“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity!” Declared my acting teacher Robert Carnegie when I was 20 years old and I had missed my opportunity to work in front of the class because I was in the bathroom when he called my name. He was letting me know that even though I had missed my opportunity, as long as I was prepared, I’d have another shot at getting lucky the next time opportunity rolled around.
Back then I was dying to get lucky. I was desperately hoping that some gigantic opportunity would pummel down from the heavens and transport me into a glamorous new life: A life with no more embarrassing auditions and no more cater-waitering; No more acne; No more casting directors saying “but would she look good in a cheerleading outfit?” No more feeling like a minnow in a big-ass pond.
I was doing my best to be prepared for that opportunity by going to acting classes for my talent, cardio kick-boxing for looking good in cheerleading outfits, and wearing acne cream every night so my face wouldn’t show tiny little pimple shadows on camera. The only problem was that I didn’t really like acting. So I was swimming around in the wrong pond.
Apparently this quote is originally from Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca. I still love it. It still feels so right. And exciting to know there’s something you can do to make yourself more lucky. But these days I’m much less interested in opportunity and more interested in the joys of preparing… which seems to pave the way straight up to the doorstep of opportunity.
When I was 25 and Simone and I had the idea for our book Smitten: The Way of the Brilliant Flirt, we sketched the thing out and knew it was marketable. Because we just knew women needed this fresh message about authenticity when dating. We knew there was a publisher out there that would want to buy it.
So we did what we were supposed to do to try to get an agent and publisher: we wrote a few sample chapters, designed an outline, made a proposal and wrote up query letters. We even had a professional photographer take a photo of us looking smart and sexy wearing officey outfits and red lipstick. Then we sent all these things out to agents over and over and over again…
Finally, yes! A bite! We got a real live agent who thought he could sell it. So we signed on with him and he pitched and pitched and pitched it to publishers and NO ONE bought it. Shit. Then he stopped taking our calls. WTF? We just wanted to know if it was over between us, but he wouldn’t even pick up the phone to communicate. He was totally ghosting us out.
At the time I was working at the American Film Market in Los Angeles and in order to get him on the phone I had to call from my work phone so he wouldn’t recognize the number and would actually pick up. He told me that he’d done everything he could do. It was the end of the road for us. I thanked him and hung up, relieved to have clear information.
So did we give up then? Eff no. We decided we were going to get even more prepared. For the next three years we went back to work writing the whole book. Since publishers had voiced concern about its viability, and our ability to finish it as young unpublished authors, we had to prepare on a whole other level in order to set ourselves up for a better opportunity.
Three years later we were finished the book. And you know what we found out? Those publishers that rejected the book were, in many ways, right. The concept we had outlined back then was not viable. It took three years to hash out a new outline and write the content in a way that truly served the message of the book. We needed those three years to sort it out. And even though those years were really hard and sticky sometimes, they were deeply satisfying times of growth and discovery.
Once the book was entirely finished, once we were extraordinarilyprepared, we tried again with agents and publishers. This time we got a wonderful young female agent named Brianne, and she sold it to the perfect publisher (Chronicle). Our copy editor made very few edits (because we had combed through it so impeccably), and it was in print not long after we signed the papers. (photo above is of signing books and contracts…)
Something about that time learning the meaning of deep preparation in my 20’s caused my whole relationship to luck to change. I stopped wanting to be “saved” by a lucky situation. I no longer cared to be “discovered”. I didn’t want to be miraculously transported into a dazzling new reality. I didn’t want a fairy godmother anymore.
I just want to do the work.
Doing the work of preparing means you are doing the work you are hoping for permission to do with that opportunity you are hoping to receive. Why wait for the opportunity?
How will the opportunity even know to find you if you haven’t been doing the work to draw it close? And isn’t is possible that by getting into the work, digging into the act of preparing, you will be 80% satisfied already? (If not, you’re probably in the wrong pond.)
Now there are several new things I’m hope-hope-hoping to get lucky enough to share with the world en masse. So I’m back home preparing as best I can.
How about you? What opportunity are you seeking these days? And have you been doing everything you can to prepare for it?