Increasing Your Luck Surface Area

As Pasteur said, "Luck favors the prepared mind.''

A "luck surface area" is a powerful concept that implies you can directly influence the amount of luck you receive. It's a useful mental model for marketing and business in general, and one that many consultants can benefit from.

I came across this idea a few months ago during a conversation with a couple of friends, and they had no idea who was the first to coin that term. It seems like it came from this old blog post, from Jason Roberts.

Your luck surface area is all about serendipity - finding valuable or pleasant things that you did not look for. Creating your own luck. And Jason proposes a model anyone can use to purposely increase it.

L = D * T, where L is luck, D is doing and T is telling. This demonstrates clearly that the more you do and the more people you tell about it, the larger your Luck Surface Area will become.

For consultants, D ("doing") is a measure of your body of work and proof of expertise. You could increase this by creating unique and insightful content, documenting your process and methodologies, serving and satisfying clients.

T ("telling") is the number of people who are aware of D. You can increase by publishing and distributing your ideas, investing in promotion and advertising, connecting with more people and staying top of mind to your existing connections.

The reason why those two elements create luck is that, once people become aware of your expertise, some of them will take action to capture the value you create. But quite often it will be in a way you would never have predicted.

Maybe they'll want to hire you. Maybe they'll become an advocate and promote your ideas to their own audience. Maybe they'll want to become a partner or invest in your next initiative.

What we gain from understanding the concept of the luck surface area is that:

  • We can purposely affect and increase positive serendipity.
  • Without a body of work (D-doing), most initiatives to increase your visibility will likely underperform - you need to show value to attract people's interest. One can even argue that telling without doing could make you lose luck instead (D<0, so L<0), as people start to see you as a self-appointed thought leader with no real proof of expertise.
  • Without reach (T-telling), you don't have a group of people that's large enough to create serendipity. Most of those who are aware of what you do will not act on it. Still, many consultants continue to believe in the "build it and they will come" myth.

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