Have you ever met someone who just seemed plain lucky?
Someone who, no matter what the stage of life just seemed to keep it all together?
Someone who, while maybe not the wealthiest person in the world, has always managed to be professionally successful?
Chances are you have. And I’ll let you in on their secret: luck doesn’t happen by accident. People who appear lucky have by and large worked hard to earn their luck.
As athletes know, you play how you practice. Larry Bird, Celtics great and widely considered one of the best shooters in NBA history, would shoot 300 practice jump shots before every game. His amazing in game abilities may have appeared to the casual fan as luck, but to those who knew him this was the direct result of studied repetition.
The concept of practicing seems natural in the world of competitive sports, but it gets a bit foggy when you try to apply it to the regular work-a-day world. How exactly does one practice being a good teacher, salesman or IT professional? However, if you don’t spend time rehearsing, practicing and modeling the skills or jobs that are most important to you, then you can’t expect to get any better.
So what is the aspiring Larry Bird of the working world to do? Here are four concrete steps you can take to become better at whatever it is you do, and make others think you are lucky in the process.
Read to become an expert in your field
We live in an age where information is so readily available that, to paraphrase Will Hunting, anyone with a library card and $10 in late fees can get a pretty good education. Take advantage of the resources around you. Read up on the latest trends and techniques in your field. By becoming an expert in your area you will not only become better at what you do, but you will also be seen as a resource to those around you.
Do what you do- but with a twist
This is where practice can become play. Try to have a hobby that is related to your profession, but that stretches you just a bit out of your comfort zone. For instance, if you teach elementary school, try teaching an adult night class. You’ll exercise your teaching skills but in a very different way. Do you spend your days creating code for banking software? Why not try developing some simple online games on the weekends. Again, by working on a related, but separate task you will indirectly be improving your main skill set.
Practice interpersonal skills
No matter what your chosen profession interpersonal skills are an important thing to practice. Simple things like a strong handshake, speaking clearly and making quality eye contact (though not too much, no one wants the serial killer stare) are all skills that will benefit you no matter what you do.
Practice being a good listener
Just as important as being able to communicate effectively is the ability to listen to others. This thankfully is something that we can practice almost daily. Be present with those around you. Don’t just stand there thinking about what you want to say, actually digest what the other person is trying to communicate. Then pause. It is OK to let a breath or two happen before adding to the conversation. It lets other know that you are seriously thinking about their points.