Make Your Own Luck

Transform a basic quality model using sacred geometry

by Diane G. Kulisek

A colleague mentioned that he thought of me as the most successful person he knew and asked for advice.

Ironically, I don’t ever actually feel successful and am always trying to improve some aspect of how I do things, but I told my friend I was probably just lucky.

"Come on!" he said. "Surely you don’t believe in luck." I explained that I just like to stack the odds in my favor. To improve my odds, I keep trying lots of new things until one works.

He looked at me a bit strangely and asked, "How do you do that without failing?" I smiled and said, "I fail a lot. I also know that if I keep trying, I will eventually succeed. People who don’t try don’t fail, but they also never succeed.

So, the bottom line is that the more often I fail, the more likely it is I’ll succeed. I also need to be right only just slightly better than half the time to beat the odds. I can certainly do much better than that."

Seneca, a first century Roman philosopher, is quoted as having said, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."1 There are ways though to dramatically improve our luck. In fact, those of us in the quality assurance profession base our livelihoods on it.

The most important elements of luck, from my perspective, are courage and wisdom, not necessarily in that order. To apply these elements to better assure success, I have slightly modified a basic quality improvement model.

The model is usually represented as a circle (see Figure 1) and is known as the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) or plan-do-study-act (PDSA) cycle.2 But, by changing it from a circle to a spiral (see Figure 2), it makes a great model for the process by which we create luck.

Figure 1

Figure 2

The spiral I have chosen to use is based on what is sometimes referred to as sacred geometry, used in the design of sacred architecture and art.3 This same spiral, the Fibonacci Spiral,4 recurs throughout all forms of nature on earth and, on a galactic scale, throughout the universe. The chambered nautilus is a beautiful, naturally occurring example of the Fibonacci Spiral.

Notice that to be used as a model for luck creation, the spiral must swirl inward toward a goal instead of outward toward infinity. You might also look at this as a way to explain bringing order to chaos, reducing variation or continually improving.

Eight steps

Here is a step-by-step explanation of how this model works:

  1. Plan: Plan to be lucky. Plan to succeed. Plan to be ready when opportunity knocks. Figure out what you want. Establish a goal. Visualize success. Pick something, somewhere, someone, somehow to be.
  2. Do: Try. Do something. Try something. Be bold. Overcome inertia. Create experience. You can experience success or failure, but the most valuable experience is often the result of failure. Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you wanted. Great experience is the result of great failures.
  3. Study: Learn. Understand. Collect information. Turn it into knowledge. Check your actual results against your expected results. Learn what worked and what did not so you can either repeat it or avoid repeating it. The most fundamental weapon against waste is knowledge.
  4. Act: Take action. Try again. Do something else. Overcome inertia again. Never give up. Never quit. Never surrender. Continue. Persist. Resolve to keep trying, despite the likelihood of new failures. Continue after making adjustments based on what you have learned. If you fail, consider this Rocky Balboa quote: "It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward."5
  5. Combine knowledge from step three with experience from step two to get wisdom, which can take you to the next level of effort with a better chance for success.
  6. Combine experience from step two with the resolve required for action in step four to get courage, which can also take you to the next level of effort with a better chance for success.
  7. Combine the wisdom from step five with the courage from step six and you have the two most fundamental elements for improved chances of success; in fact a significantly higher likelihood of success. The odds are now stacked much better in your favor.
  8. Repeat steps one through seven as often as necessary to achieve success.

Especially for those of you who might think of yourselves as unlucky, I would like to leave you with one of my favorite quotes about luck from former Red Sox pitcher, the late Earl Wilson: "Success is simply a matter of luck. Ask any failure."6

References and Notes

  1. Seneca quotes can be found at http://thinkexist.com/quotation/luck_is_what_happens_when_preparation_meets/11990.html.
  2. For more information about the plan-do-study-act cycle, visit www.asq.org/learn-about-quality/project-planning-tools/overview/pdca-cycle.html.
  3. For an overview of sacred geometry, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/sacred_geometry.
  4. For an animated explanation of the Fibonacci Spiral, go to http://library.thinkquest.org/27890/theSeries6a.html (case sensitive).
  5. Rocky Balboa quotes can be found on the Internet Movie Database at www.imdb.com/title/tt0479143/quotes.
  6. Earl Wilson quotes can be found at www.quotesdaddy.com/author/earl+wilson.  

Diane G. Kulisek of Simi Valley, CA, is director of quality for Moore Industries International Inc., president of CAPAtrak LLC, a writer and motivational speaker. She holds a master’s degree in engineering management from California State University, Northridge. Kulisek is a senior member of ASQ and is active with the ASQ Food, Drug and Cosmetic Division and ASQ San Fernando Valley Section 706. She holds ASQ certifications as a manager of quality/organizational excellence and quality engineer.

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