How to Create Your Own Luck: The You Never Know Approach to Networking, Taking Chances, and Opening Yourself to Opportunity


Turn Random Chance Into Runaway Success!

"Luck is only 'automatic' when you know how to create it. Susan RoAne provides you a proven road map to make your own luck. I feel lucky to have read this book because one little paragraph saved me from ruining a major business relationship–and friendship. You deserve the luck this book will bring you–read it."
–David Bach, New York Times bestselling author of The Automatic Millionaire

"The harder you work, the luckier you get–but what ...

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2004 Hard cover New in fine dust jacket. BRAND NEW. Glued binding. Paper over boards. With dust jacket. 237 p. Audience: General/trade.

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2004 Hardcover This is a signed hardcover first edition, first printing. The book and the dust jacket are fine/fine, new, no defects inside or out. The book is flat, signed on ... the title page by the author. NEW * GIFT QUALITY. In Stock. Read more Show Less

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Turn Random Chance Into Runaway Success!

"Luck is only 'automatic' when you know how to create it. Susan RoAne provides you a proven road map to make your own luck. I feel lucky to have read this book because one little paragraph saved me from ruining a major business relationship–and friendship. You deserve the luck this book will bring you–read it."
–David Bach, New York Times bestselling author of The Automatic Millionaire

"The harder you work, the luckier you get–but what kind of work encourages this 'luck'? Susan RoAne's story-filled guide to making good things happen in your career and your life will be a great kick-start to anyone determined to succeed."
–Jeff Taylor, founder and Chief Monster of

"I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to achieve success! It offers both great anecdotes and valuable lessons–compulsively readable, with all the tools you'll need to take your luck to the next level."
–Ivan R. Misner, PhD, founder of BNI and coauthor of Masters of Success

The eight traits of people who create their own luck:

  • They talk to strangers
  • They make small talk
  • They "drop" names
  • They eavesdrop and listen
  • They ask for and offer help
  • They stray from their chosen paths
  • They exit graciously, without burning bridges
  • They say YES when they want to say NO!
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Networking guru RoAne (How to Work a Room) shares common-sense suggestions about how to network in this run-of-the-mill advice book. Using cute catch phrases (those who are open to opportunity are called "You Never Know It Alls"), she makes the point that folks create their own luck by having eight "unusual suspect" traits. (Of course, they also work hard, are persistent and have a positive attitude the usual suspects indicating success.) These counterintuitive traits include making small talk; dropping names; eavesdropping and listening; straying from their chosen paths; and saying yes when they want to say no. Each chapter shares numerous stories of people turning serendipity (such as chance encounters) into success by utilizing at least one of these traits. "When we are open and pay attention to signs, signals, situations, and people, we are building our own internal serendipity generators," RoAne writes. However, aside from the inspiring examples, there's not enough specific "how-to" to help readers apply RoAne's advice to their own situations. While she puts a nice spin on basic networking principles, this somewhat repetitive book doesn't add much to the Chinese tenet "luck is when preparation meets opportunity." (For another take on this subject, see Networking Magic by Rick Frishman and Jill Lublin, reviewed on p. 52.) (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471612803
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/28/2004
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

SUSAN ROANE is the bestselling author of How to Work a Room®, The Secrets of Savvy Networking, and What Do I Say Next?, which have sold more than a million copies combined. She is also an in-demand speaker whose audiences have included Citicorp, Oracle, Procter & Gamble, Intel, and the Wharton School. She has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle, and has appeared on CBS, CNN, NPR, and the BBC.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Introduction xi
1 The Eight Traits 1
2 Lemons to Lemonade 27
3 It's a Small World 47
4 The Kindness of Strangers 77
5 Necessity Is the Mother (and Father) of Invention 95
6 Staying On and Straying Off the Path 121
7 Get a Job 147
8 Happy Accidents 175
9 Who'd'a Thunk It? 195
"You Never Know!" 219
The Ten Commandments for Turning Serendipity into Success 221
Yiddish Glossary 222
Notes 228
Resources 230
Index 231
For Those Desperately Seeking Susan 238
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First Chapter

How to Create Your Own Luck

The "You Never Know" Approach to Networking, Taking Chances, and Opening Yourself to Opportunity
By Susan RoAne

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-471-61280-4

Chapter One

The Eight Traits

What is it about some people-the ones who create their own luck-that makes them successful? Are they born under a lucky star? Do they get all the breaks? No! To a one, they are people who perceive a possibility, see the opportunity, and parlay it into something positive, which has a measure of success. They don't just see opportunity, they seize it. They are observers who pay attention-to issues, to problems, to perplexing situations, and to people. Regardless of whether their moment of serendipity turns into a job or business or two tickets to the Olympics or the opera, they are open to it!

The stories of these people reveal that they fall into two categories:

* The Usual Suspects: When studying the stories that changed people's careers, jobs, or businesses, there is a track of traits I mentioned in the Introduction called the Usual Suspects. Discussed in most business books, these are the qualities and characteristics generally ascribed to those who are successful. These people don't just work smart, they work hard rather than hardly work! They cultivate a good attitude. Some days their outlook is realistic, other days it's simply positive, but whichever it is, their attitude is a healthy onethat embraces possibility. In addition, they have a vision that is bolstered by great follow-through.

* The Unusual Suspects: What most business books and courses don't identify are the unique traits exhibited by people who have seized the serendipity, co-opted the coincidence, and captured the karma. These Unusual Suspect traits set such people apart from the crowd, incorporating counterintuitive behaviors, actions, and attitudes that go against the prescribed norm. Interestingly enough, these traits are also the outgrowth of solid, savvy networking skills.

People who successfully create their own luck exhibit different combinations of these eight traits:

Trait One: They talk to strangers. Trait Two: They make small talk. Trait Three: They drop names. Trait Four: They eavesdrop and listen. Trait Five: They ask for or offer help. Trait Six: They stray from their chosen paths. Trait Seven: They exit graciously without burning bridges. Trait Eight: They say yes when they want to say no.

These You Never Know It Alls don't conform to the "keep it to yourself and play your cards close to your vest" school of thought. They remain open, and that openness is the linchpin of their so-called luck.

First and foremost, the people featured in this book talk to people they don't know.


Introduced in my book How to Work a Room(r) (1988) as an antidote to the warning "Don't talk to strangers," this counterintuitive trait opened up a world of possibilities for most of the people in this book. If you take a moment to think about it, you have had an experience that started with talking to someone you didn't know. Such incidental, serendipitous conversations can sometimes score huge successes and make a dramatic impact on the bottom line.

A Royal Crown Room

Although we now complain about the inconveniences of cross-country business travel, the reality is that there have always been travails of travel that try our patience: flight delays, canceled flights, long layovers. Although merely annoying for the pleasure traveler, such unforeseen circumstances can mean a disaster for the businessperson who misses a meeting, presentation, or client conference.

One of those flight delays was aggravating for Mark Mayberry, a professional speaker, consultant, and author. "I had planned my travel perfectly. But sometimes the weather gods don't cooperate, and I was facing a long delay. Fortunately, I am a Delta Crown Club member and just figured I would go to the club, have a beverage, do some work, and read my book. Some other passengers were quite agitated, but I figured there was nothing I could do ... might as well relax.

"As I sat down, I struck up a conversation with another fellow, who was also delayed. We had a few things in common: We were on our way somewhere, members of the Crown Club, and very frequent fliers. We were both agitated because a golf tournament that was on TV was not on a channel available in the Crown Club. That's what started our conversation. We shared a few golf stories and had a few laughs. It was very casual and a pleasant way to pass the time. When our flight was called we said goodbye and wished each other well. No big deal. Was I ever wrong!

"I got on the plane and knew I was wasting a good opportunity and decided that was not an option. In the course of our conversation I had learned he was just named president of Atlantic Southeast Airlines. So I walked up to him and made sure I had his contact information and sent him my book. Then I followed up a little later. The result of this coincidental meeting and incidental conversation was two contracts totaling more than a half million dollars to consult with his company. It was the most lucrative weather delay of my career."

Striking up a conversation with a stranger isn't always easy. Shared circumstances can make it easier for us to do that. Mark could have behaved in an irritated and unpleasant manner. He could have become so irate that he kept to himself. Or he could have made bitter, whining remarks to that stranger in the airport club, stopping the conversation cold. There was nothing at stake, so it was just a pleasant interchange between two strangers in the same place at the same time, who wished they could watch a golf tournament. It was serendipitous that they were seated close enough to chat. However, Mark's willingness to see and seize the opportunity to chat with someone who turned out to be the perfect stranger (as in a six-figure client) made all the difference. What's most important is that he made sure he could make contact again, send his book, and follow up with a phone call.

Mark scored a huge business success, but sometimes "lucky" breaks successfully score things of a different nature-such as tickets to opening night at the opera.


In my travels across the country giving presentations, I have learned that many people hold small talk in low regard. While researching What Do I Say Next? (Warner Books, 1999), I discovered that the people who put down small talk are generally those who are bad at it. Those who are adept, the ConverSENsations(r) described in that book, see small talk as a way to get to know people, and thus they never denigrate it.

People who create their own luck don't wait for a great opening line, nor do they initiate conversation with big talk-about such daunting topics as famine in underdeveloped countries, quantum theory in physics, or the social cost of incarcerating first-time offenders. Although these are terrific big talk topics, the people who attract coincidental opportunities tend to talk about little things: weather, traffic, movies, and the like. They might start by saying, "Hello, how are you?" And then they listen to the answer.

Diane Parente, an in-demand image and wardrobe specialist and founder of the Association of Image Consultants International, was taking her morning swim before work at a club in San Francisco. She was running a little late when she spotted one of her clients getting into the pool.

"I was in a hurry, but I felt it would be rude to just say hello and turn around and walk away." Diane, a genuinely open person and a great conversationalist, chatted at length with Jill, her client.

"As I was about to leave, Jill said she had to go out of town that weekend and asked me if we could use her two tickets to opening night at the San Francisco Opera. I was ecstatic. My husband, Lou, and I are great fans of the opera, but opening night tickets are almost as hard to get as tickets for the Super Bowl."

Small talk yielded a big payoff for the Parentes because La Traviata is one of their favorites. But people who create their own luck are not one-trick ponies.

"When we arrived at the opera, we were in orchestra seats next to a couple who were women's clothing designers in New York, and I was familiar with their work. We just started to chat with them. During intermission, the wife indicated she wasn't feeling well. Her husband turned to us and asked if we could use their tickets to the Gala Ball following the opera. We were speechless. Fortunately, we were able to say yes, and thank you."

If Diane and Lou Parente had not exchanged light-hearted conversation with these people, they never would have attended opening night at the San Francisco Opera and the Gala Ball. Some of Diane's clients were season opera subscribers, and she was able to connect with them on another level, apart from their business relationship.

A Plane Lesson on Snobbery

The importance of being open, talking to strangers, and making small talk hit home like a sledgehammer for Ed Peters, a sales trainer, who logs many frequent-flier miles. One doesn't have to be a baseball fan to share in the lesson Ed learned the hard way.

"Little did I know that the flight from San Francisco to Chicago in October of 1984 would change my life forever. It was a Friday, the end of a long, exhausting work week in San Francisco. I wasn't exactly excited about a four-hour flight home to Chicago, but at least I had been upgraded to a first-class seat ... in which I planned to sleep all the way back home. Making small talk was not part of my plane plan.

"No sooner am I sitting down than I hear a booming voice, 'How you doing?' My thought was, 'With my luck, that guy will have the seat next to me.'

"'I asked, how you doing?' he yelled one more time as he crawled across me and landed in the seat right next to me. In between my thinking that I wasn't going to get any sleep and that this guy would want to talk all the way to Chicago, he shouted out, "Hi, I'm Ernie." I didn't even look at him.

"There is one other empty seat in first class and it's next to the guy across the aisle from me. I'm thinking how lucky he is to get an empty seat next to him when up walks a beautiful woman who sits in that empty seat. I was tired, exasperated, and a bit jealous.

"So this guy gets this beautiful woman, and I've got ... Ernie. Meanwhile I hear the woman across the aisle tell her seatmate she was a Playboy Playmate of the Month and was on her way to Chicago for her centerfold photo shoot. This guy's got a Playboy Playmate, and I've got ... Ernie. I did my best to ignore Ernie by putting on my headphones, but it didn't deter him.

"When we landed, I got off the plane very quickly, ducked into the nearest restroom, and bumped into the guy who sat across the aisle. He asked me, 'So, are you and Ernie good friends?' 'Yeah right,' I said sarcastically. Then he said, 'Man, I would have given anything to have been able to spend four hours sitting next to Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks!'

"My jaw dropped in disbelief, and I slinked out of the restroom thinking, 'I just sat next to Ernie Banks, one of my all-time favorite baseball heroes and I completely blew the best coincidence of a lifetime because I didn't give him the time of day, much less exchange small talk.'

"If I'm such a huge baseball fan, how was it I didn't know I was sitting next to Ernie Banks? I didn't want to make eye contact so I never looked at him."

Ed believes that in 1984 he learned the ultimate lesson in networking. Now he talks to everybody! Ed learned that if you respond to strangers, open up and make small talk with them, and, better yet, listen to them, good things happen. This true story changed his outlook, his behavior, and his life-especially his business life.

"I've come to realize that all business starts with a relationship, and that relationships start with communication. Since that fateful plane ride with Ernie Banks, I've never underestimated that business is all around us if we are open to that possibility ... and embrace the opportunities that present themselves.

"I learned not to let 'prime times' become 'slime times' and that to be open to the world of possibilities that exists can make your business profitable and your life pleasurable beyond your wildest dreams."

For someone who grew up in Chicago like I did, Ernie Banks is a hero: Mr. Cub. My brother and several of my friends would trade their first- and second-born children to spend even an hour in the presence of the Great One. Ed Peters will always remember how he blew this serendipitous situation. To his credit, he learned a lesson and was willing to let us learn from his mistake as well.

You can change and control your own luck by making time for the casual conversation we call small talk. Much like the ConverSENsations I observed in What Do I Say Next?, open people are not dismissive of small talk. As Michael Korda writes in Power (Random House, 1975), they see small talk as a way to get to know people-and that often leads to Big Talk.

Small talk might start with an exchange of information about kids, pets, food, parents, sports, books, or yes, even the weather (it happens to all of us). Small talk can take place at a party, at the opera, at the watercooler, at a fund-raiser, at a bookstore, on the golf course, or in line at the supermarket. The best listeners and eavesdroppers are empathic, a quality that allows them to form deeper connections.


As I sat at the table at the historic Old Ebbett Grill on a very hot and humid summer day in D.C., I looked across at my young companion and thought how unlikely it was that we would have spent a day together at the Corcoran Gallery and having lunch. That this lovely 20-year-old college coed would even want to hang with me was amazing, as she had met me only once and I was older than her parents. But when her mother, Jody Pilka, received my e-mail about my pending visit, she realized that she would be on a business trip and that her husband had a meeting. She mentioned my invite for lunch and a museum tour, and daughter Courtney volunteered. How this came about is just one of the "small world" stories that have added spice to my life.

It started four years earlier, when I received the web site inquiry from a potential client who wanted to discuss a presentation, based on my books. The inquiry was very businesslike, although I took special notice of her last name. When Jody, a vice president of Ryan Homes, and I finally spoke, she mentioned that her office was in Gaithersburg, Maryland.


Excerpted from How to Create Your Own Luck by Susan RoAne Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2004

    Invaluable. Delightful. Read it now.

    I am a self-confessed fan of Susan RoAne and her work. Recognized internationally as ¿the networking maven,¿ she knows her specialty well and communicates it effectively. And that won¿t be my last understatement! Essentially, RoAne¿s message is that you create your own luck by reaching out to others, by building relationships, and by practicing proven techniques of opening the doors of opportunity before you hear the knock. The book is built around eight traits of success: Talk to strangers, make small talk, drop names, eavesdrop and listen, ask for and offer help, stray from your chosen path, exit graciously without burning bridges, and say ¿yes¿ when you want to say ¿no.¿ As you move smoothly through the pages of this book (it¿s written to be read easily), you will enjoy focused illustrations that illuminate the vital traits. RoAne shares a wealth of meaningful stories that bring her messages to life, then explains again the process to follow to achieve your desired results. You can tell this book was written by a former teacher; the emphasis on learning shines through. Each teaching is an inspiration; readers will find themselves motivated to put their new knowledge to work. Summaries and action plan starters at the end of each chapter encourage application of the learnings. For some, the experience may be, in at least a small way, life-changing. In the first paragraph of this review, I used the word ¿maven.¿ This is a Yiddish word meaning ¿an expert, a knowledgeable person.¿ That definition is one of many that are included in a glossary at the end of this book. RoAne uses several Yiddish terms in her writing, so the reader gains an understanding of this language. There¿s even a thorough index to add value to this volume. ¿How to Create Your Own Luck¿ is highly recommended for everyone who wants to smooth their path through life. It will be particularly valuable for people in business (not just sales), entrepreneurs, students entering the world of work, prospective retirees¿and the list goes on. Your biggest challenge will come when you finish reading the book: you¿ll have to decide if you want to covet it, or pass it along to someone else.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2004

    Effortlessly reaching your goals while embracing life

    Susan Roane as usual makes her points through humor and wit. Some of the greatest success stories are when people broke the rules and created their own path. Through her book, Susan shows how each of us are capable of greatness by not stepping over those little clues and opportunities.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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