photo by Scott Kelby
photo by Scott Kelby

The Secret of Being Lucky

Last time I wrote a guest spot for the blog a couple years back, I had fun giving folks a peek behind the scenes to meet the Photoshop Guys from a different perspective, so when Brad asked me to write up a guest blog post for Scott’s blog, I asked him what he wanted me to write about. He said, “Whatever you want.” Since I have my own blog, I already have an outlet for writing about stuff that interests me, like small business, marketing, freelancing, photography (from a budget-minded perspective) plus some gadget stuff. So I asked Brad once again, “Do you think I should write about one of those topic areas.” True to his job of not influencing the topic, Brad offered no help. I was on my own. Now, when I consider the guest blogs I enjoy reading the most, I really like the ones that inspire me. The brilliant photographers sharing insights and images.

My portfolio pales in comparison, so I won’t be inspiring you with images. Instead, I want to talk about something I have experienced myself dozens of times over the years and one of my favorite insights I’ve written about on my blog. (But I’ll still share some of my images anyway.)

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Some people believe in luck. More precisely, they believe that your thought processes alone can create luck. (There may be “pure” luck in very rare circumstances, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.) They suggest that if you wish for something hard enough… if you just imagine that it really will happen and you even live your life as though you expect this lucky thing will definitely happen, then almost magically, through the ‘Law of Attraction’ you will receive the great things you’ve wished for. There was a book and a movie all about this philosophy a few years back called “The Secret,” and it was a best seller and a huge hit. Oprah raved about it! — I just happen to think the entire premise is misleading at best.

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely believe in luck and good fortune. But I don’t believe the ‘Law of Attraction’ works in isolation from preparation and work (usually hard work). You have to get off your butt and do something. You have to be prepared for “luck.” Sure, I believe that your strong desire for something to happen can certainly help clear the path for your wishes or dreams to come true, but the philosophy offered in The Secret is only half of the formula and it’s the easy, compelling half. It sells a lot of books if you just tell people that, all you have to do to be rich or successful or find your soul mate is to simply wish for it the right way, and wish really hard. Unfortunately you never hear about the other half of the formula. The part where people have to work hard to be ready for opportunities that present themselves. Having the right mindset surely helps, but preparation is critical too. I’ll give you a real-world example.

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As NAPP’s Executive Director, I receive emails from all kinds of folks and one in particular caught my attention. It was from somebody who was obviously frustrated. In a nutshell his email said, ‘Stop sending me emails about all kinds of stuff I can’t afford.’ Rather than just ignoring the note or simply taking the guy off our email list, I decided to email back and see what I could find out. I asked him what specifically were we sending him and what would he like us to stop sending. His reply revealed the source of his frustration. He had been laid off from a Fortune 100 company after 20 years and his hobby of photography had suddenly become his only source of income, and we were sending him monthly reminders about the upcoming Photoshop World convention which was out of his budget range. I replied that I was sorry to hear about his job loss and I certainly understood the budget thing, but I told him about a great opportunity. (For the record, I thought this was a real stroke of luck for this person but I’m careful about mentioning luck to people who are recently unemployed.) I told him that one of our goals at Photoshop World is to get lots of people to come to the trade show, so we have no fewer than three full-size training stages with classes that run all day long and, while you can’t see all the classes paid attendees can, the classes on the show floor are really worthwhile and you can get into the trade show for free for two of the three days if you just sign up online. And Photoshop World was in this guy’s home town so he only had to drive there. No travel expenses. What’s more, my heart went out to this guy because of his job, so I invited him to come to the trade show on the attendees-only day as my personal guest. — He replied that, ‘I’ve been to those kinds of things before and I never get my questions answered. No thanks.’

It struck me that, in spite of his recent job loss, this guy had all kinds of “luck” available. Our biggest annual convention was in his town so he didn’t have to pay to travel. There are two days of really great classes free to the public on the trade show floor, and he even got a pass for the third day. Classes and vendors all having to do with his newly chosen profession. Seems pretty lucky to me. I guess he just wasn’t in the right state of mind for a lucky break.

At that very same Photoshop World I met a young man who had traveled from Iran to attend, so he could meet his Photoshop training heroes and photography heroes. He was absolutely thrilled to be there and I heard a bit of the story behind what it took him to get to the US (he speaks quite good English). Apparently just about everybody who goes to the US State Department office in Iran gets their visa application rejected almost immediately. But this guy was so passionate about his photography and he just really wanted to go to Photoshop World. He has all of Scott’s, Matt’s and Dave Cross’s books and since they’re not sold in Iran, he had to get them from an uncle in Italy. And when he went to the State Department to present his request and go through the interview, he pulled out his portfolio and went through it and talked all about Photoshop training (he’s a Photoshop trainer in Iran) and photography and he even talked about how cool NAPP is. Turns out the State Department official had heard of NAPP and knew what he was talking about and knew he was serious about Photoshop and photography. His visa was granted. It sure was lucky that the State Department official was a bit of a photo enthusiast and knew about NAPP.

No matter what your goals are personally and professionally, there will usually be some collection of “lucky breaks” that help you accomplish goals or realize dreams, but if you aren’t ready for the lucky breaks or if you’re not open to them, then it will just seem like it’s the other guys who have all the luck. And I’m pretty sure that just wishing really hard won’t get the job done.

If you have a goal: dream about it… hope and pray for it… then go to work on making it happen!

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51 Comments

  1. Thanks Larry! I’m a firm believer in the quote by Thomas Jefferson: “I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” ;-)

  2. is it luck or just being able to recognize opportunity when it presents itself?

    good read Larry.
    Reminds me to keep an eye out for those “lucky” moments

  3. Hey Larry,
    You are absolutely dead-on right about this philosophy of making your own luck. Not everything turns out the way we want it, but more stuff does when you put your desires into actions. I’m proof of it because instead of always telling myself that my goals are out of reach (which i used to do), I’m getting booked with agencies I thought would never even talk to me. You always answer my emails, so I can vouch for your attention to us NAPP members. Thanks for the insightful post, and for always being a genuinely helpful guy. My hats’ off to ya. ;-)

  4. Very interesting post and stories. I guess the first guy was pretty depressed and couldn’t see that anything he did was going to make a difference. I’m sure we’ve all been there at some time or another, but to turn down your offer does appear to be very surprising indeed.

    I’m English, but live in Germany, so about the only thing I can afford to go to (I’m a newly-turned pro, still trying to make enough cash to get by), is Photokina in Cologne, which is held once every two years. It’s one of the biggest rade shows in Europe, but doesn’t offer half of what Photoshop World does and a lot of it is in German, which I really don’t yet speak well at all.

    I’d have bitten your hand off!

  5. Great post Larry!
    Very motivational and so true. Luck is “Laboring Under Correct Knowledge” If you got the luck it’s because you have kept your mind open and searched for the knowledge. NAPP and Photoshop World produces so many “Lucky” moments. It’s a shame the first guy didn’t take you up on your kind offer. As for our “buddy” in Iran, he’s a huge fan of your’s and NAPP for all you have done for him.

    Thanks again for the motivational post and your blog. Your blog has always been on my weekly must read list!

  6. Spot on Larry!
    You know there are 2 things about this blog: 1. Like Leanardo said in Titanic “I believe we make our own luck, living for the day” and 2. When you work with the public there will always be that one customer you just can’t satisfy and they just need to go elsewhere. Good luck comes from hard determination.

  7. Larry you’re my new hero! Great guest post!

    I hope the first guy doesn’t get ticked off you mentioned him in your story.

    -Bob

    • Bob,

      I didn’t mention any names, and I didn’t do it to embarrass him either. I think I’m safe. I mentioned his story to make the point that some folks just don’t recognize opportunities for one reason or another, and his reason was probably because of his state of mind.

      I know in my past I’ve probably passed up all kinds of great opportunities myself because of MY state of mind or lack of confidence at the time (and I might miss things again in the future). And I know that hearing stories like these has helped me to be more open to possibilities. THAT’s what I hope I can do for somebody reading today.

  8. Larry,
    Great post! I couldn’t have said it better myself! Luck is out there for all to have. You have to create the right situation for it to find you!
    Thanks for posting! Have a great day!

  9. Hi Larry, that for sharing the story.

    Whilst luck is sometimes uncontrollable (things can happen outside our sphere of influence), I’d said a lot of the time “luck” = opportunities which are presented to us that may (in part) be due to our efforts or actions. The guy in your story had a spot of luck – you contacted him and presented him with a great opportunity (which I personally wouldn’t have turned down, though getting from here in the UK to PSW in the States would’ve been a problem ;-)). However what he didn’t do (for whatever personal reasons) was to embrace that fortunate opportunity and therefore see it as lucky for him.

    I guess sometimes you only know how lucky you’ve been with the grace of hindsight.

    PS Loving your “cheap shots” slot on D-Town

  10. Nice one Larry. A few years ago I changed career direction, and now work for a small publishing company where I get to take pictures and write for a living. Reading your post – especially the part about the man who turned down your offer – reminded me of what I was like when I first considered trying to make money out of my photographic hobby. I was up for anything photography related and would have hammering at Photoshop World’s door every morning to see what I could learn inside. It was like having a photography demon in my brain forever demanding more information, more experience. There was almost a fear of letting any photographic opportunity pass. However the post has highlighted of another danger to being ready for those ‘lucky moments’. Complacency. Now that the assignments are handed to me on a regular basis I have got a bit comfortable with my photographic life. The photographic demon that drove me here is apparently being satisfied with my work photography. Your post has reminded me of the need to keep your mind open and alert not only when things are going badly, but also when things are going well. I’m off to poke that demon back to life, and get ready to catch some of those ‘lucky’ moments I suspect I have missed in the recent past.
    Cheers!

  11. Great post Larry

    I had a Psychology professor who said “Our perception of things is our reality. If I perceive it to be so it is so and nothing you can do will change MY perception.” The guy you speak of was in the perception that life was difficult for him and that this event was not going to help him. I suspect that even if you had picked him up and taken him there he would not have benefited. He had to get his “reality” changed before he was ready to find his “luck.”

    Thanks for your insightful thoughts.

    Regards,
    Upde

  12. Great post – thanks for sharing your thoughts. DavidduChemin had also interestings thoughts on beginnings which might add to the conversation – heres the link: http://www.pixelatedimage.com/blog/2010/05/begin/

  13. Having started my photography business just a year ago…what a ride…and still trying to figure out what the heck I’m doing…or trying to do, I fully subscribe to the “luck” phenomenon.
    I could list at least a dozen things that fell in my favor out of the clear blue. Some were critical to my staying in business and they happened in no part due to me. I could not even see them when they happened but in retrospect they were critical.
    For me it’s a mindset thing…combined with hard work…I have to be able and willing to go with the flow and believe things will work out…and they do.
    Force fittting everything through sheer might is not an effective strategy for me.

  14. Larry

    Great post. As someone who has met you and all the rest of the great people behind NAPP, I can say take them up on ANY offers they give you. The people of NAPP are the nicest people in the world and we thrive as a community because of it. I have been in guy number 1’s state of mind before but, I always try to see through the frustration.

    See you and the rest of the crew in Vegas!!!

    Jeff

  15. Larry,

    Great post that really does re-iterate we need to make the most of the opportunities available to us; not to mention sometimes you have to make your own luck.

    The first guy you mentioned really missed a trick IMO, you offered him not only a ticket but also the chance to perhaps build his business connections and get himself setup as a photography business.

    What’s your blog by the way?

    Scott

  16. Hi Larry, Great post!

    I don’t believe in luck myself. I believe it’s the gift to discern the situation and take advantage of it. Example. A co-worker, knowing my love of photography, ask me to do her wedding photos. I’m just a good amateur photographer with NAPP training under my belt. I did agree, and she showed everyone at work her photos, and told them I had done them. The office manager then came to me wanting to see some landscape photos of Colorado, so I showed him my NAPP portfolio and other photos. He said, hey we are looking for some more photos for the office. So, I jumped right on it and to make a long story short sold them 10 photos. Employee’s noticing my photos wanted some … I think you know where this is going. So through word of mouth, I’m doing family portraits and weddings for strangers. So I’m a firm believer in discerning the opportunity and acting on it. I certainly would have jumped on your invitation! :-)

    Thanks again Larry! By the way, your photos are GREAT!

    Dennis

  17. Great post Larry…..I also believe luck is only a small fraction of the process. Hard work, planning, and attention to the details will prevail in the end.

  18. Larry, this is one of my favorite quotes. ” The more I practice, the luckier I get.”-Unknown

  19. Hey Larry,

    Thanks! I appreciated your post.

  20. Luck is where opportunity meets preparation… Oprah

    one of my favorite quotes!

  21. “Luck” and patience go hand in hand. What a lucky shot…no how about I sat there for two hours and waited for the opportunity. The world is full of opportunities that people either cast aside or step over on the way to that next bigger thing. Sometimes it’s the person with calm center who waits for life to present itself and knows when to act ….that becomes the next big success! Patience. people. patience! Thanks for the article very inspiring!

  22. Another great post Larry and some very true stuff. I’m not a believer in luck in the mystical or cosmic sense. My favorite acronym for LUCK is Location, Understanding, Connections and Knowledge. Combine all four of these items together and with drive and determination, one’s dreams can indeed be realized. Just my 2 cents. :-)

  23. One of my favorite quotes this brings to mind (at least my version of the quote):

    Pray like it all depends on God
    Work like it all depends on you.

  24. Nice read! So true.

  25. Larry, what a pleasure and a rarity it is (these days) to “luckily” stumble upon an editorial piece with such a timely, inspirational message. Your on-target insight and heartfelt, grounded compassion along with the awesome reader comments has really boosted my day. Thank you all.

    With regard to the individual you spoke of, we all occasionally fail to see the forest–not for the trees–but for the pain and anguish from life’s surprises that time has not yet healed. I suffered a similar fate when my telecom employer went belly up and, for a time, I was so disoriented I couldn’t function. But with encouragement from family, friends, and even total strangers I eventually became bigger that that pain and am now on the road to recovery with the prospect of a new career in photography. Your article has poked me where it hurts and has reminded me of the debt I have not yet repaid.

    Thanks, again.

    P.S. Sure would be nice to schedule a PSW conference between the coasts (hint, hint, Dallas) $$$

  26. Larry, I couldn’t agree with you more as I share the same thoughts regarding the general public view of the kind of instant success that “The Secret” offers or promises. Many debates with friends about this one.
    Thanks for making it so clear that without hard work and preparation, no dream will become reality on the merit of personal philosophy alone.
    Rest assure that your blog will hit some home runs!

    RL

  27. Larry,

    The fact that you took the time to write back to the guy and address his concerns is a testament to the kind of people you guys have at NAPP.

    Joe

  28. Great, thought-provoking post, Larry.

    I think one of the keys to getting over the “I don’t want to hear about things I can’t afford” mentality is to realize that we don’t deserve any of it, and be thankful for what we’ve got. It doesn’t mean you don’t want more, but the goal is to be content. I was able to upgrade to an amazing full-frame camera last summer. Can I afford new lenses for it? No. I’m sure thankful for the camera, though.

    In addition, however, we need to embrace the opportunities, like the one you presented that was declined.

    I have a friend trying to raise the money to attend a blog conference later this year. One of her expenses was a rental car. She contacted a major manufacturer, and they are loaning her a vehicle for the trip. She didn’t just sit and wonder, she asked. Another friend said, “Sometimes the gift that God wants to give you is in another pair of hands. The leading to ask is there—you just have to follow it.”

    I have seen in life (and blogging) that there are a lot of opportunities that you can make for yourself, if you just ask. It isn’t always easy or comfortable, but you won’t have to wonder what might have happened if you’d tried.

  29. I’m a recent beneficiary of not only a photographically fortuitous occurrence, but it also happened at just the right time after talking with just the right person. When I’m that lucky, I can’t help feeling blessed.

    I think kind of upbeat story sharing is also just generally good for morale. Thanks for a great guest blog.

  30. Great post. Lot of things to think about from this post. I do not think there is anything called luck, it’s a name tag that we have given to a situation, a thing, or a good information that we land upto knowingly cause as humans we feels things are never going to go good for us and we believe somethings will never happen. When those things happens we tag them as luck. I feel this is very true. Even if I am saying this, tomorrow I might say, hey am lucky got a ticket to that show… :) when actually I would have waited for hours in the line, in the hot and sweaty summer day.

    I completely agree with your mention of the hard work. No other option for that.

  31. Larry, Thanks for a great post. It is so true that sometimes we need to recognize and then take the opportunities that come our way if we want our luck to change.

  32. Hi Larry,
    I just got back from my first trip to Yellowstone National Park with a biology professor at my college for a class. Of course I took my camera and took loads of pictures. I watched Moose’s landscape and wildlife photography on Kelby Training first. That and going cruising with him, Laurie Excel, Matt & Dave almost 2 years ago taught me a great deal about composition, camera settings, blinkies and much more. I have also signed up for the photo safari with Moose & Joe on August 31. Since it’s already sold out, I suppose I’m lucky to have a spot.
    I rediscovered photography about 4 or 5 years ago. Went to my first NAPP seminar in Arlington Tx taught by Ben Wilmore. Since then, I compare my work to all those mentioned above along with you & Scott. Folks tell me that I am pretty good. I feel I suck but I’m getting much better.
    Back to the Yellowstone trip. I shot a lot of images during 4 1/2 days of hiking and driving through this park and Grand Teton National park. The percentage of images that I call good is so much more than any I ever took before.
    You are right. I’m making my luck by emersing myself in photography and photoshop training. Hopefully some day I too can make a real difference in the world of photography.
    NAPP, its staff, and all of the folks behind the scenes has helped me in this venture.

    Thanks Larry and I’ll see you in Vegas Baby!!
    Bucket Man Mike

  33. Great Post “Lucky Larry”!
    Couldn’t have said it better myself!

  34. Great post, very insightful. Too bad the fellow didn’t realize he may not have all the questions he needed answered in sight, missed a great opportunity.

    Also, David Cuerdon, I got your “Beaty Kit” as a promo for renewing early to NAAP, it was really wonderful and very generous of you to to pass on such great info. I am not a fashion photog, but when I need to touch up a face, eyes, etc., it’s fabulous.

  35. Larry,
    This was a guest blog that really made me think about how I approach photography and life in general. Luck to me is being ready for the moment and being aware when it’s here; NAPP helps me be ready, but the next part is all on me.

    I liked your photos; thanks for including them.

  36. Thanks for that, Larry… Some very useful thoughts at just the right time. Stay ‘lucky’!

  37. Excellent post, thanks Larry.

  38. Larry,

    Great post. I fully believe in this!!! Thanks for sharing looking forward to hearing more in the future. Luck is what you make of opportunities that stare you in the face.

    Dave Alton

  39. “Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely believe in luck and good fortune. But I don’t believe the ‘Law of Attraction’ works in isolation from preparation and work (usually hard work). ”

    Thank you thank you thank you. I had a heated “discussion” with my girlfriend over The Secret and couldn’t quite get my point across to her that wishing and believing were NOT the only factors…this statement hits the nail right on the head. Now I got the right comeback. :)

  40. ‘I’ve been to those kinds of things before and I never get my questions answered. No thanks.’

    I hate to pile on but it sounds like a guy that needs some better questions. The luckiest people I know always seem to lead with, “what can I do for you?” There sure seem to be a lot of lucky people working for NAPP. Thanks for that!

  41. Thank you so much for such an inspiring message! I too have recently lost my job (I am a dental hygienist) and have been trying to decide if I should go back to school for photograpghy. I had 2 years of college studying photography, however my parents had different plans for me. (Hence I went into the health feild and became a R.D.H.) I am trying to find the path that god has planed for me, and I have been helping a photographer on weekends for weddings. Its been great, and i hope to find my calling soon. Thank you again! Amber

  42. GREAT POST LARRY! I haven’t visited this blog in a while, and I just had to pop in and comment. Hope to see you all in September :)

  43. Larry, you a great guy !!
    Cool photos too !!

  44. A friend posted this on Buzz/Facebook/Twitter/Whatever a while ago and it struck me as very true and it seems very relevant to your post so thought I’d share.
    Not so much as “law of attraction” which strikes me as just traditional luck/fate – but a way of making things happen and getting the most out of them.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/3304496/Be-lucky-its-an-easy-skill-to-learn.html

    I’ve since received the book (my family work off amazon wish list for gifts ;) but not read it yet.

  45. So true! I have always said that winning the lottery wasn’t “my kind of luck” but that if I ever needed something, if I looked around, it was usually there for the finding. But without the looking the finding wouldn’t happen.

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