspective on making high impact college hires


Spending the money!

10. Budgeting - Budgeting like a stoic

11. Home Buying - Homeownership is an important wealth-building platform

12. Car Buying - Cutting through complexity: A car buying approach

13. College choice - The College Decision - Framework and tools for investing in your future

14. College choice - College Success!

15. College choice - How to make money in Student Lending

16. Event spending - Wedding and event planning guiding principle


Investing the money!

17. Investment thoughts for my children

18. Our Investment Barbell Strategy

19. Using the Stoic's Arbitrage to choose a great investment advisor

10. Anatomy of a "pump and dump" scheme

21. The Time Value of Money Benefits the Young

22. How Would You Short The Internet?


Pulling it together!

23. Capstone - The Stoic’s Arbitrage: A survival guide for modern consumer finance products

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