Make Your Own Luck

by Carolyn Edlund

Carolyn Edlund

Carolyn Edlund

Many years ago, when I graduated with a degree in Art, I thought I would just start selling my work and make a living. I had no idea that I didn’t know what I was doing. In fact, I was totally clueless about the possibility that I could fail.



And so I approached my new business with a passion. It was very exciting! But passion for something in and of itself doesn’t make you successful.

Passion can help you be persistent, though. I firmly believe that persistence is the most important trait any businessperson can have. Fortunately, I was not only persistent in pursuing my dream of being an artist; I was relentless. It ended up paying off.

Of course, I ran into problems during those early days that I didn’t expect, and got knocked around a bit, just like anyone else starting out. The School of Hard Knocks taught me a lot – mostly what not to do. They were very important lessons, and I learned more from failing than I did from my successes.


Studio sign


Eventually, I established a full-time production studio, sold my work into hundreds of stores, and employed others to help me in my studio. I realized that I had accomplished even more than I’d envisioned when I started out. Of course, at the beginning I didn’t even have a plan – just a dream. A relentless one.

I’ve been told at times that I was lucky to have become successful with my studio business, but I knew better. I had made my own luck. And I knew other people who had done this, too.

“I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” ~ Thomas Jefferson

I’ve got some theories about people who “make themselves lucky.”

  • People who make their own luck keep a positive attitude despite the odds.
  • People who make their own luck persist even when they get rejected or insulted.
  • People who make their own luck understand that they need to meet the right people who can help them, because it’s not just how good your work is – it’s also who you know.
  • People who make their own luck show up. That means that eventually they will be in the right place at the right time.

What other traits do you think “lucky” people have? Are you one of them?


Author Carolyn Edlund is the founder of Artsy Shark and a consultant working with artists and creative entrepreneurs on smart strategies for their businesses. Learn more about consulting services here.


  1. People who make their own luck are not afraid to take chances in spite of others saying their ideas are foolish.

  2. Believe in yourself. And believe that yes, there are other people out there who like what you like. And go out there and find them.

  3. Excellent post Carolyn. Positive attitude, showing up and putting myself “out there”, not allowing in other people’s negative beliefs, readiness for the opportunities that do show up, a dogged persistence, and focus – lots of focus – have gotten me a lot farther than any “luck” ever has. How does the saying go? “Luck is where opportunity meets preparation?” Or something like that. Thank you 🙂

    • Very true! I once spoke with an artist, who is a silk painter and has been selling wholesale for many years. One buyer placed an order, saying, “We have seen you at this show time after time, and we figured you must do really well with your work. So we knew that eventually we would just have to order!”

  4. You are so smart, Carolyn. Love this post!

    I am very “lucky”: I had my first hand-made crafting business at the age of 8, then many more throughout my childhood and always had people telling me I was too young – “go out and play”. HA!

    I love that you have help me in realizing that all my LUCK was found in the DOING so that when real opportunities came, I had gotten all the “rehearsing” out of the way.


  5. Carolyn, I love your post and have printed it out to pin on my wall. It’s all true!
    Most of my luck has been when I take big risks without over thinking because I have faith in my abilities and skills. Oh, and have at least one person on your life team who truly believes in you 🙂 because we all need support.

    • I would agree that over-thinking can cause all kinds of doubts and problems to creep in, which are more likely to cause failure. Sometimes you just gotta do it!

  6. I agree with you Carolyn,

    I will keep positive, I am starting a new chapter of my life, I will keep your theory in mind going forward:)

  7. HA! I could have written that opening sentence!!

    I think “lucky” people are grateful people!

  8. I am lucky I found a great site like this to motivate me. Lot’s of great articles and people. Thank you Carolyn Edlund, for helping others, and me, see ourselves in a better way. Blessings.

  9. I am so lucky you would not believe. Moved to CO the end of ’87, during the Savings and Loan crash. Gave 23 presentations in two months before getting my first job (seven of those businesses went out of business in those 2 months). Took a “J O B” in a marketing department and three times they asked me to take the head illustrator position. I kept saying no – I am going to paint murals. I worked three days a week illustrating and three days a week painting murals and giving presentations. After three years I quit and two weeks later a five star resort called and wanted to see my portfolio. That resort has been a client for twenty years now. Just luck, right. Love your newsletter and your great insight into art!

    • Mickey, because I know you and know that you have also gone through some trying times, I’d have to say that your attitude of gratitude is one of the reasons you are so lucky. It sets you up for success!

  10. You are our: “Norma Vincent Peale, Carolyn for keeping us positive.
    I agree with Kathryn: I think “lucky” people are grateful people!
    and with you and Mickey about an Attitude of Gratitude.

    Years ago I was so dejected when one of my finest sculptures was rejected from a prestigious competition. But I continued with my theme of manhole art and that same piece ” borough of Manhatttan,” was requested for The National Association of Women Artists’ Permanent Collection at Rutger’s Zimmerli Art Museum.

    Recently The University of Central Florida TV Station Featured my manhole art:”Grate Works of Art in a “WUCF Artisode.”
    For these Blessings, I am eternally “Grateful.”

  11. So true, Carolyn! Guess I was “lucky” too…
    When I started out in this biz, there were no how-to books, websites, or art business coaches! In some ways, that was a good thing because, had I known the way “everyone does it” and followed that model, I may not have enjoyed the success I’ve had. My unconventional, creative approach worked very well for me.
    That, plus persistence and maintaining a consistently positive mental attitude.

  12. Carolyn, thanks for such a stimulating post! I will keep working hard! You are so right!

  13. Thank you heaps for sharing another refreshing, positive post for artists. It inspires me to get back into it, after some months of not working on my art much, due to dealing with other family issues. I’m more motivated now:) thank you…


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