A Leader’s Guide to Making Luck (or, You Never Know When Instant Karma’s Gonna Get You)

Karma Sometimes the smallest, most seemingly insignificant things can end up being the most important.

And more often than not, those “things” are basic common courtesies.

Returning a phone call.  Sending a thank you note (extra credit for a hand written one).  Remembering a name, or better still, their wife or husband’s name (or their dog’s).   Saying “please” and “excuse me“.  Not criticizing someone in public. Offering praise when praise is due.  Treating everyone with respect, no matter who they are or what they do.  Smiling a lot, and always putting people at ease.  Or just being there when you are needed.

All of these actions can create a lasting positive impression – call it karma, or just plain old good vibes (as a fledgling yogi, I’m partial to karma, so we’ll call it that).

And oh yes, these impressions come back to you – most times when you least expect them.  That’s why John Lennon was right when he said karma could “knock you off your feet“.

You just never know when someone you extended a courtesy to remembers that 6 years later, looks you up, and offers you an opportunity.

Fantasy? Nope. It happened to me.

I’ve seen people that I know (and respect greatly) get back riches beyond their wildest dreams primarily because they were overflowing with good karma.

Even on a smaller scale,  karma can still surprise you, like in those simple day to day interactions you have as a leader.   I visit my company’s field operations quite often, and I like to talk  personally with as many folks as I can.    The karma comes back to me when I get e-mails or letters about how just showing up, and taking the time to chat, made a difference in how they felt about their jobs.

It’s funny – most “karma creators” I know often chalk up their resulting successes to luck – but these folks are out there creating their own luck, by their kind, generous, noble, courteous, respectful, and thoughtful actions.

The more of those actions you take, the greater your chances for those  “knock you off your feet”  moments that can change your life, lead to greater success, or just make you feel good all over.

And as a leader (and as a person for that matter), who wouldn’t want to “make” that kind of  luck?


  1. says

    Thanks for this reminder, Terry. It always blows me away to think how the simplest things always work, and have stood the test of time. Common courtesy has always gone a long way – and always will.

  2. CaseyStone says

    These words were some of the first I read this morning and they made me so happy and empowered to be reminded that great things can come your way by treating others right. It was such a good add-on to a conversation I was having last night with a friend who just got a great promotion. He told me his nickname used to be “Lucky”, but he says “its really because of his positive outlook on life and being a good person”.

    Now, I think I am a good person, but I am now fired up to go the extra mile, and , not for selfish reasons, but to use our shear ability in us to make others smile.

  3. says

    Damn, I love a post with a soundtrack. Such a powerful reminder here of the little things being so important. I try to instill this in my kids every chance I get. Thanks for the inspiration this morning!

  4. says

    Thank you for so concisely saying what I’ve tried to share with students for years… that everything they do — and how they do it — communicates. It’s good to be aware so we can make every communication a positive one. Wish I’d had this post sooner… would’ve made it required reading! 🙂

  5. Malcolm Hamilton says

    How strange – I was only talking to a colleague on this very topic the other day. The Corporate world can be a ruthless uncaring environment at times and does not always bring out the best human characteristics. However, I stick fast to my non negotiable values at all times with my personal and business dealings although I confess sometimes to the detriment of my immediate career goals and aspirations. However, without fail, Karma rewards me eventually and rewards others appropriately! My much missed Father used to say to me “You reap what you sow” Love the post Terry!

  6. says

    Terry – so simple, so vital, so easily forgotten by many in our urban trance of tasks and electronic distractions. Common courtesy and kindness DO matter and are more meaningful when given without any quid pro quo expectation. We really do get something back anyway…typically a lot of feel-good endorphins that feed our own spirit and create an environment of positive emotional contagion. That’s what you’ve just done – thanks for raising this topic, my spirits and our collective consciousness!

  7. says

    Thank you Sam, Casey, Mykl, Christina, Malcolm, Jeanne, Don and Maria for your great comments!

    Sam, always indeed. 🙂

    Casey, enjoy that extra mile – I know you will.

    Mykl, you know me and music; it’s the soundtrack to my life!

    Christina, sorry about my timing on this, but I have a feeling that those students are still very fortunate to have you teaching them.

    Malcolm, your father was a very wise man.

    Jeanne, you’re welcome, and thank you for the endorphins back to me!

    Don, thanks for the link!

    Maria, thanks for the kind words.

    And all the best to all of you!!

  8. says


    A delightful uplifting post and reminder to us all. I especially appreciate your use of the terms noble and generous and smiling – such an easy way to beam good wishes out to the world.

    I’m building my karma with something I call Everyday Generosity. They’re small kindnesses – something simple like offering directions or $1 to the guy who asks for help or answering someone’s query on the list serv or Twitter.

    Here’s to smiling and planting seeds of kindness and courtesy that may grow into huge oaks someday.

    Vickie Elmer

  9. says

    What has really helped me get more done this current year- all 18 days of it, is that I now “get” that there is nothing to get. I don’t need to read anymore about what life is or isn’t about, is the economy going to tank or not, are Republicans better than Democrats, or does or doesn’t God cause Earthquakes.

    It’s amazing how much more time I have to get on with my life now that the these “other” things that I used to find imporant, aren’t anymore.

    peace out,


  10. says

    I find that it’s hard to see when Karma gets back to me. But the point isn’t to see the returns, I think. The point is to live in a way that makes me proud. And then when things do come to me, I’m ready to accept them. Ready to celebrate!

    Does that makes sense?


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