Tag Archives: startups

Please stop misusing the word “Luck”

“OMG! You’re So Lucky!”

In the amazing journey I’m taking with my startup Swayy (first NYC, and now Berlin) I get the chance to meet a lot of new people, and to take part in a lot of interesting conversations.

On one of the recent conversations I had, I spoke about myself working on something of my own, which is something I enjoy doing. Since this is not necessarily true for most people – The other person immediately perceived me as being “Lucky”.

To be precise “Oh my god, you are so lucky!” was that person’s reaction. I spent a lot of time thinking about this reaction later that night, which led me to write this post.

My current status in life has little to do with luck.

As a matter of fact, describing a person’s life status using the word “Luck” underestimates him and overlooks the bigger picture.


One of world’s greatest athletes Serena Williams described it amazingly:

“Luck has nothing to do with it, because I have spent many, many hours, countless hours, on the court working for my one moment in time, not knowing when it would come”

– Serena Williams


Luck has nothing to do with it (The File Drawer effect)

Overlooking the bigger picture and missing additional facts and data is better known as a File Drawer Effect (affecting a research because some of the studies were never reported).

In life – you only hear about those great stories (or extremely bad ones), which affects your perspective over the statistics of success.

For me, it took almost two years of hard work and a lot of failures in order to get to the point where I’m standing right now.

For the person I was talking to, statistically, I have a 1/1 success rate, and this is why that person mistook it for “luck”.

The File Drawer Effect alters our perspective in many day to day events, and that’s what causes us, as outsiders, to consider luck as a factor of success:

Think of that friend of yours who told you how lucky he was to get the best parking spot. Did he ever tell you about the bad parking spots he got? I’m sure he didn’t.

Statistically, we’ll get a good parking spot once every hundreds of tries.


So What’s Luck Anyway? (Hint: Probability)

My world view is that “Luck” is an occurrence of a positive event against the odds.

The question is, how do you increase your odds to succeed and omit luck from the equation?

To begin with, different people have different odds achieving something they want.

Growing in a rich family, or a city filled with opportunities, might increase your odds to succeed, over people from a lower socioeconomic status. So those “lucky” people actually start their journey to success with higher odds than the rest.

From this starting point we can easily look at our odds to succeed in a mathematical way, using Probability Theory.

If you’ll think about it, for most things in life we can determine our approximate probability.

Let’s say you try to succeed in something that has a 0.1 success rate, and you need at least one success:

  • If you only attempt once, you get a 0.1 (or 10%) success rate.

  • Two attempts – and your odds will increase to 1-0.9*0.9=0.19

  • If you won’t give up, and try 15 times you’ll get a 1-0.9^15=0.79 success rate. Almost 80%.  And that’s not too bad.


So in my eyes, a “lucky break” means I succeeded on the first or second attempt. But if I succeed on the 15th attempt, it is no longer luck, it’s persistence – so what do I need luck for?

“Accidents happen. That’s what everyone says. But in a quantum universe there are no such things as accidents, only possibilities and probabilities folded into existence by perception”

– Dr. Manhattan


Luck Only Comes to Those Who Try

There is one simple “rule” that is pretty clear – eventually, if you won’t try at all, you won’t even get the 0.1 success rate. Luck doesn’t help those who are afraid to try or who give up in advance.

Lets say everyone gets the same chance of meeting that “one in a thousand” person you were looking to meet. So yes, you can get lucky and meet that person on your first try.

But meeting him/her is still under your control – Go out and meet as many people as you can. I guess 1000 people would suffice.

Remember that entrepreneur that met his investor in that meaningless meetup? What’s the difference if this happened on his first meetup ever or on his 50th? Go to as many meetups as you can – Increase your odds. It’s up to you.

I let this way of thinking guide me – Go out and tell your story to as many people as you can, ask for question, introductions etc.

I do marketing, and finding a successful marketing strategy is hard – not all attempts will lead to a good ROI – but you cannot stop on your first or second try.

If you generate one success every ten tries – go out try ten different strategies.

Some people have better starting points than others, and some fall into situations you might not have been “lucky” enough to fall into. So those people have bigger odds to begin with.

It’s up to you now to understand how to increase your odds. If there is anything to be learned from Probability Theory – it’s that you should do more and try more. Go out and increase those odds.


Image Credit: alxhee on Flicker


The 4 Acts For Convincing and Persuading


Entrepreneurs and startup founders often face situations where there is a very limited amount of time to pitch and get someone interested in what you are doing. If you seize the opportunity and make the most of it, these encounters have the potential to change everything for your company.

Besides your clarity, delivery of message, metrics, product, and all the other things that could make or break a meeting, there are a few extra tricks to use. These small tricks derive from the art of persuasion and rhetorical theory, which I learned to use not only when pitching, but in everyday life as well.

When I was studying communications with the TAI Group, I started reading more about persuasion. I also listened to famous rhetorical speeches, such as Roosevelt’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” and Churchill’s “This was their finest hour” (which was actually more for fun).

Whenever I talk to someone about my startup, Swayy, I try to keep the following four acts in mind:

Gain initial trust

Try to start the conversation off easily and get the other person to feel comfortable and trust you from the beginning. People will tend to give extra chances or be more patient when you start by earning their trust. This usually involves giving a short introduction of yourself.


“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today.”

-Franklin Delano Roosevelt

“Imagine that”


This is probably the most successful and easy method, as it involves getting someone to use their imagination. Whenever you try to describe a situation, fact, or even a feature, use the words, “Imagine that”.

Read these two sentences:

1. People in the supermarket are in a rush and impatient.

Compared to:

2. Imagine that you are shopping for groceries, and you have to pick your kids up in thirty minutes so you can home early to finish urgent work for tomorrow’s board meeting.

Putting the other person into a situation they can understand is a good transition to making your point, and creates empathy for whatever it is your are about to present.


Back your statements with facts

When you explain why your solution is right, and why people need your product, you are making assumptions. While these assumptions may be true, they are still only assumptions, and can’t be masked as fact.

If you back your assumptions with commonly recognized preliminary facts, it transforms your assumptions into potential facts. Create statements that combine three well-known facts about your niche, market, need, etc., and the fourth (your assumption) will sound much better.

Try this example:

The smartphone’s battery life problem should be solved by public charging services.

Comparing to:

1. The average user has 41 apps installed on his phone.

2. The average user spends over 2 hours a day on his device, not including regular voice use.

3. Batteries for handheld tech products haven’t changed drastically in more than 15 years.

4. The smartphone’s battery life problem will* be solved by public charging services.

* The assumption becomes a semi-fact when ‘should’ change to ‘will’.

Without being an expert (and most people aren’t experts), I can say that these four statements sound more reliable, make sense, and are more convincing than just throwing out an assumption, as true as it might sound.

For EVERY assumption or opinion you wish to say, three preliminary facts go a long way to making it sound better.


Be funny (but don’t overdo it)

This is the hardest act of all, because it’s less involved with preparing in advance or your past experiences, but actually about who you are as a person. Being funny will always make you look more likeable, charming and confident.

Having a sense of humor makes people like you more, and better relate to what you are saying. Erika Andersen wrote a great piece on Forbes, describing a story of how being funny can give you leverage over someone else.

Injecting a bit of humor makes it easier for people to identify with you, and can make your point seem true.

“If I can get you to laugh with me, you like me better, which makes you more open to my ideas. And if I can [make you] laugh at a particular point I make, by laughing at it you acknowledge it as true”

– Comedian, John Cleese


Try to practice as much as possible

I was once told that if I can’t pitch my product to a first-grader I should go back home and practice more. I pitch to almost everyone I meet, from friends and family to strangers at a bar (which is surprisingly easy) – it’s important to learn how to explain what I do, regardless of who I’m actually talking to. Practicing your pitch using these acts of convincing and persuading makes the job easier in the future, and you will get better the more you do it.


I would be happy to hear your thoughts, how you tell your story better, and your best methods for improvement – comment here or talk to me on Twitter @liordegani.


Images Credit:   © Copyright P L Chadwick and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
The power of imagination makes us infinite – MikeVC