The dictionary defines luck as “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.”
Business success requires luck
Luck plays a central role in business success. An entrepreneur might experience good luck as an upswing in the economy, bumping into the right person at the right time, hiring someone who blossoms, or good weather. An entrepreneur’s bad luck might be a heat wave, slanderous comments on social media, a key supplier failing to deliver, a major customer going bankrupt. A young business with little capital is particularly susceptible to chance happenings.
As business owners, do we live at the whim of forces beyond our control?
Yes and no.
Yes, in that ultimately the future is unfathomable, the forces around us interact in unpredictable ways, and anything is possible.
On the other hand, there are definitely things we can do to dramatically increase good luck.
Preparing for luck is like readying to sleep
We can’t will ourselves to sleep. Instead, we can create the comfort, quiet, and ambiance that allows sleep to happen. Loud music, dance, a horror movie, texting, or pizza and ice cream before bed probably delays sleep.
Similarly, we can’t force luck. Like sleep, getting lucky is about creating the proper conditions and then letting go. Commitment, right action, and Transcendental Meditation prepare the ground for luck. Fear, greed, and attachment tend to keep luck at a distance.
When I was young, someone once told me to “be bold”! That advice stuck. Success in starting a business, launching a product, or getting married requires a bold, “all-in” attitude.
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe describes the mechanics of commitment creating luck:
The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.
I wanted to stay in Fairfield so I could meditate in a large group. I knew that creating a business would not only allow me to stay, but would let me hire others who also wanted to remain in Fairfield.
In my work as a software engineer at Hewlett-Packard, I became quite enthusiastic about small computers. I knew others were also excited about the possibility of an always-available computer and wanted to learn more. About six months after leaving HP and arriving in Fairfield, the idea came to me to write a newsletter that supported HP users of the first laptop computer.
Without knowing anything about business or publishing, in May of 1985 I decided to start the business. Immediately, things began to fall in place.
I contacted HP, who liked the idea and gave me 2000 names and addresses of registrants.
I began studying direct mail pieces that were effective in prompting me to buy. I then created a direct mail piece that would have encouraged me to subscribe to a $55 bi-monthly newsletter. I send out the mailing and left Fairfield for a TM world peace course in Washington, DC.
When I returned, I had a post office box full of checks for $55, enough to fund the start of the company. I hadn’t realized that a one or two percent response rate would have been outstanding. In two mailings, twenty percent of the recipients of my direct mail piece sent a $55 check for a newsletter that didn’t yet exist.
2. Right Action
In the give and take of business, it is easy to take a short cut, to cut corners, to make a quick buck, even if we know it isn’t quite right. I believe that sooner or later, one way or another, the effect of ignoring our inner compass comes back to us in a negative way.
In business right action means to behave ethically, treating customers, employees, and suppliers the way we would like to be treated. Maharishi defines right action in a deeper sense — action that is in harmony with the laws of nature.
How do we know what’s right? Situations can be complex, and determining right behavior can be unclear to the rational mind even when using the guidance of moral traditions. To truly know what’s right we must be able to go deep within to our center, to our expanded Self to find the answer.
In my business, we soon realized that even with the phenomenal response from our mailing, there were not enough people who mailed in their registration cards to sustain us. We needed more names of HP laptop users. In these pre-Internet days, we felt that either we had to get them directly from HP, or we needed to offer a free issue of the newsletter from within the laptop packaging.
Unfortunately, we weren’t getting anywhere with either idea. HP’s internal policy prevented the HP technical support staff from sending us customer contacts. Similarly, policy dictated that third-party material such as the newsletter offer couldn’t be included with HP products. (Exceptions were always possible, but in a corporate bureaucracy, no one has anything to gain by going out on a limb).
On the sly, a friend of mine in the HP support team, sent me contacts of almost 10,000 HP laptop users. I felt a little uncomfortable receiving those names in that fashion, but I also knew that if these HP customers received our newsletter everyone would win. HP would have stronger, happier, better-supported customers; and we would have 2000 more subscribers.
Yet, the feeling nagged. Using those names didn’t feel right to either my wife or me. We decided, even though the prospects for keeping our newsletter going seemed grim, that we didn’t want to start our company in a way that didn’t feel right. So my wife, Rita, and I went out to our backyard and built a fire in an outdoor incinerator. We threw the names, sheet by sheet, into the fire.
After the burning, we published the first several issues while unsuccessfully continuing to lobby HP to make exceptions to their policies. Then, one day out of the blue, we received a letter from, Richard Hackborn, Executive Vice President of Hewlett-Packard. He wrote that in 35 years in the industry, it was one of the best user publications he had ever seen.
We showed the letter to the product manager in charge of packaging the HP laptop, and our free issue offer found its way into the packaging. For 15 years, HP continued to include our offer in the packaging of HP devices that we covered.
3. Transcendental Meditation
Maharishi often said, “the means gather around sattva. The support of nature increases with the regular practice of T.M.” (Sattva means purity.)
In other words as we meditate, we become more in harmony with the Cosmic Will. That means more and more we find the wind at our backs with our everyday choices.
Each day as entrepreneurs, we make countless decisions about products, people, purchases, pricing and so forth. As we meditate and infuse our minds with Beingness, we increase our ability to make the right choice and be supported by nature.
The stories told at this website help validate Maharishi’s assertion of increased nature support from meditation. So many of us had almost no business experience. We began with little capital in a farm town in pre-internet days. We created hundreds of successful businesses from nothing thanks to repeated and sometimes incredible support of nature.
Seize the opportunity
Luck is taking action when the opportunity presents itself. After meditation, we must act.
A fellow was stuck on his rooftop in a flood. He prayed to God for help.
Soon a man in a rowboat came by and shouted, “Jump in, I can save you.”
The stranded fellow shouted back, “No, it’s OK, I’m praying. God will save me.”
The row boat went on.
A motorboat came by. The driver shouted, “Jump in, I’ll save you.”
The stranded man replied, “No thanks, I’m praying to God, and he is going to save me. I have faith.”
So, the motorboat went on.
Then a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, “Grab this rope, and I will lift you to safety.”
The stranded man again replied, “No thanks, God will save me.”
So, the helicopter reluctantly flew away.
Soon the water rose above the rooftop, and the man drowned. He went to Heaven. When he finally got the chance to discuss the situation with God, he exclaimed, “I had faith in you but you didn’t save me, you let me drown. Why!”
To this God replied, “I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a helicopter.”
When starting a business, entrepreneurs often need help (luck) to stay afloat. Alert entrepreneurs recognize “nature support” when it appears and take appropriate action.
We received the letter from the HP V.P. at a time when we needed more customers. Leveraging the letter, our free issue offers found places in the packaging of HP devices for years.
Commitment, right action, and TM were cornerstones to our efforts. When the letter from the HP executive came, we recognized the lifeline and took it.