What’s Luck? It’s a Lot of Work!

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I’d like to tell the story of one of my recent students. We’ll call him Pedro. Actually, his name really is Pedro. He gave me the OK.

Pedro and I met last quarter when he was a student in my creativity class. I was fortunate last quarter, as I am often. I had an exceptional group of talented and diverse young people in my classes. Besides being talented in their fields, they were also eager and positive.

As one of the many social experiments we conducted throughout the quarter, I had them make lists of things in which they were unlucky. These topics included stuff like clumsiness (tripping over cracks in the sidewalk), forgetfulness (losing keys), inability to meet people, or not doing well in certain subjects. From these lists, each of them picked a topic to work on over the weekend. The goal was to change their luck. Surprisingly, it’s not that hard to change your luck. You just have to try.

I believe public speaking was on Pedro’s list of unlucky things. And it was shortly after this time that Pedro made the decision he was really going to change his luck and become a more effective communicator. For Pedro, this wasn’t that easy because being from Brazil, English is his second language. And like many students new to the U.S., English is not just a second language. It’s a distant second. That makes public speaking all the more difficult. Additionally, Pedro’s isn’t comfortable speaking in front of groups.

On his own, Pedro persisted in trying to overcome hurdles associated with public speaking. He made himself contribute during class on a regular basis. Over time, he became more confident speaking in front of groups and also more persuasive. He worked hard to improve his pronunciation of English words. By the end of the quarter, he became a leader who could clearly communicate his ideas to others.

A main driver for Pedro’s inspiration was that he needed an internship over the summer. It’s tough getting an internship if you can’t communicate well. And as fate would have it, he got nothing from the job fair. Maybe, he was unlucky. Pedro however, decided that wasn’t the case, he just hadn’t worked hard enough.

He approached me after the quarter and asked for help. In the past, I’ve been surprisingly successful in helping students get internships in industries where I have absolutely no connections. My advice is always to do a lot of work. For Pedro, I asked where he wanted to live this summer. He said Brooklyn. So, I told him get at a map and define an area around Brooklyn. Then look up every design firm within those boundaries. After that, he was to cold-call every firm and inquire about an internship. After each call, he was to send his portfolio directly to the person on the phone.

Pedro marked an area larger than I had instructed. Instead of Brooklyn, he chose all of New York. He looked up tons of firms and spent two days calling. I think he said he got forty NOs in a row. But just when he was depressed and downtrodden, someone said YES. The best part is that this is a dream internship. The company is awesome with a great staff of interesting designers. This is actually a preferred company for him. Now, he’s hooking up a deal with the Brazilian government to cover housing at a NY university.

Is that luck? I don’t think so. Take some time in the next week to list the things you are unlucky at. Then pick one, and change it.

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