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How To Be In The Right Place At The Right Time More Often

How To Be In The Right Place At The Right Time More Often

    Ever wonder how some people seem to have all the luck? Whether or not you believe in luck, there’s something to be said for being in the right place at the right time. For example, say we were walking together and saw a sign offering $5,000USD to any responder who could write a 250-word article on a topic revealed at the start of a 20-minute time window.

    We’re both decent writers and the price is right so we follow up on the sign. Within minutes, we’re each sitting before a computer. The monitors blink on, the countdown starts, and our assigned topic is displayed. “Write about the development of cold-hardy peach varietals.” I stare at my monitor, deflated. I type a few lines about liking peaches but that’s it. Today wasn’t my lucky day.

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    Your story is different though. You know the guy who developed the premier cold-hardy strain of peach tree. You know enough about the topic to produce a satisfactory article in the given time and walk away with a check for $5,000USD. It’s your lucky day! But it wasn’t really luck, was it? We were both in the same place at the same time with the right skills to make the most of the situation. You just happened to have that extra bit of information that allowed you to succeed while I lost out. Why does that happen? How was it that you had the right information at the right place and at the right time? Why were you lucky?

    Your good luck, as well as the luck enjoyed by most successful people, can be attributed to the combined force of three simple elements:

    1. Proximity

    “You cannot catch a fish without being near the water.”

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    The people you think of as lucky often put a lot of effort into being near as many pertinent opportunities as possible. In my example, we both had a shot at getting lucky because we weren’t just two idiots reading a random sign. We were skilled writers looking at a writing opportunity. We were both close to the opportunity. Not just in skill or location but in timing as well. Most of life is less random than my example. You can put yourself in the right place at the right time more often by identifying an area in which you have the necessary skills and knowledge to capitalize on sudden opportunities.

    Questions: What are you doing to make timing right for you? What area have you put yourself in a position to “get lucky” in? Is there a skill you can improve for knowledge you can gain that will allow you to better capitalize on opportunities you discover?

    2. Practice

    “The fish not caught on the first try is larger when finally caught.”

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    Ask any professional athlete about a shining moment in their athletic experience and they’ll tell you that “luck” came only after long hours of practice. Wide receivers practice catching the ball thousands of times for every touchdown catch they make. Web developers create hundreds of applications before bringing the perfect one to market. And you? You read (possibly) millions of words before arriving at this article. In every case, the practice that precedes the instance of “luck” is just as important as the crowning moment itself.

    Questions: Have you given up on practice only to wonder why you’re not improving in your field and experiencing the same luck as others? What steps can you take today in order to hone your senses and polish your skills so the next opportunity can be turned into a lucky moment?

    3. Persistence

    “If you do not fish often, the fish have little chance to bite.”

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    One sad truth of existence is that most people give up long before they should. Being in the right place at the right time involves being in a lot of places at a lot of times that might seem inconvenient or even painful. You’ve heard that luck favors the well-prepared but what about luck favoring the tenacious? Ever successful (you might say “lucky”) person I know has come very close to giving up many times. They’ve looked failure directly in the eyes and said, “not yet.” Sure, they’ve closed businesses, lost clients, and left relationships. But they never stopped trying. They never gave up.

    Questions: Do you have a tendency to give up on things too early? Think of the last project you gave up on. What might have happened had you stuck with it? Are you currently giving your everything to the project or relationship at hand?

    Ever wonder why some people seem to have all the luck? By paying close attention to your proximity to opportunities and following through with practice and persistence, you may soon become one of the people we look at and wonder how you got to be in the right place at the right time. Just luck, right? =)

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    Seth Simonds

    Seth writes about lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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