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“Kudos to you! Looks like you were in the right place at the right time.”

I’ve been told this before and I’m not gonna lie, it kind of stung a little. I thought to myself but didn’t say, “Right place, right time? What about the 80-hour workweeks at the start of my business? What about not paying myself during the recession so I could keep my team employed and my company alive? What about the years of fielding business calls on the beach during my ‘vacation’?”

A couple weeks ago I shared these pics in my Instagram Stories. This is what the “right place at the right time” vacation photos sometimes look like.

The idea of being in the “right place at the right time” sounds like success comes solely from luck. In fact, I hate that cliché phrase. While there is no doubt in my mind that I have been blessed with opportunities, it doesn’t change the fact that I worked incredibly hard and smart to create a little bit of my own “right place at the right time.” You can too.

1. Work Just a Little Bit Harder

There is a direct correlation between how hard you work and how successful you will be in life. Wake up a little earlier. Stay in the office a little later. Make an effort to produce more than the person sitting beside you.

I’m not advocating for “hustle culture” here, but there is something magical about working 15 minutes longer than you originally planned. (15 minutes per day adds up to an extra 91 hours per year. There are a lot of “right place at the right time” moments that can happen in 91 hours.)

It’s that one last rep in the gym that makes the difference.

2. Work Smart and Maximize Your Day

Striving to make the most of every moment is a crucial component of success. Skip idle chat at the water cooler. No more mindless scrolling on TikTok. The Instagram Reels you lose yourself in will still be there at night when you’re laying in bed.

I love the story and movie “The Pursuit of Happyness,” starring Will Smith, which portrays the life of Chris Gardner, a homeless man who rises to become a self-made millionaire. Among the many lessons in the film, there is a line that caught my attention: “I found that if I didn’t hang up the phone, I saved eight minutes per day.” That’s a great example of maximizing productivity. We all get the same 24 hours each day.


3. Take Risks, But Only with Stuff You Have

There have been times when I wondered if I was too financially conservative and not taking enough risks. Then the recession hit in 2008, and I witnessed businesses disappear, friends filing for bankruptcy, and neighbors losing their homes. It was a heartbreaking time for so many people. Fortunately, my conservative behavior during good times helped me navigate through the bad times.

However, my business decisions have not been without risk. I have taken calculated risks at the right moments. I didn’t start full-time freelancing until I had saved up six months worth of money to support my family. I didn’t hire my first employee until I had enough money in the bank to pay them for a year. I didn’t buy my first commercial building until I owned my home outright.

Sure, I have taken risks, but I took them when I had something to risk… not risking my entire future on an unrealistic pipedream or credit.

So, before you take a risk and quit your job, secure your next job. Before you try to be a full-time freelancer, land a client or project that can provide enough cash flow and time to find more clients. If you’re broke with dreams of making it in the music industry, why not line up a night job before you head to Hollywood with your guitar? Otherwise, you might find yourself living in the car that got you there.

4. Never Stop Learning

Identify what you need to know to succeed and start learning. Buy books. Learn online. Join communities. The internet is at your fingertips, and it has never been easier to self-educate. And if you don’t know what you should be learning, well… figuring that out would be a great first step.

“In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The unlearned usually find themselves ill-equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” – Eric Hoffer

5. Have a Vision of Where You are Going

Don’t let life happen to you. Decide where you want to go and start on the path to get there. Once I figured this out, every job and career decision I made became a step toward progressing to my envisioned destination. When I started writing my first book, every experience (good, bad, or ugly) became valuable material for lessons to include in its pages.

The difference between a successful person seemingly in the “right place and right time” and the person sitting next to them is oftentimes “perspective.”

Where are you on your journey, and where are you heading in the future?

6. Model Other People

Others have already solved the problems you need to solve. Find someone who has already achieved what you strive to achieve and model their behaviors.

What is their education? Where are they active online? What do they read? What do they eat? When do they work? What was their career path in getting there?

I’m not promoting “stalking” here. I’m simply suggesting that if you admire someone who has achieved what you want to achieve, follow in their well-trodden footsteps.

Success in any career is more about creating your own “right place and right time” than it is about being lucky.

Michael Janda

I am Michael Janda, an executive level creative leader with more than 25 years of experience in both in-house creative departments and agencies working with some of the greatest brands in the world including Disney, Google, Fox, ABC and NBC. I create books, courses, workshops, lectures and other training materials to help creative entrepreneurs run successful businesses.