Kelly Harman
Sales, public relations

Kelly Harman

Vice president of sales at TriNET Systems in Herndon.

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Sweet serendipity

Q: How much does achieving success rely on luck vs. skill? This week a Western Maryland lumberjack named Darvin Moon won $5 million in the World Series of Poker. He insists he is no more skilled at cards than any recreational player. What do you think?

"The harder I work, the luckier I get," said Samuel Goldwyn, the famous Hollywood producer. And he was right.

It wasn't until I started focusing on my goals, breaking them down into incremental steps and then working diligently to accomplish them that serendipity stepped into my life. All of a sudden I began meeting people that could help me with a specific objective, or could introduce me to someone I needed to meet, or could pave the way into an organization I wanted to get involved with.

Was it luck that started putting me in the right place at the right time? Not at all. It was the culmination of knowing exactly what I was working toward, developing a strategic plan on how to get there, and making the people around me aware of what I wanted.

A few years ago I launched a dessert business called "A Spoonful of Sin." The spokesman for my company was Chef Roland Mesnier, the former White House pastry chef and well-respected author of several cookbooks. "You are so lucky to have such a great spokesman," commented someone at my launch party.

"Yes," I replied, "I'm very lucky." But what I wanted to say was, "Luck had nothing to do with it, I worked my butt off to get to this point!" For more than a year prior to launching the dessert company I took every opportunity to talk to people about my idea. I studied the markets, I went to trade shows, I read books and I asked for advice. I never worried about someone stealing my idea. I just wanted to figure out how I could make my idea wok. And just about everyone I spoke with had good information to give me, or someone to introduce me to, or a book to recommend.

One evening I attended a networking event for Women Business Owners (WBO) in Northern Virginia. As usual, I was sharing my idea and asking for advice. One young woman said, "You know, I'm the publicist for Chef Roland Mesnier. Why don't I introduce you to him. I think he'd be interested in learning more about your idea."

So I went home, researched Chef Mesnier online, bought two of his cookbooks, and found out when he was going to be at a local book signing. I basically stalked him, pitched him my idea quickly and then got an appointment with him for a longer meeting. It was Chef Mesnier who offered to be my spokesperson. And I can never say enough good things about the generosity of this man, and his incredible talents. But I can say that luck didn't have as much to do with my meeting Chef Mesnier as did persistence and preparation.

I believe that 90 percent of the people you meet want to help you. But I suspect only 0.000001 percent of the people you meet are mind readers. If you aren't going to make the world around you aware of what you want, then don't be surprised when the world doesn't respond to your requests.

By Kelly Harman  |  November 12, 2009; 8:02 AM ET  | Category:  Skill versus Luck Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Getting "lucky" | Next: Born with it

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