Do you have to be lucky to succeed?

Is it the luck we get or how we react to it that matters?

Lucky Or Good

photo by Joshua Earle via Unsplash

“I’d rather to be lucky than good,” said storied Yankees legend, Vernon “Lefty” Gomez.

But is that true?

For years my son and I fell on opposite sides of the Lucky vs. Good Debate.

My view was that people who achieved great things did so, not only through talent, but through the clenched teeth and wrinkled brow of unrelenting effort and perseverance—literally willing themselves to succeed, even against the odds. I acknowledged luck as a factor but I weighed factors like hard work, ability, and dogged determination much more heavily.

My son discounted my view as overly dramatic and even romantic, preferring to explain the exploits of “great” people as having been greatly influenced by plain ‘ol luck.

It’s a fascinating question and how you choose to answer it may form the foundation for what you think is possible in your life, and how hard you think you should work for it.

I thought about some books and authors I’ve read that could shed some light on the issue.

Yes, Your Chair Is Killing You

The Advice in Dr. James Levine's Book Can Save Your Life

photo courtesy of Jaren Wilkey, BYU

If you’re like 85% of Americans (like I was), you live a largely sedentary lifestyle consisting of sitting for 13 hours a day. Whether in a car, at the office or on the sofa in front of our TV, can you believe that sitting has been found to reduce our life expectancy by at least 2 years.

So yes, it turns out your chair really is killing you!

And that’s what Dr. James Levine has been trying to tell us for more than a decade and in his book Get Up! Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It, he seeks to educate us, not only about the scope and dire urgency of this health crisis, but about specific strategies we can use at work, at school and at home.

And not a minute too soon!

Crucial Conversation Skills: Don’t Leave Home Without Them

Mastering the art of crucial conversations puts you in an elite group of Pros

Crucial Conversations photo

Throughout human history the presence of conflict and the need for crucial conversations has been a constant. And yet, when faced with irate customers, an angry boss or an irksome co-worker, some of us cringe at the thought of conflict and freeze; others seem to relish it; most of us simply try to avoid it.

Because crucial conversations can become messy and uncomfortable, we tend do handle them clumsily, sometimes even incompetently.

Only a select minority of skilled people understand how to manage potential conflict and harness its power. These great communicators are like alchemists who turn even the most difficult of differences into opportunities. These leaders are highly valued because of their expert ability to remove unproductive friction from human interactions.

One of the best books on the subject of how to master this alchemy is, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when Stakes are High, published in 2002 by the team at Vital Smarts.

I encourage you to read the book and apply its lessons so you can learn how to talk when it matters most.

Here are some key insights from the book that I’ve found tremendously useful:

The best leadership book ever written?

The Leadership Challenge spells out exactly what it means to be a leader while dispelling many leadership myths

The Leadership Challenge

Leadership is a slippery word. By that I mean that it’s often bandied about without a clear understanding of what it means and what it implies. The term is badly misunderstood, too often mythologized and frequently abused. We are not quite sure what leadership entails and if you disagree, try this experiment: ask ten people in your organization to define exactly what leadership is and see what their responses are.

My guess is that you’ll get a wide variance of assertions and only general agreement on what the term signifies.

Some debates about leadership seem to go on forever:

Give yourself permission to live your best life

Read Procrastinate On Purpose by Rory Vaden

Procrastinate on Purpose Cover

Though I’m not madly in love with the title (though it does catch the eye) boy am I ever glad I picked up and started studying this brilliant little tome from Rory Vaden.

What I love most about it is Rory’s youthful idealism, passion, energy, empathy and open-mindedness, not to mention his relentless and singular commitment to winning.

This book is very inspiring.

It lit a massive fire under my back side and it may do the same for you.

That’s because the message is delivered with passion and also happens to be urgent and timely. As our world continues to be revolutionized by technology and as the noise level in our world becomes ever more deafening, we’ll have to make a choice: (1) to continue doing what we’ve always done and risk having our voices drowned out and our efforts sadly diluted or (2) find smarter ways to marshall all the modern tools and resources at our disposal to multiply our impact and effectiveness.

I believe those are the choices before us, but Rory defines them as permissions:

5 keystone habits that can improve your life

Adopting positive habits is great, but not all habits are created equal

keystone habits can change your life

photo courtesy of Negative Space via Unsplash

Change your habits and you will change your life, but be mindful of the fact that not all habits are the same. Some have higher pay-offs than others.

It was Charles Duhigg, in his magnificent book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business who turned me on to that concept, which he termed keystone habits.

As you may know, a keystone is the top-most stone in an arch. Remove the keystone and the other stones in the arch crumble inevitably to the ground.

Similarly, keystone habits form part of a web with other interlocked habits and thus influence them significantly, albeit indirectly. Adopt a positive keystone habit and you unleash “chain reactions that help other good habits take hold,” Duhigg explains.

This is a powerful insight and a potential game-changer for us, if we choose to apply it.

To get your juices flowing, here 5 keystone habits that I try to reinforce every day in order to set off positive chain reactions in my own life. I share them in the hope they may do the same for you:

Dear parent, are you doing a good job of instilling a love of reading in your children?

These 5 steps can help you bless your kids with this precious gift

little girl loves books

Image ‘Coraline Loves Books’ courtesy of Randi Plake via Flickr

It seems that when it comes to reading and encouraging intellectual curiosity and exploration in their kids, too many parents are relying on the old adage, Do as I say, not as I do.

The results of this are especially alarming among tweens and teenage children.

According to a long-term study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (2013) there has been a steep decline in how often kids read for fun. Since 1984, the number of 13-year olds who read weekly has dropped from 70% to 53%, and the percent of 17-year old weekly readers went from 64% to 40%.

Looking at it from a different vantage point, back in 1984 only 8% of 13-year olds and 9% of 17-year olds said they never or hardly ever read for fun; Today that number has skyrocketed to 22% and 27% respectively.

It’s scares me to think that the number of non-readers among kids getting ready to graduate from high school has tripled in the last 30 years. Is this why we have such dismal high school graduation rates in some states (like my own state of Florida where it pains me to say that 1 in 4 kids do not graduate from high school).

Alarming.

But what happens to our reading habits once we become adults?