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How to be in the right place at the right time?

au bon endroit, au bon moment

We often make the mistake of taking as a merit what is actually the result of a statistical determinism. What is commonly called the survivor bias explains that we tend to attribute to ourselves causes (with fortunate consequences) that we do not understand. Success is often the result of a combination of factors in which chance plays an important role. Most of the time, success is a matter of being in the right place at the right time, much more than the qualities that are often cited, such as perseverance or even discipline. To stand out from the crowd is only to know how to take advantage of the few windows of opportunity that are offered to us in our lives.

Can we increase our luck? Is there a way to learn to be more systematically “in the right place, at the right time”? Luck can be worked on, there are some elements that condition it. Let’s see what they could be.

Being lucky means being among the first.

What best characterizes the leaders of a market, of a trend, is not talent per se, it is their character of being a precursor. The common point of all the Youtubers with the most subscribers is that they started earlier than the others, even if their content is not the best. To be one of the first, you have to be willing to take risks and try things that the mass of people don’t do. By cultivating different and even eccentric hobbies, you increase your ability to develop rare skills. Of course, by doing so, you expose yourself to being totally out of step with the rest of the population, which can have its drawbacks if what you are pursuing is not successful.

Rare skills

To be the best in a field, one must have had the advantage of developing skills before others. This asset is undeniably a factor of success, at least that’s what Malcolm Gladwell explains in his no less famous book Outliers. He explains the reasons for the extraordinary destiny of a certain Bill Gates. He did not excel in the world of computers because he had a special gift or genius, no, he only benefited from years of advance in programming before anyone else. He could indeed have access to a computer and program at a time when they were very rare and confined to the academic world (that’s where he could have access to it, thanks to his father who was a professor). From this “unfair” advantage, Bill Gates was able to turn it into an undeniable asset to outperform all the contenders in the race to develop the first operating systems for personal computers (as opposed to computer servers).

You can’t guess the skills needed for the future, but you can take a cue from the angler to maximize your chances of success

Have you ever watched fishermen casting their lines near docks or on a riverbank? The most enterprising among them usually have several rods that they monitor to maximize their success. What exactly are they doing? They multiply their chance of success by allowing fish to potentially bite on different hooks. When a fishing rod rattles, the fisherman understands that a prey has bitten and he rushes the handle of his fishing rod to concentrate all his efforts and bring the vertebrate to shore.

How can this image help you?

If you cultivate various hobbies or pastimes, you increase your chances that one of them will turn out to be associated with a valuable and fashionable skill. If you think back to the successful Youtubers, in the early days of the phenomenon, they were into video editing more out of passion than the desire to make money. The generations that followed knew what they could expect in terms of potential income, but the competition was now much tougher.

The moment you develop skills for fun through various passions, you increase serendipity and potentially the chance to use that skill or skills for your career.

Once you feel that one of the skills becomes important and can help you stand out from the crowd, you can put aside those other hobbies for a while to focus your efforts and resources to accelerate your learning. This is the reason why many web companies were founded by students who stopped their studies. After a while, they realize that they are on to something and can’t afford to continue their studies, which is a significant waste of their time and energy that they could focus on their project.

Analyze weak signals

You can anticipate a major event or trend by studying weak signals. According to Wiktionary, it is a little apparent information, often fragmentary, but deduced from an economic, technological, commercial, social, societal environment, etc. by its observers.

Nevertheless, such a study is often associated with important errors of interpretation. This can give you a head start in some cases, but the results are very random as they can give rise to many interpretations.

To summarize:

Luck favors the prepared, but it also favors the lucky.

Winning often means being among the first.
Unfortunately, there is no method to be among the first. However, you will increase your chances of success by doing different activities, i.e. you increase your serendipity.

To dominate a competition is to have rare skills before everyone else.

You can multiply your chances nevertheless by studying weak signals, which is still a rough “science” subject to a high failure rate.

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