Melinda Gates commits $1B to ‘expanding women’s power and influence in the United States’

Melinda Gates in professional photo wearing a navy blue dress

Melinda Gates, whose book this year documented the systemic and societal challenges that continue to face women around the world, recently pledged $1 billion over the next 10 years to initiatives designed to accelerate gender equity in the United States.

By Todd Bishop

In a commentary announcing the plan on, Gates said the money will support “new and established partners taking innovative and diverse approaches to expanding women’s power and influence.”

It’s the biggest initiative yet from Gates through her standalone Pivotal Ventures firm, separate from her role as co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Melinda Gates established Pivotal Ventures four years ago to focus on issues including gender equality and empowering women. Her book, “The Moment of Lift,” documented the need to remove barriers for women, with the goal of helping not just women but society as a whole.

In the announcement this morning, Gates cited three priorities for the funds: 1) “dismantling the barriers to women’s professional advancement;” 2) “fast-tracking women in sectors with outsized impact on our society—like technology, media, and public office; and 3) “mobilizing shareholders, consumers, and employees to amplify external pressure on companies and organizations in need of reform.”

She wrote, “I want to see more women in the position to make decisions, control resources, and shape policies and perspectives. I believe that women’s potential is worth investing in—and the people and organizations working to improve women’s lives are, too.”

Gates gave more insights into her approach in a Harvard Business Review piece last month, “Gender Equality Is Within Our Reach.

“I believe our goal should be to expand women’s power and influence in society. I think of power and influence as the ability to make decisions, control resources, and shape perspectives. It is something women exercise in their homes, in their workplaces, and in their communities. I recognize that “power and influence” are not words we have historically associated with women — nor are they words that all women associate with themselves. I also acknowledge that because of my family’s wealth, I have access to certain kinds of power and influence that very few people do. Still, I use these words, imperfect and imprecise though they are, because they are the best way I know to describe what men in this country — in particular, white men — have long had that women have not.”

Continue on to Geekwire to read the complete article.

Women Are Creating the Glass Ceiling & Have the Power to End It

Nancy Parsons posing in front of her book promo poster

New Book Alert! Author of game changing books for women in leadership just released her latest!

Nancy Parsons shares exciting insights based on her firm’s research that reveal the true reasons why the glass ceiling exists and it is not what most people think. That’s why, despite the best intentions and investments in women in leadership programs, today’s solutions are not working.

It has been four decades since the Pregnancy Act went into effect in 1979 that prohibited women from being fired for getting pregnant. Yet, the sad truth is that although the barriers were supposedly lifted so many years ago, the glass ceiling continues to be an impenetrable barrier for most aspiring women leaders. Today, only 6.6 % of Fortune 500 CEOs are women and only 11% of women are top earners at these most profitable companies. Meanwhile, for more than a decade, women have consistently earned more bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees. The bottom line is that if we stay on the current trajectory, it will take approximately 400 years to attain just 50% of Fortune 500 CEO positions.

Parsons’ book is packed with great insights from women executives, top executive coaches, new global research, and practical solutions that will work to end the glass ceiling. These win-win approaches put an end to pointing fingers and playing the blame game. Women Are Creating the Glass Ceiling and Have the Power to End It provides breakthrough scientific research and fresh, tangible solutions that will work for women, men, and the organizations they serve to end the glass ceiling within a decade.

Women Are Creating the Glass Ceiling & Have the Power to End It, JUST RELEASED at:

MBEs: Get Certified Today

professional women

Why certify? Businesses that are certified as minority owned are subject to different laws and regulations than other businesses and as such are very different entities from typical enterprises. Unlike a standard business license or registration, a minority-owned business enterprise certification is not required to run a minority-owned business, although certification can provide many benefits for a company—especially in regards to government contracting.

Below are some of the certification processes your company can expect to navigate when seeking minority-owned business enterprise certification. Also listed are the requirements that must be met by businesses that are seeking certification.

  • Manufacturers – Maximum number of employees must not surpass 500 or 1500, depending on the product being manufactured.
  • Wholesalers – Maximum number of employees must not surpass 100 or 500, depending on the product being provided.
  • Service providers – Annual sales receipts must not be higher than $2.5 or $21.5 million, depending on the service being provided.
  • Retailers – Annual sales receipts must not be higher than $5.0 or $21.0 million, depending on the product being provided.
  • General and Heavy Construction businesses – Annual sales receipts must not exceed $13.5 or $17 million, depending on the type of construction the company is engaged in.
  • Special Trade Construction businesses – Annual receipts must not be higher than $7 million.
  • Agricultural businesses – Annual sales receipts must not be higher than $0.5 to $9.0 million, depending on the agricultural product being produced.

Business Requirements

1) The company applying for certification must have a racial minority owner who owns at least 51 percent of the company.

2) The same owner must hold the highest position in the company.

3) The company must pay a fee based on company annual gross sales and also file an application that details basic company information, such as what year the business was founded.

4) The company’s primary business locations must be available for site visits.

Getting Bids

Build Relationships. When it comes to winning bids in the government contracting marketplace, contacts are everything. Business owners are advised to take the time to make connections, build relationships and network extensively. The contacts a business develops are often the key to furthering their success in government contracting. Proactively networking with larger companies, agencies and even competitors can lead to subcontracting opportunities while also showing agencies that you are a trustworthy and reliable business partner.

Subcontract. Building a reputation as a professional enterprise is crucial to the success of any business. Winning a government bid isn’t only about the monetary aspects involved with a contract; other factors are evaluated, too. An agency will often look at company financials, work history and reputation before selecting a winning organization. It helps to have contacts who can vouch for your company and the work that you do. By subcontracting, you build your reputation and gain valuable experience.

You never know when the contacts you develop will come in handy. Therefore, you should make each and every relationship meaningful because in the long run, these are the relationships that will further your company’s success.

Government RFPs are a great way for minority-owned business enterprises (MBE) to win spot and term contracts. Every year, the U.S. federal government spends more than $200 billion on goods and services, all of which are provided by private companies and many of which are minority-owned businesses. From federal to state, local and special districts, all levels of government have programs in place to increase their involvement with certified minority-owned business enterprises. Only companies who have gone through the MBE certification process are eligible for the money that is made available through such programs.

Source: BidNet

What You Did 10 Years Ago Helps Your Team Today

Diversity executive

By Wendy Bahr, Cisco

Much has been written about teamwork and the success factors that distinguish a high-performance team from other teams that simply go through the motions. You know the high-performance teams I’m talking about. They have an aura or energy around them that raises their capabilities and makes them work stronger in a fluid, orchestrated motion. And they all share some common characteristics—they’re creative, adaptive, curious, pragmatic, analytical, and fearless, just to name a few. But I would argue there’s a key element that is often overlooked, which has an equally profound effect on high-performing teams: Diversity.

What comes to mind when you think about workplace diversity? Maybe it’s one or more of the social and cultural aspects, such as age, race, education, religion, or sexual orientation. While all are important for a well-balanced team, what I’m talking about is diversity of experience. I’ve found that teams with varied and different experiences are better at things like innovation, decision-making, and problem solving. When a team genuinely values and leverages each other’s unique work and life experiences, almost anything is possible. Let me share a story that illustrates this.

‘Storm Cuts Power’ read the headline of a local newspaper that was covering one of the worst storms to hit a corner of the Midwest. The severe weather and near-record-low temperatures caused ice to build up on the power lines of a regional power company, leaving customers without power and heat, costing the company millions of dollars in lost revenue and maintenance.

Despite iterative and ongoing repairs, the ice kept building up, and the power kept going out. Not only was it dangerous to fix the damaged lines during freezing temperatures, but customer satisfaction was steadily dropping. A permanent solution was needed—and quickly. The power company’s operations leader called an urgent meeting with their line maintenance supervisors to come up with ways to solve this problem (as it were, most of the maintenance supervisors were men, with the exception of one women). They all got in a conference room with a facilitator, who was brought in to brainstorm ideas.

The session started with some straightforward brainstorming that slowly evolved with more interesting ideas. After a couple of hours, and without a solution, the facilitator asked them to dig deeper and to bring forward their craziest ideas. Nothing was too outlandish. The crazier, the better.

Slowly, new ideas emerged:

“What if we put heaters at the base of all the towers to heat the metal and keep the ice from forming?”

“There’s a lot of wildlife around. What if we put food up in the towers so a bear will climb up and shake it, knocking off the ice?

“What if we wrapped the wires on the lines with a material that the ice couldn’t cling to?”

Now the real brainstorming caught hold and the ideas started to flow.

At one point, the only woman in the room raised her hand and said, “I don’t know if this would work, but …” It turns out, she had been a nurse during the Vietnam War, and when they brought patients in on helicopters, she noticed the wind from the helicopters would blow the leaves and twigs out of the trees as the helicopters landed. “What if we flew helicopters over our power lines to knock the ice off?” The room went dead silent.

In that instant, they all realized her diversity of experience presented a solution that would save the power company millions of dollars, significantly improve their customers’ experience, and remove the danger the field service crews faced trying in vain to repair the lines.

This story illustrates the point that if you have a team with different experiences and backgrounds, you will likely have a team that is not only diverse, but stronger. Through diversity and strength, we can drive better business outcomes, increase profitability, improve customer satisfaction, and create positive employee experiences.

This story also serves as a reminder for me to ensure that every time I have a hiring opportunity, I ask myself, “Does this candidate bring a diverse experience or perspective that will complement the team, make it better, stronger?”

I’m fortunate to work for a company who embraces this philosophy. Beginning with our CEO Chuck Robbins, who has one of the most diverse executive leadership teams I’ve ever seen, Cisco relies on the unique points of views and experiences from everyone. It’s this collective diversity of experience that helps us drive growth, delight our customers and partners, and makes our employees engaged and on top of their game.

When you’ve got a big problem to solve, look around your team. It’s likely there’s a solution tucked away in someone’s experience.

Questions or comments? Feel free to connect with me on Twitter, @wybahr.

Stop Workplace Misunderstandings—Here Are 10 Ways

Group of diverse workers gathered to communicate in a meeting

Misunderstanding is a workplace epidemic, and the key to escaping a misunderstanding of strategy and execution is to require everyone to stop throwing around meaningless terms.

“What others do and how it is done should be challenged, explained, and reiterated at all levels of the organization,” said Theresa Ashby, MBA, PhD, author of the book Better Implementation Now!: Eight Ways Great Strategies Fail and How to Fix Them (2019, Indie Books International).

Ashby is the CEO of Strategic Implementation Solutions and serves as a leader with the National Association of Women Business Owners. Over the course of her 30-year career she has held many leadership roles, overseeing multi-million-dollar budgets and $1.7 billion in capital improvements.

“What kills great strategy? A lack of implementation planning,” she said. “As the business adage states, successful companies work on processes versus projects. Otherwise seemingly urgent work gets in the way of the real work needed to move strategy forward.”

According to Ashby, egos must be removed and there should be no more attitude of, “we get it, so why don’t they?” or, “why should we need to define it?” and definitely no more, “they are the issue, not me.”

“Understanding and defining the type of strategy is the first step in understanding the quagmire of terms,” says Ashby. “Organizational leaders need to decipher unclear terms, get clear on what they mean for their organization, and address the process with clarity.”

Here are Ashby’s top ten ways to avoid misunderstandings that impede proper execution of strategy:

  1. Those identified as strategic need to make sure that those doing the work are correctly

aligned and doing the right tactical work.

  1. An organization needs to be very clear on how, when, and why it uses the term strategy

and implementation (or execution).

  1. Define the term strategy and implementation as it is expected to be interpreted within

your organization.

  1. Stop identifying yourself or others as a strategic thinker and instead reinterpret it as

someone who is a definer of strategy or an implementer of strategy.

  1. Get out of the head-and-heart state of mind, roll up your sleeves, and be laser focused on

what is important.

    1. Study the state of the organization and create implementable plans that work.

Teresa Ashby Book Cover

  1. Be comfortable with uncertainty and know ahead of time that a certain amount of anxiety

is part of the process, no matter how well-defined the plan may be.

  1. Embrace misunderstandings since they can eventually lead to more clarity.
  2. Slow down to speed up when it comes to explaining and communicating both terms and

the expected outcomes.

  1. Explicitly explain the WIFM – What’s in it for me.

Ashby adds that understanding and defining the organizational life cycle helps in explaining the state of the organization, why decisions are made, and how to accept the sensations of frenzy, frustration, or failure that may arise.


Ask These Questions Before Accepting a Job Offer

Man interviewing latina woman for a job

You’ve been offered a job and can’t wait to jump on the opportunity. But before accepting the offer, ask yourself the following questions.

1 What is the company’s reputation?
The organization you work for will have an impact on your short- and long-term career. With that in mind, research the business to find out what kind of reputation it has and what its actions show about its values and the work environment. Look over its annual report and information about the company in news articles and elsewhere to decide whether the business or the industry it’s in are facing any financial or legal challenges. You want to join a financially strong company where you can feel comfortable and grow professionally.

2 What are compensation and benefits?
Make sure the salary being offered is comparable to what other companies are offering to people with similar experience in similar positions. Ask if you can earn bonuses or other additional types of compensation, especially if that’s the case in your current job. Compare the benefits package with what you may be receiving now or could expect from another employer to be sure you’re not losing out on any benefits.

3 What will you actually do?
Ask as many questions as necessary to determine you understand what is expected, what opportunities are available and whether you will be satisfied in the job.

4 Will it cost me more to work here?
Your review of the benefits plan can help you answer this question, since it can tell you whether you will have to pay more for health insurance or any other crucial benefit than you are paying now, as an example. If you will have to move or face a long commute, consider whether the extra expense is worth changing jobs because, say, the new company offers better career opportunities.

5 Is this a good next step in my career?
The answer—and the factors you consider—will vary based on your ambitions and current position. Issues to consider—and ask about in interviews—include the advancement opportunities, in-house training available and educational financial assistance the company offers.

6 Will I like it here?
This can be a tough question to answer before you’ve even started. If possible, reach out to people who work at the organization, or see if friends or business contacts know anyone there you can speak with about the culture and other factors important to you. Another consideration is whether you will have to work longer hours or travel more in the new job. Will you consider those changes a drain on your free time or decide you should accept them as the price of getting ahead? And if you now can set your own hours or work remotely, find out if they are available with the new company. The answers to all of these questions can clarify which job is best for you.


How to resign without burning bridges with your employer

confident woman sitting in executive chair

Even if you’ve been thinking about leaving your job for a while, it can still be difficult when the time comes. If you have been treated badly by the company or you have grievances with the management, it can be difficult to know how much to say. If you have enjoyed your job, you may feel guilty about quitting.

Like any big decision, resigning can be stressful. So how can you go about it the right way – and leave on good terms with your employer?

Joy Burnford, founder of My Confidence Matters, which supports women’s careers, says the first question to ask yourself is why you want to resign.

“If it is something completely unrelated to your experience at your current place of work (ie your family is moving location, or you have decided to do something completely different) then it should be fairly easy to stay on good terms,” she says.

“Assuming you are not resigning due to a bad relationship, then make sure you ask them before you leave if they’ll provide you with a reference and suggest you stay in touch on LinkedIn.”

If you’ve been unhappy in your role, however, Burnford recommends having an honest conversation with your boss or HR manager about the problems you are facing. “Say that you are finding the role unfulfilling (for whatever reason this might be) and have some concrete examples of why this is the case. For example, if you feel you deserve a pay rise, put a business case together and share it with your boss,” Burnford says.

If you feel you are not getting the support you need, ask for it and explain to them that you are considering your position as it is untenable as it is, but you would like to see if there is something that can be done to enable you to stay on.

“By having this conversation, you may avoid resigning and potentially benefit from some changes,” she says. “If the organization doesn’t respond in the way that you would like, and you decide that resigning is the only option, stay positive and focused. The key is to explain your position and the reason why you’re leaving and that you’d like to stay in touch.”

Alice Stapleton, a career change coach, advises choosing two or three reasons which you feel comfortable discussing with your line manager.

“If you’re keen to stay on good terms, it can be wise to avoid the blame game – explain that it’s been a difficult decision but that you wish to resign and move on, focusing on reasons personal to you, such as a desire to keep progressing in your career by accepting a new challenge,” she says. “Offering to help with recruiting and handing over to a replacement can often go down well too.”

But what should you do if your boss reacts badly to your resignation?
If you have given your manager an opportunity to do something about your situation, then this shouldn’t mitigate a bad reaction, as you have given them the opportunity to make changes.

“If, however, the changes do not come to fruition, then you know that you have done all you can and you should remain positive and confident in all your conversations, knowing that you tackled the situation in a professional manner,” Burnford says.

It’s also important not to be sidetracked by their reaction, Stapleton adds, even if they put you under pressure.

Continue on to Yahoo News to read the complete article.

The 50 Most Powerful Latinas in Corporate America

Powerful Latinas

The Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) announced its list of the 50 Most Powerful Latinas of 2019, announced during its Women of ALPFA luncheon at its annual convention in Nashville, Tennessee.

This is the third iteration of the Most Powerful Latinas list.

ALPFA’s Most Powerful Latinas list highlights the achievements of senior Latina executives running Fortune 500 companies, departments, and large private firms, and also includes a few entrepreneurs leading global companies.

They were chosen according to ALPFA’s strict selection criteria.

The full list and rankings are available on ALPFA’s website

Powerful Latinas
Powerful Latinas
Powerful LatinasPowerful Latinas

About Women of ALPFA:Launched in 2002, the Women of ALPFA(WOA)initiative provides unique development and networking opportunities for ALPFA’s Latina members and the companies that want to reach them.WOA is dedicated to the professional success of Latina women, offering targeted programs and training through a professional development curriculum. WOA aims to provide professional Latinas with the tools to strengthen their leadership and management skills, fostering both their professional and personal growth.

About ALPFA:Founded in 1972, ALPFA (The Association of Latino Professionals forAmerica) was the first national Latino professional association in the United States. ALPFA’s purpose is connecting Latino leaders for impactand is committed to developing Latino men and women as leaders of character for the nation, in every sector of the global economy. Today, ALPFA serves over 92,000 members in 160 student chapters and 45 professional chapters across the country.

How To Make Yourself Attractive To Small Business Investors

African american businesswoman sitting in office

You’ve finally found your passion and launched that dream business only to find it challenging to get funding. You’re scratching your head because you have a solid business plan, yet the dollars aren’t rolling in. The truth is that potential investors look at you, the entrepreneur, as the investment. Not the business idea. In other words, potential investors tend to bet on the jockey, not the horse.

An interesting study conducted by Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Shai Bernstein focused on identifying the specific startup characteristics that are important to investors in early-stage firms. The results indicated that investors were most influenced by information about the founders. In fact, the most experienced and successful investors chose to respond only to information about the founding team. That’s why it’s essential to understand what small business investors are looking for so you can make yourself as attractive as possible.

Develop a robust network

The first thing potential investors will do is investigate you, the founder. One way they will do this is to research whom you know and what they say about you. Investors understand that it’s impossible to build a successful business in a vacuum. By having an extensive, well-connected network, you will give them the confidence they need to invest in your business.

Understand your audience

Conduct thorough research on potential investors. What are they like as individuals? Have they invested in ideas like yours in the past? Get to know them well enough that you can interact with them on a personal level. Good sources to learn about angel investors are AngelList, Flashfunders and SeedInvest. Find investors with interests and values that mirror yours, and your chances of success will increase significantly.

Build a strong social media presence

A strong, positive social media presence can entice investors. Connect with them through LinkedIn and Twitter and let your personality shine through. Social media is also an excellent way to get to know your potential investors. Make a note of topics they post about frequently, then use them during your pitch to show that your values and ideas mesh with theirs.

Prove you can be fiscally responsible

Investors are looking for someone that can not only manage their money but grow it significantly. Show them that you have proven success in this area. What past wins demonstrate that you have what it takes to make your business profitable? Small business investors may also look at your personal finances, such as your credit score, debt-to-income ratio, personal assets and the amount of money that you have invested in the business. A good financial record will help make you a more attractive investment.

Show you can execute flawlessly

Ideas are abundant, but people who can execute them are not. Steve Jobs once said, “To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.” What experience do you have taking a great idea and bringing it to fruition? Does the founding team have a track record of executing flawlessly?

Create a great pitch and practice, practice, practice

A written business plan is essential when pitching to small business investors and venture capital firms. Early-stage investors might see thousands of business plans a year that they must somehow narrow down to 100 meetings and then to maybe four companies in which they invest. That’s why your plan needs to be very succinct—about 15-20 pages long.

Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.

Applying for entry-level jobs? Do these things to write your cover letter

Fwoman writing her cover letter on her laptop

Landing a job is a challenge for many professionals. Landing a job without any experience can be an even bigger challenge. For a job seeker without any experience, it’s discouraging when you’ve applied for dozens (or hundreds) of jobs and received zero responses from employers.

Although you might feel like giving up on your job search, it’s important to persevere and continue writing cover letters that will make you stand out to employers.

Here are some tips for writing a cover letter when you have little or no experience:

First paragraph: Clearly introduce yourself

The first paragraph is your opportunity to make a strong first impression on the employer. This section should explain who you are, the position you’re interested in, and how you discovered the opportunity.

The introduction is also a great opportunity to mention any connections you have with the organization. For example, if you know a previous intern or alumni who worked for the organization, be sure to mention their name in your introduction.

“My name is Sarah and I’m a recent graduate from Purdue University. I graduated in December with a B.A. in communications and a minor in marketing. An alumni forwarded me a job posting about your Associate Marketer position at ABC Media Group. I’m highly interested in this opportunity because I’d make a great fit for your agency.”

Second paragraph: Talk about your relevant skills and accomplishments

This section is the biggest challenge for job seekers with little or no experience. It’s also the section where many job seekers make mistakes because they don’t know how to highlight their relevant skills and classroom experience.

As you explain why you’re qualified for the position, it’s important to connect the dots with the employer. For instance, if you didn’t have a marketing internship but you’ve gained a lot of marketing experience through a part-time job in student services, you could highlight the communications skills and experience you gained through that position.

For example:

“I realize you’re looking for a candidate with strong written and oral communications skills, as well as experience with event planning and strategy development. As an office assistant in Purdue’s Office of Student Life, I was responsible for planning and promoting campus movie nights for students. This project required me to promote the event on social media, send email blasts to students and design flyers to post around campus.”

Third paragraph: Highlight your best qualities and explain why you’re a good fit

Most employers want to hire candidates who are creative team players with strong time-management skills. Although you consider yourself a great fit for the position, you need to use examples that illustrate why you’re a good fit for the job. The reality is, simply stating that you have excellent time-management skills and a knack for leadership won’t land you a job.

When talking about your qualities, it’s important to talk about real-life examples. The key point to remember here is to make sure your examples are succinct and visual.

For example:

“During my final semester at Purdue, I led a group of three students to create a marketing campaign for an animal shelter in Indianapolis. I was responsible for leading brainstorming sessions, communicating with our client and editing the final version of the campaign. Through this project, I learned how to collaborate with others and work effectively in a team in order to accomplish a common goal.”

Fourth paragraph: Conclude with a call to action

The final paragraph is the section that will seal the deal for a job interview. You want to leave a lasting impression on the reader, so make sure your conclusion is confident and upbeat and encourages the hiring manager to get in touch with you.

For example:

“With the combination of my marketing experience and leadership skills, I’m confident I’d make a great fit for this position. Thank you for taking the time to review my application and consider me as a candidate. I will follow up next Wednesday to schedule a time to talk with you more about this position. I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Continue on to Fast Company to read the complete article.

Science Says You Need 1 More Thing to Be Exceptionally Successful (and Incredibly Wealthy)

successful women and men in a business meeting

Think about any incredibly successful person and it’s easy to assume they possess something special: Talent. Perseverance. Intelligence. Skill. Education. Connections. Emotional intelligence. A growth mindset.

By Jeff Haden

Who they are inside — and what that then allows them to do — makes all the difference.

Or not.

Research shows that traits like passion, mental toughness, constant learning, and a willingness to take risks do lead to greater success:

  • Hard work is usually rewarded.
  • Perseveranceis often the difference between success and failure; give up and failure is guaranteed.
  • Intelligent riskdoes, at times, pay off. (And if it doesn’t, what you learn from new experiences makes success more likely the next time)

When you out-work, out-think, out-skill, and outlast other people… you’re much more likely to be successful.

Think of it as the 80 Percent Rule: Do what other people are unable, or just as importantly, unwilling to do, and in time you should at least make it to, say, the 80th percentile of successful people.

But to get the rest of the way?

To be one of the most successful people?

Bill Gates was talented. And lucky.

Science says you’ll also have to be lucky: To be at the right place at the right time, to meet the right person at the right time, to stumble on an idea, a market, an audience… to experience something you weren’t necessarily looking for.

Take Bill Gates. Young Bill was clearly smart, creative, driven… he had all the qualities that tend to create success. (Except maybe emotional intelligence.)

Yet because his family could afford to send him to a private school, and because that school was one of the few in the country with access to a teletype that could connect to a GE time-sharing computer… and because his friend Paul Allen shared an article about Altair, the first microcomputer kit, which led them to convert Basic into an operating system for Altair…

Bill might still have become successful. He had the mental and emotional tools. But luck — or coincidence, if you prefer — also played a huge role.

Millions of other people are talented. And lucky.

Who you are — and what you do — matters. But success is also based on factors you can’t control.

For example, research shows:

  • “In any group of elite hockey players,” writes Malcolm Gladwell, “40 percent will have been born between January and March.” Being born early in the year tended to make them the biggest, strongest, and fastest in their junior age groups.
  • People born in June and July are significantly less likelyto become CEOs. Why? Because they were the youngest in their classes.
  • People with easy to pronounce namesare “judged more positively” than people with difficult to pronounce names. Why? Good question.
  • Over half of the variation in income across the world depends on the country of birth. Where you’re born — something you obviously can’t control — matters greatly. As the researchers write, “The role of effort… cannot play a large role in explaining global distribution of income.”

Bottom line, luck definitely plays a role.

But so does what you do it.

And whether you try to create your own luck — because you can.

How to Get “Luckier”

  1. Meet more people.

Mick Jagger ran into Keith Richards on a train station platform. They noticed each other because Keith was carrying a guitar, Mick an armful of records. A friend introduced Woz to Steve Jobs because he knew they both liked electronics and playing pranks. Sergey Brin met Larry Page during a tour of the Stanford campus.

Meeting the right person at the right time can make a huge difference. But, like many things, it’s a numbers game: You can’t luck into meeting the right person unless you meet a lot of people.

And if you assume that good things will happen — that every person you meet is worth meeting.

Because you never know where it might lead.

  1. Try more things.

While sometimes success is a straight line, most successful people have tried and failed at a number of things. That’s why they’re successful: They were willing to try something new, something hard, something off the beaten path… and to learn from what did and didn’t work so that next time they were even more prepared, more skilled, more talented, and therefore more “lucky.”

Try things. Then try more things.

Because you never know where it might lead.

  1. Try more “off course” things.

Doing the same things, day after day, typically creates the same results.

The only way to achieve differently is to do differently. Embark on a side project. Learn a new skill. Open up to different experiences.

Do a few things you assume — but don’t actually know — you won’t like.

Because you never know where it might lead.

  1. Ask.

Luck sometimes results from the right person saying yes: To your idea, to your startup, to your pitch, to your proposal, to your request….

But no one can say yes unless you ask.

As Steve Jobs said:

I’ve never found anybody that didn’t want to help me if I asked them for help … I called up Bill Hewlett when I was 12 years old. “Hi, I’m Steve Jobs. I’m 12 years old. I’m a student in high school. I want to build a frequency counter, and I was wondering if you have any spare parts I could have.” He laughed, and he gave me the spare parts, and he gave me a job that summer at Hewlett-Packard … and I was in heaven.

I’ve never found anyone who said no or hung up the phone when I called. I just asked. And when people ask me, I try to be responsive, to pay that debt of gratitude back.

Most people never pick up the phone and call. Most people never ask, and that’s what separates, sometimes, the people who do things from the people who just dream about them.

Unlucky people wait to be discovered. Lucky people discover themselves — and ask for what they want.

Start asking — nicely — for what you want.

Because you never know where it might lead.