Luck, Opportunity, and Serendipity

The focus of this blog is how individuals and organizations might better prepare and position themselves for serendipity.

But my tagline (as of this posting) also mentions improving luck and expanding opportunities.

So, I figured a good first post might briefly explain the concepts of luck, opportunity, and serendipity, as well as how these three concepts are interrelated.


Much like the concept of serendipity, the notion of luck is regarded in many ways.

Some view luck as some sort of unseen force that guides us toward success or failure. Others view luck as the result of chance, regardless of whether that result is positive (good luck) or negative (bad luck). Still others view luck as an inherent personal attribute that determines whether we are “lucky” or “unlucky” people.

From a social learning theory perspective, we can distinguish chance from luck. Chance is more external, where luck is more internal. Chance is more of an environmental attribute, where luck is more of a personal attribute. [1]

If our goal is to prepare ourselves to be more serendipitous, then we also have the goal of improving our luck. So, we might do well to regard luck as an internal, personal attribute that we can actively influence.

In the context of serendipity, chance remains a random (or at least unexpected) occurrence or encounter. Chance is an external environmental variable over which we have little or no control.

However, we can internalize luck. By internalizing luck, we can transform it into a personal characteristic. By doing this, we can begin to influence our luck.

We can learn to position ourselves so that opportunities present themselves to us more often. We can also prepare ourselves to recognize, evaluate, exploit, and benefit from those opportunities when they are presented.

If we learn how to encounter more opportunities, and if we learn how to take the actions required to transform those opportunities into positive outcomes, then we will have learned how to substantially improve our luck.


Opportunity is simply a set of circumstances that enable us to do something. To be serendipitous, an opportunity must be to some extent unexpected, and must lead ultimately to some sort of beneficial outcome.

We are mostly interested in serendipity as it applies to personal development, success, and entrepreneurship. Therefore, we are interested in a particularly opportunity-oriented brand of serendipity.

In that context, there are some basic questions we must ask ourselves regarding opportunity:

  • How can we better present ourselves to opportunity?
  • How can we be sure that we recognize opportunity when we encounter it?
  • How can we effectively evaluate an apparent opportunity to be sure it is right for us?
  • How can we embrace an opportunity sufficiently that we will see it through?
  • How can we best exploit an opportunity to our benefit?

Opportunity-oriented serendipity is a proactive process. We can’t just sit around and wait for opportunity to present itself to us, no matter how prepared we might think we are to seize it when it happens.

We must go beyond simply preparing ourselves to recognize, evaluate, and exploit opportunity. We must train ourselves to naturally and frequently encounter genuine opportunity by being in places where valid opportunity is nearly a sure thing.

Many entrepreneurs already instinctively view opportunity through a lens of serendipity. Because to them, all genuine opportunity is a result of some combination of prior knowledge, focused effort, and favorable happenstance.[2]

But we can all take steps to learn to operate within the ambit of the kind of opportunity we seek, and we can all better prepare ourselves to recognize and eventually benefit from the opportunities we encounter.


On my Start Here page, I explain that serendipity requires using insight to recognize and evaluate an opportunity revealed by happenstance, then taking the appropriate actions needed to reap the envisioned reward.

In a European Management Journal article that examines how organizations transform luck into serendipity, the authors assert that “a phenomenon may be perceived as serendipitous when luck is framed as opportunity and transformed into practical action in response.”[3]

The authors don’t mention a positive outcome or realized benefit as a requisite for serendipity. However, I like that their explanation ties luck, opportunity, and serendipity together. I also appreciate the idea of framing luck as opportunity, and the emphasis on taking practical action.

Some people emphasize proactivity to the degree that they may believe that any action is better than inaction. But clearly not all actions are appropriate to all circumstances. If we are prepared for contingencies, we will take the kind of reasoned, practical action that is most likely to lead us from opportunity to benefit.

Framing is critical, too, since framing influences our perception of any given occurrence or encounter. Depending on how we frame the encounter, we may or may not recognize it as an opportunity. We could also see opportunity but dismiss it as impractical or simply out of alignment with our own goals. And our motivational framing will determine if we act or not based on any perceived opportunity.

There is quite a body of evidence to support the efficacy of autosuggestion. If we believe that we can engage in actionable practices that improve our luck and expand our opportunities, then we are likely to do exactly that.

Serendipitism must become a mindset and a habit. If we wish to become more serendipitous, then we must adopt a strategy that enables us to overcome anxiety and fear, and that empowers us to hopefully and enthusiastically embrace the unexpected opportunities that we encounter.

My future blog posts will primarily focus on exploring and cultivating the properties, principles, and practices that we can use to craft a sound strategy for stimulating serendipity in our lives.

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