When it Comes to Success, Is It Hard Work or Luck?

My Cousin Cara and me...

My Cousin Cara and me…

I have ABSOLUTELY THE BEST FAMILY ON THE PLANET. Last night, I saw my Cousin Cara for the first time in eleven years. Though we spent most of our early childhood together, we’ve not been in the same orbit in over twenty-five years. Cara lives in Germany, and is here in Texas for a working visit.

What I found funny is how much we were alike (even our voices sound alike, which was a tad spooky). Our personalities are very similar, though Cara continued the sales/business trajectory while I followed my passion for writing. Why I mention this is that we both share a passion for debate, and Cara and I had a (fun) heated discussion last night about luck, talent and hard work.

I, of course, believe in hard work and mastery, but Cara pointed out that it was useless without luck. That a lot of lazy, undeserving and even untalented people enjoy huge success while other, more deserving can die in obscurity.

Now you see why we had a hell of a debate. There was no simple answer.

The Thing About Luck

Luck is useless if you can’t use it. Back in 1993 I made friends with a guy who wanted me to partner in his business, but I had to raise equal capital. Unskilled at how to do this and lacking any savings (was living hand-to-mouth throwing newspapers) I was unable to invest even though I knew he had something.

This man invented the pre-paid phone card. I think he has his own island now.

Kristen as Inventor

I’ve always had the mind of an inventor. When I was 8, I invented a machine that could paint fingernails. I was tired of my right hand looking like it had been attacked by a ferret wielding a nail polish brush.

I wanted a solution, so I designed The Finger Fixer and gave the schematics to one of the craftsmen in my parent’s wood-shop. And it worked. The machine could steady your non-dominant hand to be able to paint evenly and smoothly. Why did this not take off?

I was too distracted by my next business idea.

I started a “green” cleaning business fifteen years before it was “cool” to be environmentally friendly. Why did it fail? Again, I lacked the skills, capital and focus to stay the course.

February of 2000, I envisioned a business hand-painting wine-glasses and martini glasses and selling them to boutiques. I even had learned a bit by this point and put together a business plan. No one would back me because I lacked experience.

Every time I see these I want to CRY.

Every time I see these I want to CRY.

*head desk*

*head desk*

I’ve lost count of my inventions I didn’t know how to patent, that later were a huge deal. Business ideas I couldn’t bring to fruition due to lack of skill, lack of money, time whatever.

It was LUCK that I met the man who invented the pre-paid phone card, but I couldn’t take advantage of that luck. Thus, luck was worthless. On the other hand, with those other ideas like the cute glasses? I seriously could have used a little luck. I had some money, had a good plan, a lot of hard work…just didn’t have the fortune to connect with who I needed to take the idea to the next level.

Fortune Favors the Prepared

When it comes to writing and social media, I’ve had a bit of both. Being someone who can spot trends, I knew in 2003 that social media would be a game-changer for authors. I tinkered with how to build an author platform back when Gather was alive.

Then, in 2007, I spotted something else. I’d been to a couple writing conferences, and I already knew we were going to have a major paradigm shift. What I noticed and what seriously bothered me was that authors weren’t being taught the business of their business. 

The Big Six were tracking the same exact trajectory as Tower Records and Kodak, but authors were not being prepared for a world where they would have to become a brand before the book or they’d be invisible.

Every conference was loaded with craft classes and how to get a big NY agent so we writers would never have to worry our pretty little heads about any of that “business stuff.” Craft and agents were great, but writers were about to be dumped head-first into a Brave New World with no skills and no preparation.

This Time I Stayed the Course

When I approached agents about Facebook, I was told it was a fad. When I said it was possible for a novelist to become a brand before the first book, I was called a nut (and other very not-nice things).

But this time, I didn’t let up. Because of passion, I kept pressing. I also was fortunate Bob Mayer believed me and in me (that “luck” thing).

I looked at what I could do and I did it. Day after day. I could blog. I could read books and research so I could articulate my theories in a way that would make others see what I saw. I could do the writing. I could network. I could try then fail and fail some more and LEARN. I was back being a crazy inventor in my lab, only my lab was social media, and other writers were my guinea pigs….um, friends :D.

I did a LOT of the experimenting on myself, too. Note the warriorwriters in my URL. I did all the dumb stuff, so you don’t have to.

The World is NOT FLAT

My new book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is the culmination of the past six years of tinkering, several thousand pages of research, and a lot of making stuff go BOOM. It is proof that what I said in 2007 is real and can be done.

An author can become a force before the book is even finished.

VINDICATION!

Why I Don’t Like Luck

Luck is a fickle friend. Also, I can’t teach you how to be lucky. I can teach you how to improve your odds that favor will shine your way, but other than that?

I had NO GOOD ANSWER for Cara.

Why?

Because my cousin likes watching me twitch.

Cara: What about “50 Shades of Grey?”

Me: *head desk*

Cara actually had some great points. She said there are people who work their tails off their entire lives and get nowhere. Others pop out one book and SHAZAM!!!! Success! A lot of untalented people who have done very little work are rewarded.

She was right. The man who invented air-conditioning died penniless because he didn’t have the LUCK to run across an investor who saw what he had. The man who created Superman handed away his idea for pennies, because he didn’t have the luck to meet a person who wouldn’t take advantage of him.

Cara *grumbles* was correct.

Luck IS Super Important for Success

Of course the only thing I had to say to Cara was, Bite me. Even if we look to….*sigh*….50 Shades of Grey? E.L. James still had to write the book. She had to put in work. The world has no use for a perfect half-finished book.

I know a lot of success is being in the right place at the right time in the right conditions. Hey, I want some luck too! Would LOVE some luck. Can I order some on eBay? In the meantime? Work keeps my mind off how much we DO need LUCK :D.

Cara’s motto: You don’t get what you work for, you get what you negotiate.

My motto: The harder I work, the luckier I get.

I see there is truth in both.

So what do you think? Is success about hard work or luck? Both? Which is more important? Do you have similar stories of hard work with no luck and luck with no way to use it?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of July, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

NOTE: My prior two books are no longer for sale, but I am updating them and will re-release. My new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE. 

June’s WINNER!!! Patti Hawthorne. Please send 5000 word Word document to kristen at wana intl dot com. Or    a synopsis (no more than 1250 words) or query letter. Your choice.

BOOK WINNER: Rhett Bigler (I promised a copy of the e-book for one lucky commenter the day I first blogged about my new book to refresh y’all’s memories. Yes “y’all’s” is correct grammar in Texas).

At the end of July I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

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  1. #1 by feltenk on July 5, 2013 - 12:30 pm

    I’d say a mixture of both. I bought/sold a townhouse and bought a single family home w/i the past 4 years and was extremely lucky in regards to both. But was it really luck? I’ve worked my butt off, I’m frugal with my money, I have great credit. I’m a middle school counselor and I try not to tell my students how “smart” they are- instead, I focus on the hard work that they’ve put in. One of my fave quotes is by Calvin Coolidge: Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race” ~ Calvin Coolidge (30th President of the US, 1923-1929)

    • #2 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 5, 2013 - 12:31 pm

      That’s one of my favorite quotes. Sadly, my father was far smarter than me and probably a better writer. He was BRILLIANT, yet died never publishing because he lacked focus.

  2. #3 by Yvonne Hertzbergery on July 5, 2013 - 12:30 pm

    It reminds me of the ongoing debate about nature/nurture. It has always been my opinion that the truth lies in ‘both’. We do the work, we prepare, but often we also need a little luck.

  3. #4 by Joe Owens on July 5, 2013 - 12:37 pm

    I wonder if it does not take both hard work and luck. I mean i agree with your comment about E.L. James. She had to write the book and brainstorm the concept and put herself in the plot to mentally make it all sound right. But hey we see how many books are published traditionally and through self-publishing.. What makes one book so phenomenally successful? IF I knew that I would be writing these wonderful advice posts instead of commenting on every one. Kristen you do Texas proud not only in your beauty, but your wisdom and sharing with us. Carry on!

  4. #6 by Laurie on July 5, 2013 - 12:38 pm

    I think this is true: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” When I work hard, some things have popped up to help me that seem like luck. Even though I’m usually THE most unlucky person on the planet.

  5. #7 by Elke Feuer on July 5, 2013 - 12:39 pm

    I think it takes both. You might not get the luck (someone seeing your product/idea) if you don’t do the hard work to get it before them.

  6. #8 by Lawrence Grodecki on July 5, 2013 - 12:40 pm

    Nice post Kristen . . . reminds me so much of when I started my career. I worked for Reader’s Digest (Canada) for a couple of years after I got my MBA. I was so young then, full of ideas, but things happen slow in that company, at least back then.

    I was in marketing, and the vice-president was one of the nicest, brightest, funniest people I’ve ever met . . . a real mentor. I remember talking to him about my ideas for setting up electronic kiosks to sell books in the pedestrian walks of shopping malls.

    He was as supportive as he could be, but I could tell that because of the culture at the time, there was no way it was going to happen. That’s when I realized that at the age of 26 I would be doing basically the same job for the next 25 years . . . I had already been there two years and was really itching to change some things . . . that was back in 1985.

    Bernie & I stayed in touch for many years after . . . he eventually became president . . . I went on to sell a few million tulips and roses. Neither of us ever got to do the “kiosk thing”! :-)

  7. #9 by Jennifer Cole on July 5, 2013 - 12:43 pm

    I think it’s both. I would add to it–a sense of intuition that is inbred in some people. I believe some people get ahead not necessarily because of hard work or that fickle woman called Lady Luck but human intuition–the sixth sense that is inbred in some people and lacking in others, has a major say in the dynamic of things.

    I would further add, as a person of faith, that divine intervention has a lot to do with it too. Suffice to say, I honestly don’t think the answer is as straight forward as we’d like to think it is.

    Which is completely frustrating. Date: Fri, 5 Jul 2013 17:18:43 +0000 To: jlynncole@hotmail.com

    • #10 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 5, 2013 - 12:49 pm

      LOL, right? I could use a little Deus ex machinas, too. That’s actually an excellent point that only adds ANOTHER layer. Thanks a lot. Kidding! No you have a really intriguing argument about that intuition being inborn into some and not others. Thinking…. *smell of smoke fills the air*

      • #11 by Parker J on July 5, 2013 - 1:01 pm

        I totally replied to the wrong thread. hahaha. I just meant to say that it simply proves there’s no clear cut answer. :)

  8. #12 by tucsonmike on July 5, 2013 - 12:45 pm

    I define this in baseball terms. Hard work will get you to first base, but without the luck you will not score.

    • #13 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 5, 2013 - 12:49 pm

      I dig it.

    • #14 by Parker J on July 5, 2013 - 1:00 pm

      Yes! which just proves that once again…there’s no clear cut answer. :)

      • #15 by tucsonmike on July 5, 2013 - 1:11 pm

        Exactly. You will not make it without the hard work, but no guarantee, you will make it with it

  9. #16 by Cooper West (@cooper_west) on July 5, 2013 - 12:50 pm

    Absolutely both, I think. It hurts to know that even truly dedicated hard work might not result in success (however we’re definining that). And like you, I’ve been in situations where I *knew* I had a marketable idea, but not the resources to make it happen only to see it become a popular product a few years later by someone else. Heartbreaking, really. But that’s luck — if you are unprepared, it doesn’t matter how much good luck stomps all over your yard.

    I’m catching up now, given that I stopped writing for years thinking I would never find a publisher willing to sell what I want to write. That’s ten years of stories I could have already under my belt, if I just had faith in myself and kept plugging along. It hurts, but I’m not going to let myself backslide again! When good luck shows up again, I’ll be ready for it!

  10. #17 by Elaine Stock on July 5, 2013 - 12:58 pm

    Kristen, I’m glad you never gave up on writing, especially on this encouraging blog! These past few years I’ve lost any belief in luck. Sure, there may be odds, as in a lottery depending on how many play the game. But, that’s really not what we’re talking about here. What I do believe in are two things. First, hard work. You can’t accomplish any one thing without the time put into it. And second, if I may add my religious two cents: much, if not all, is a matter of God’s timing.

    • #18 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 5, 2013 - 1:03 pm

      I agree. I think God used my many other “failures” to create the person who could harness the “luck.” :D

  11. #19 by Tasha Turner on July 5, 2013 - 12:59 pm

    I think it takes luck to hit the NYT bestseller list. But to make a living at writing “simply” takes good writing and smart publishing.

    The author of 50 shades of grey had a fanfic base although I’ve never been clear on how much they helped her success. But she’d been writing fanfic for a while hence practicing her craft.

    Hugh Howey published a number of stories before he had a bestseller. A combination of work and luck.

    I believe you increase your chances of getting lucky by putting yourself in a position to be hit by luck. If I pick a winning lottery ticket number but didn’t play that week my “luck” was useless. The more books, short stories, and building a good platform the better chance you may get lucky & hit a bestselling list. But even if you don’t hit a bestselling list you may find yourself making enough income to quit your full-time job or to give your spouse/kids opportunities they would not have had otherwise.

  12. #20 by Jeanne Ryan on July 5, 2013 - 1:20 pm

    Both are necessary, of course. I’ve had at least a dozen critique partners over the years, and the ones who’ve made it to a book deal were the ones who kept at it until they were lucky enough to connect with the right agent/right publisher at the right time with the right manuscript. Conversely, the writer I consider the most talented still hasn’t found publishing success, primarily because she hasn’t put in the time to finish something, revise, and work on the next thing.

  13. #21 by Lucy Lit on July 5, 2013 - 1:36 pm

    I think it’s both but heavier on the work side. As a consultant for 20+ years, I’ve taught business practices to the “creative” community. I’ve seen that the concepts are scary to those who just want to do their artistic thing. But they become empowered when they realize they need to take control of (or at least understand) the mechanics so they don’t get steamrolled. I teach that if you have all the components in place, the likelihood of success is increased but not guaranteed.

  14. #22 by TLJeffcoat on July 5, 2013 - 1:42 pm

    I believe luck is how you get fame and fortune, but hard work us how you become successful. Luck is fickle, but if you don’t work hard and prepare yourself, it’s like you said, luck will be useless. Most people who become rich through publishing had to work hard before their lucky break. I think that’s pretty much what you said too. I’m good at learning from other people’s mistakes and successes which is why I buy your books. I tested some of the things in your previous books and they all worked. I can’t wait to dig into Rise of the Machines.

  15. #23 by marybethlee on July 5, 2013 - 1:52 pm

    Kristen, UGHHHHHHHH on the hand painted glasses. I cannot even imagine!
    I’ve seen a lot of people who don’t work hard get a little lucky and have initial success; however, if those same people don’t change their course and incorporate hard work, their luck runs out.

  16. #24 by Sandra Wagner-Wright on July 5, 2013 - 1:58 pm

    Hard work vs Luck controversy also relates to the Law of Attraction. I think if we are working hard with clear focus, we will attract the luck. Opportunity alone is “luck neutral.” We either have the ability to use it or not, and that depends on the spade work. As they say in business: “Perfect Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.” Time to prepare for an awesome revised web page. Aloha

  17. #25 by Jennifer Rose on July 5, 2013 - 2:10 pm

    Luck is just that – it is random. At the same time, your subconscious has to be open to the opportunity of luck and success. I’ve had some incredible luck with jobs. (ie. twice I got laid off, and within 1 day/3 days, I had a job without applying for a single one!) I can only hope that incredible luck transfers over to the author arena (both in writing stories people enjoy reading and having them sell).

    On a more strategic end, I think that you can help attract more opportunities for luck by networking with more people. Networking in the sense of how you can help others versus just giving your business card to as many people as you can.

  18. #26 by Sophie E Tallis on July 5, 2013 - 3:26 pm

    Definitely both. You can work incredibly hard all the hours of the day and night, slog your guts out perfecting that grand opus, that masterwork of imagination and originality, BUT, unless you have some element of luck, all that hard work may never pay off. That’s just the hard truth. E.L. James is a good example of this. Sure, she must have put the hard work in to initially finish the book, though most of us wish she had worked a little harder on creating a better book, but without that lucky break she’d never be where she is. Certainly 50 Shades is not considered a great book, poor writing, embarrassing dialogue, pedestrian plotting etc. Yet the book became a massive success while other better written and more deserving books still languish at the bottom of the bestsellers list. Why? Because in addition to working incredibly hard, a few lucky writers were just that, lucky. They had a lucky break, knew someone who knew someone, etc., i.e. gained a contact that helped them rise above their fellow struggling authors.

    So, to find success, you really need both. Yes, you can try to improve your chances of being lucky, is your book tapping into a gap in the market, or is it a ‘hot topic’ at the moment? But beyond networking, sending queries off to everyone and keeping your fingers crossed, you can’t really make your own luck, despite the saying – that’s the hard work bit.

    Hard work is something you can be proactive about, but luck really is in the lap of the gods! :D

    • #27 by Kim Jorgensen Gane on July 6, 2013 - 8:39 pm

      THANK you, Sophie, for pointing out the flaws in the 50 Shades example, as far as hard work is concerned. That’s probably a better example of understanding the timing (intuition? marketing?) between sex ALWAYS sells and the iWhatever generation, obsessively in possession of tablets/devices that allow for the equivalent of reading with a flashlight under the covers.

  19. #29 by Matthew Wright on July 5, 2013 - 3:36 pm

    On my experience in writing – as a sample of a venture relying on self-creativity – I think luck and direction play parts, not necessarily in equal measure, in results. So does circumstance. Thirty years ago when I began writing books, I worked pretty hard to get places with it. But it still took a couple of lucky breaks to make it possible. And the fact that I was doing it in New Zealand. Had I been doing the same thing in the US, I seriously doubt I could have got as far as I did – much smaller pond here (though that also has a lot of its own drawbacks). Probably these observations are true of any venture relying on personal drive, inventiveness and result.

  20. #30 by eightdecades on July 5, 2013 - 3:42 pm

    Yes I too have unlucky hard work stories, but the longer I live, the more I see it is neither luck or hard work. It is definition of what you think making it is! Being alive is lucky, working hard can help you stay that way. Making it in, relation to the sliding scale of the time you live in, is really saying how much better off you are than someone else by some terms. I haven’t made it yet in the money part, but I am approaching 70 and have good health.(lucky)hmm. Married for 46 years, I have a healthy family 14 grand kids and am not an embarrassment to them (I think) Still working at having an emerging artist success, and now blogging to follow your advice of becoming a “brand”. I have not been without successes, “just not notable ones” So I consider myself Lucky, and hard working and emerging by the measure of my own ruler. The hardest thing for me was accepting that I do have talent and don’t have an excuse. I can’t blame lack of luck, just lack of recognizing it for what it really is…say yes at the right time…say no at the right time! Hard work helps you choose that. Luck is always there, sometimes it is good!

  21. #31 by tamarknochel on July 5, 2013 - 4:22 pm

    Kristen, I follow your blog religiously and LOVE it. But could you recommend a good non-fiction blog for me to follow as well?

    • #32 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 5, 2013 - 5:49 pm

      What are you looking for specifically so I can guide you? Also, are you a NF author and maybe would like to make a request. Since I do both fiction and NF I can speak to both (and I do tend to neglect the NF folks, but a lot of the lessons are the same). Anyway, if you can give me a clearer picture of what you are wanting I would be happy to send you to great content :D.

  22. #33 by Melinda Friesen on July 5, 2013 - 4:35 pm

    Maybe it’s semantics but I don’t like the term luck and I hate, hate, hate that whole “believe in yourself” horse pucky. But I know people that win every time they enter a contest. Once I won a black disc chair. I hated it and tried to forget it at the place I won it, but they were so kind to remind me to take it home. I like to think there’s something to hard work because I’m not the lucky type. If hard work has nothing to do with it, I’m sunk.

  23. #34 by Sinistra Inksteyne on July 5, 2013 - 5:06 pm

    Reminds me of the story of the rabbi who told his student that you can’t control whether God speaks to you or not – encountering Him is still a divine accident.
    So, says the student, what’s with this endless study and preparation then?
    And the rabbi replies: to make ourselves as accident-prone as possible!

  24. #37 by Daniel Escurel Occeno on July 5, 2013 - 5:14 pm

    I used to argue to work smarter instead of harder. Today, I am not as philosophical or idealistic. I enjoy what I am doing. I really do care if I become successful or not. I will leave it up to FATE. I want to thank you for encouraging me to join FACEBOOK. Years ago I did not really care for the socializing on the Internet. I just wanted to write my novels. But you convinced me that FACEBOOK was valuable to novelists when others had already suggested it. On FACEBOOK I have been communicating with writers already successful with traditional and self-publishing. The self-publishers hire an editor and someone to do cover art and book design. They are like a traditional publishing house with one writer on their list. Being able to interact with writers simply by reading questions in GROUPS and commenting is helping answer my immediate questions while writing on a novel and by adding my gathered wisdom with comments or answering questions of my past experience it helps in working on my current projects. I would be watching more TV and waiting for NaNoWriMo on November, thinking that the NaNoWriMo moment was needed to keep writing on novel.

  25. #38 by Tammy J Rizzo on July 5, 2013 - 5:31 pm

    Fate without Work is dead.

  26. #48 by Deb Atwood on July 5, 2013 - 5:55 pm

    What I love about your blog is its consistent optimistic message. Thanks for your coaching/cheerleading, or as those of us who are old enough to remember the sixties: Keep on truckin’!

    • #49 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 5, 2013 - 7:19 pm

      We have to be optimistic to keep the passion and the fact that I can help keep your creative fires ah burnin’? I am honored!

  27. #50 by Donna B Snow on July 5, 2013 - 7:14 pm

    I love your posts, Kristen. And like you I believe work is the more important of the two, but without luck, well, sometimes you get nowhere no matter how hard you work…

  28. #51 by Kim Cleary on July 5, 2013 - 7:27 pm

    Kristen I’m so glad I found your blog and your earlier books when I first started out. I didn’t understand publishing as a business at all, I’m still scared but I get it now. I think that luck is random and very fickle, but self education and smart work set you up for both recognizing opportunities and being in a position to take advantage of them. By the way I read “Rise of the Machines” last night instead of sleeping!

    • #52 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 5, 2013 - 7:49 pm

      YAY! I hope you loved it. I think it is SO head-and-shoulders above the other two (not that I don’t love the other two), but ROM was so much more comprehensive?

      • #53 by Kim Cleary on July 5, 2013 - 8:16 pm

        More comprehensive and with really solid examples and anecdotes – it’s the how to get started that is so scary ( I seem to have misplaced my big girl pants :P ). But the examples really help get you started on the right path :)

  29. #54 by sheilaenglehart on July 5, 2013 - 7:59 pm

    Without hard work, you’ll never get lucky. Lady Luck doesn’t suffer fools with no work ethic.

  30. #55 by Elle Carter Neal on July 5, 2013 - 8:16 pm

    Sometimes luck is what you DON’T need. I’ve had so many run ins with “synchronicity” that I no longer trust anything that looks like luck. These were opportunities that I just couldn’t pass up because they seemed so perfect, like they were sent from the universe as gifts to me (and they were perfectly good opportunities – nothing I really regret as such: great job offers, a scholarship, an idea for a training course that I actually followed through for 9 years, a contract to create puzzles, lengthy travel plans). The problem is they were distractions and time suckers – they pitched up every time I began to work seriously on writing fiction, which took a back seat again and again.

    Ironically I found my focus after having children; now that I have even less time than before I’m determined not to let anything else distract me, including finding a publisher and dancing to their tune (which is why I’m self-publishing). Now it’s just the constant chipping away at the writing work (and editing and revising and rewriting and designing and formatting and typesetting and building relationships…)

    • #56 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 5, 2013 - 8:31 pm

      SO TRUE! It was amazing how many “lucky” job offers I had when I decided to be a writer full-time. Distractions ;). Sneaky buggers.

  31. #57 by ontyrepassages on July 5, 2013 - 9:04 pm

    Hard work is preparation for when “luck” presents opportunities. Those who are able to capitalize on luck without having invested in the hard work first are shorted the satisfaction and inner growth that spring forth when hard work is employed. If that’s okay for some then so be it, but it isn’t enough for me. It’s taken me many years to embrace the true focus in my life. That’s on me and I’m okay with it. Bring on the hard work!

  32. #58 by BelindaLuMilton on July 5, 2013 - 10:56 pm

    Oooh, I would have loved to have joined you in your debate, because I agree with both of you. ;-) While a part of success may come down to luck at times, like who you know, I think talent, like love, is in the eye of the beholder. I’m sure readers of James think she’s so talented at writing conflicting characters and sexual tension at a level that’s hard to find elsewhere, that they’d re-read her, even though there’s a plethora of other novels begging for their attention.

    Even if we don’t understand an author’s success, we can learn from it if we investigate, I believe. When 50 Shades was a new fan fic, updating at a pace of two chapters a week, my sister and I discussed why it was getting way more reviews than any other story. Why was it that it was being talked about by *everyone* in the fandom, when there were thousands of other fics, some of which were better written and some of which had strong BDSM? (no, not my thing)

    While the other top ffn stories (that were thought of as huge) had about 40k reviews, 50 Shades (Master of the Universe) had about 120k (from memory), so I wasn’t surprised when the rest of the world went mad for it as a published book.

    Can plain dumb luck give a person *that* much success twice?

    I think it filled a niche that no other book delivered, catering to readers who didn’t *care* for literary works or structure or great prose. It was a lesson to me that there’s a lot of people like that, a surprising lesson given how much I read about writing and how to get it perfect (instead of just writing and “finishing”!).

    What I love about FSoG is that it shows us if our story is exciting/titillating enough to our target audience, and it has enough mystery to pull them through to the end, we don’t need a huge amount of luck *or* a huge amount of writing talent … or even a whole lot of story structure. The talent’s in the story-telling and knowing *who* we’re writing for, IMHO.

    Just look at the products of the New Adult fiction genre. Doing insanely well, even though the plots are weak, the main conflict alters through the stories, the protags are damaged girls who “react” all novel long (not driving plot forward or fighting for something) and have toughened heroes who think the world of them–just like a lot of fan fictions.

    In short, I guess what a lot of readers want *most* is fiction that takes them far from their average, predictable worlds and makes them *feel*, even if that fiction lacks writing rules and elegance. Does that mean these authors lack talent? It probably makes us feel good to say no, however they’re at least talented in delivering the drama-filled romance their readers are longing for.

    Yeah, I’ve thought *way* too much about this topic. ;-)

    • #59 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 6, 2013 - 7:42 am

      It isn’t rambling. It is a thoughtful, delightful reply and the best part of blogging :D. I quick edited the part you wanted to change, but never apologize for being too long in a comment. The best part of posting is hearing YOUR opinions and ideas :D *hugs*

  33. #60 by Nita on July 5, 2013 - 11:54 pm

    My husband used to tell his students, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” I’m not sure where the quote originated (I’m sure it wasn’t my brilliant husband) Luck helps, but like you (and he) pointed out, if you haven’t done the work, if you aren’t prepared (at least a little) the opportunity will do you no good. Your prepaid card friend is a great example.

  34. #61 by Sandy Bruney on July 6, 2013 - 7:09 am

    Luck is when everything synchronizes– you are prepared (finished the novel) and alert (researching publishers) and open to possibilities. I think you have to recognize luck when it comes and embrace it. Too often we are too wary (too good to be true) and back away.

  35. #62 by sharonhughson on July 6, 2013 - 8:12 am

    I must say I don’t believe in luck only divine inspiration. I refuse to wait for either, however. Time keeps flowing forward and I need to get to work or I’ll never see my dream of being a published author come to fruition.
    Rise of the Machines is cued up in my Kindle app and now that I’ve finished Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell, I’m ready to spend my “writerly” reading time on your latest (and am looking forward to being inspired to create an amazing Facebook page on the other side – yes, I’ve been dragging my feet about that one.)
    Thanks for the much needed kick in the pants, Kristen. Waiting for luck to strike is a waste of time – I could have been writing!

  36. #63 by Piper Bayard on July 6, 2013 - 10:01 am

    “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” ~ Johnny Carson

    Says it all.

  37. #64 by Charlee on July 6, 2013 - 11:06 am

    Great post! Reminds me of the saying: Good writing won’t get you published, but bad writing can keep you from it. Lots of hedging in the phrasing there, but the point is clear enough. As you said, luck can’t be taught (or learned) but we can learn the work hard, focus, improve our skills and be ready when luck happens.

  38. #65 by Kathryn Chastain Treat on July 6, 2013 - 11:31 am

    I believe it is both hard work and luck. My dad was an inventor. He invented the first Jet X but had to sell the patent shortly after because I was very sick and they needed the money for my medical care. He had several other great ideas but not the finances to bring them to fruition and do the patent searches. He was successful in what he did with his life but it never made him the money these inventions of his would have.

    My sister and I had a great idea for some product in the form of a wipe (sunscreen I think) but never saw it further than I grandiose ideas. A few years later we saw that someone was marketing “our idea”.

    Had I not become ill and decided to tell my story, I wouldn’t be writing. I wouldn’t call it luck that I got sick but somewhere there was a reason.

  39. #66 by Debbie_e on July 6, 2013 - 12:12 pm

    I had to really think hard about an answer to that question. My first reaction was that luck is important, but then I do use luck as an excuse. I generally think I am an unlucky person an often use that as an excuse for not succeeding to make myself feel better. Thanks for the post. It’s going to make me work harder.

  40. #67 by Sonia G Medeiros on July 6, 2013 - 12:54 pm

    We make our own luck. A lot of “luck” is really just a way of looking at the world and see opportunities. I don’t agree that people can just “get lucky” and have success without hard work (talent is nice but not essential). If someone is successful for any length of time, then they must be doing something right or have someone working for them that does. Sure, anyone can “get lucky” but that luck will only translate to lasting success if the individual in question knows how to keep working.

  41. #68 by sydneyjbg on July 6, 2013 - 1:40 pm

    There’s that other element that may be connected to luck, coincidence, in the context of saying there is no such thing as coincidence. (Say that with a thoughtful nod and an arched eyebrow and you really seem mystical and wise.) What seems to be coincidence is really the “universe” pushing us one way or another or slapping us upside the head. Most of us have, at one time or another, have had the experience of seeing the same word written on a billboard that someone has recently said to us or we see it in a book after just discussing it with some random person, and then we go look it up or try and determine the significance. (Wait, that doesn’t just happen to me, right?) Or when a few people mention an event or a person or suddenly some mail comes across your desk, and it’s all related. When that happens to me, I start to think, OK, pay attention to this. If we pay attention to the signs, have some luck (well, if you’re lucky), and work hard, especially if you’re working hard at what the “universe” is telling you to do through those non-coincidental coincidences, then perhaps you’ll succeed. Yes? And it helps to pay attention to that antsy feeling in your body when you just know you’re supposed to do something and it will really help move you forward, even though you’ve been resisting. For me, I’m going to buy Kristen’s latest book, instead of constantly bookmarking pages about social media on my browser, pages that I never get around to reading. :)

    Best wishes,
    Sydney

    • #69 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 6, 2013 - 2:31 pm

      Thanks Sydney. Great observation. I think that’s why putting ourselves out there regularly improves “luck.” Also, experience builds confidence, so we are more likely to trust our gut when it’s yelling instructions.

    • #70 by Kim Jorgensen Gane on July 6, 2013 - 8:58 pm

      Totally agree on the Universal conspiracy theory, Sydney! The Universe does conspire, and we can capitalize on that only if we are open and listening.

  42. #71 by Katie Cross on July 6, 2013 - 2:11 pm

    Great info! Your blog always helps me stay motivated to stay the course even when it seems bleak. Thanks Kristen!

  43. #72 by Kim Jorgensen Gane on July 6, 2013 - 6:11 pm

    Gotta put in a vote for BOTH, Kristen, and this is GREAT, as usual! I’ve been working and building and researching and all that, and have had some terrific breaks, the most recent being named among the 100 BlogHer ’13 Voices of the Year Honorees (so YEAH, I WILL be in Chicago end of the month)! I’ll keep working my tail off, but I’ll also take all the luck I can get! xo

  44. #73 by AshleeW on July 6, 2013 - 10:53 pm

    Yes, luck and talent. They have to hold hands and help each other. Thanks for the great post!

  45. #74 by David Erickson on July 7, 2013 - 4:06 am

    A kid I grew up with did as his father kept telling him to do: buy rental property in poor neighborhoods and plow the profits into more purchases. We thought he would never amount to much. He became a slumlord and would have lost everything, but he sold all his properties just before the real estate crash and retired at 56. Dumb luck or? A friend of my brother bought half a duplex he was living in when the landlord dropped the hint that he was selling. As he tells it, he did well on that first purchase and after that, deals just fell into his lap. He had no real estate knowledge, no higher education, but he told me he had luck.

    Some people work their butts off all their lives and never catch a break, while for other hard workers it pays off. Others are like the men I mentioned where one right move leads to another and then another.

    I think we are what we were genetically destined to be. Call it fate, if you will, but I believe we choose our circumstance of birth for cosmic reasons beyond our understanding.

    That said, hard work, education, experience and making great connections are elements that don’t insure success, but make it far more likely you’ll generate your own piece of luck.

  46. #75 by Klara on July 7, 2013 - 4:18 am

    “Luck is the crossroads of preparation and opportunity”- if you prepare, then an opportunity comes along, you’ll be in a position to take advantage of it. I’ve had several lucky encounters, but I wasn’t in a good position to do anything with them.

  47. #76 by Tash Thomas on July 7, 2013 - 7:11 am

    I like to think of ‘luck’ as good karma, being rewarded for sharing good energy. I think if we dedicate a part of each day to being selfless as well as trying to share good vibrations whilst repelling negative ones, eventually good things will be drawn to us like positive force fields. And for all those who think they’re just unlucky, well they’re just getting some extra life skills training. I’d say if you learn from them, you’ve been lucky!
    Kristen, I love your blogs. Thanks for sharing

  48. #77 by markneu on July 7, 2013 - 9:03 am

    So what about Fifty Shades? If you attribute all of it’s success to nothing but luck that gives me nothing I can do to duplicate the process. What’s my business plan in that case: 1. Write book 2. Luck happens 3. Profit! I’d be better off playing the lottery.
    Fortuna was the Roman goddess of luck and the ancients said that she favors the bold. It’s true. They don’t give war medals to those who sit at home, they don’t give lottery prizes to people who don’t buy tickets, and you don’t sell books you have not written.
    There always seems to be a touch of envy when people say others succeed because of luck. We say “oh, they were just lucky.” Why do we never say “oh, they just worked hard for it?” 8-)

  49. #78 by Bill Peschel on July 7, 2013 - 12:06 pm

    Luck comes or it doesn’t. Why think about it?

    It’s a lot tougher for writers to focus on their work, when it’s so easy to read blogposts such as “50 Writing Resources You Need to Look at RIGHT NOW”.

  50. #79 by Raani York on July 7, 2013 - 12:28 pm

    I hate to say this, but I think it is both… only hard work deserves the luck of success. But there are times when someone just leans back and waits… and still gets lucky…
    I’m afraid those are the times I could kill… *sigh* I know I’m bad…

  51. #80 by Dr. Rakhshanda Fazli on July 8, 2013 - 3:54 am

    Reblogged this on Jugraphia Slate.

  52. #81 by Dennis Langley on July 8, 2013 - 10:11 am

    I have always believed that Luck is where preparation meets opportunity. If one is not properly prepared when opportunity knocks, it will be wasted. X Oddly enough, last night on the TV I heard Paul Newman was quoted as saying: “Any person who describes themselves as successful without including the word lucky, is a liar.”

  53. #82 by Marilyn Hudson Tucker on July 8, 2013 - 12:22 pm

    I do believe that hard work is important, but I also believe in luck. At the Writers’ League of Texas recently, I had an agent interview. She asked me what my books was about, and I told her it is a funny female private investigator novel set in San Antonio. She asked me to tell what happened, and she said, “A novel like that usually has one big mystery to solve, not several.” I replied, “True, but she is new, and she gets three tasks, each one harder than the one she just solved.” Her next question was, “Do you have a web presence?” “Yes,” I replied. “I’ve had a blog for a year, and it’s been accessed in 56 countries.” “Okay,” she said. “Send me a packet.” Where does the luck come in? I met Kristen Lamb a year ago, and it was at her recommendation that I set up a blog back then. Bless you, Kristen. Without you, I would not have gotten a good response from that agent. I just finished your new book yesterday, and it is absolutely awesome. I wish I had read it a year ago, but it’s not too late for me. I’m just glad I had the good luck to meet you back then.

  54. #83 by Vashti Quiroz-Vega on July 8, 2013 - 5:55 pm

    I love this post Kristen. You and your cousin should get together and debate more often. Brilliant!

  55. #85 by Nicky Moxey on July 9, 2013 - 3:21 am

    How universal is your book-business wisdom, do you think? Is it only applicable to the US market, or does it have global relevance?

    • #86 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 9, 2013 - 7:03 am

      Some of my biggest successes using WANA have come from UK authors. No idea. The global market is only recently emerging and I think they are still in an orbit around NY trying to find themselves. It’s why I read everything I can and try to stay as relevant as I can. It changes daily.

      I remember going to one of my favorite conferences, and this other social media “expert” presented the EXACT SAME presentation FOUR YEARS IN A ROW. The last time I attended I could almost do his presentation from memory. How it it possible to present the same speech on such a dynamic topic? My presentations differ almost weekly!

      • #87 by Nicky Moxey on July 9, 2013 - 9:08 am

        OK, fair enough, I give up, I’ll go buy the book :)

  56. #88 by Mark Garcia on July 9, 2013 - 8:00 am

    I’m really starting to fall in love with your works Kristen. :)

  57. #89 by kalpana Jaggi on July 9, 2013 - 8:57 am

    Luck and Hard work go-together for most people. One-in-a-million can have all the luck and not have to raise a finger for it. (I do not know anyone in that position unless we consider people born in the Royal Family or the Kennedy family or the likes). The one example that I always like to us is: When we are hungry and there is food in front of us. Getting the food in front of us can be purely based on “the luck factor” yet we need to bring the food to our mouth and then chew it. So, even though we might get something without really working for it, we still need to work (in this case take the food to the mouth and then chew it) to get any benefit.

  58. #90 by amandalewisab on July 9, 2013 - 11:08 am

    It’s both Kristen. Luck to get a great book idea. Work to learn how to write, actually write it, actually finish it, create your author brand. Then luck again for somebody… A lot of somebody’s to like it enough to want to buy it. Repeat. Granted, it takes a lot more hard work than luck to make it work, but one without the other and it doesn’t work at all.

  59. #91 by tracikenworth on July 10, 2013 - 6:43 pm

    You’re an inspiration to a lot of us, Kristen!! I believe in both. It is sort of a roll of the dice but you still have to put the hard work in to sell the idea.

  60. #92 by Mrs aDDamo on July 18, 2013 - 5:35 am

    When you are not looking forward the luck come into life, you will only focus on work damn hard, preparing yourself. When luck come, everything falls into right place without extra effort.

  61. #93 by Khurram on July 26, 2013 - 2:21 am

    Accordingto my set of life experiences, i will definitely give equal weightage to both of them. But its obvious without hardwork one cant get good luck..

  62. #94 by Andi-Roo (@theworld4realz) on August 7, 2013 - 9:14 pm

    I think luck is going to happen to some pretty undeserving people, for sure, because luck doesn’t discriminate. But I also think, to some degree, you can make your own luck. The more passionate you are about what you do, the more work you’ll put into it, thereby surrounding yourself with peers and mentors and like-minded souls. By putting yourself out there, you’re automatically placing yourself in luck’s potential path.

    Example: My son is only one year out of high school, and is a hardcore weight lifter. He has worked out at various gyms across the city, and thus made a lot of connection with gym owners and trainers and others in the field. The “work” part of the equation is that he is, at the tender age of 19, mentoring others of all ages as they seek him out due to his knowledge and expertise {he went to state for wrestling.} That, alone, would be the end of the story for most people — and that’s certainly impressive enough in its own rights. However, “luck” paid my son a visit in the form of a gym owner looking to retire in the next year. This elderly lady developed a fondness and respect for my son’s work ethic and abilities, and… offered to sell him her well-established business, to train him in the gym’s management, to set him up with other instructors… etc {cuz I don’t know the rest of the details, but DANG, amirite?}. Before he even hits drinking age, my kid will be a successful business owner.

    This is the BEST example of work and luck playing friendly together. {And yeah, okay, I’m a proud mama who was lookin’ for an excuse to brag on my baby a bit…}

  63. #95 by Manny on October 19, 2013 - 6:43 am

    I believe in luck as your friend Cara said that a lot of undeserving people enjoys success and those who bust their buts gets nothing. As a Christian, I know that luck is biblical as it is written in Ecclesiastes 9:11

    “I have seen something else under the sun:

    The race is not to the swift
    or the battle to the strong,
    nor does food come to the wise
    or wealth to the brilliant
    or favor to the learned;
    but time and chance happen to them all.”

  64. #96 by #96 on January 3, 2014 - 10:59 am

    Luck is certainly more important but it is not the causal link that we crave, hence we overweight the importance of hard work (or any other suitable causal quality) to create that causal link between the chance events that occur in our lives and their results.

  65. #97 by Albert Jansen on January 7, 2014 - 5:07 am

    My father worked hard all his life and in the end had little to show for it. My parents lived a very simple life as well. As for myself I followed that same step and now that I’m retired I live on the edge of poverty.
    My father once told me that if you’re born a nickle you’ll always remain a nickle even if you aspire to become more. It’s like a class system that you are born in there is very little you can do to change that, I know because I’ve tried desperately.

  66. #98 by Pete Sheppard on March 25, 2014 - 7:15 pm

    It’s better to be hard on yourself than hard on your luck.”

  67. #99 by Kerri on July 24, 2014 - 1:36 pm

    I definitely think it’s a mix of both. But like you said, luck isn’t going to help you if you don’t have the skills/preparation/work ethic to back it up. You might be able to get by (or even do really well!) on luck for awhile, but eventually it’s going to run out. A bunch of people have also answered this question on StoryShelter, which you might be intersted in terms of online trends and personal storytelling. https://www.storyshelter.com/question/good-luck-vs-hard-work

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