“It takes money to make money” they say. There’s definitely an element of truth to that. The most credible argument to landing a big sale, getting a major project, etc. is having a history of doing it before. Aaron Renn had a post on the Urbanophile recently that reinforces this. New York City draws in out-of-town wealth, he says, because it has already drawn in out-of-town wealth.
If you have something you want to do, you can put this principle to work. Street musicians, baristas, and others who depend on tips often “prime” their tip jars (or guitar cases or whatever). The idea being that it encourages people to contribute. When I have a theater in my booth at a conference, I make sure that there are a few people watching the beginning of the presentation. The bigger the crowd gets, the more attention it draws from passers by.
So the trick is to get the first one of whatever you’re trying to get. If you want to be a writer, you can start by writing your own blog. Then you can get a friend to let you write a guest post. Then you can point to those when you angle for your first “real” gig.
This doesn’t work for everything, of course. You don’t get to be a heart surgeon by performing surgery on yourself and your friends and family. But it does work in a lot of scenarios, particularly creative works. And you don’t even have to do a great job. Having a mediocre history is better than no history in a lot of cases.
So you can get success by being successful. It helps to be lucky, too, but you can’t control the random whims of fate. At best, you can put yourself in a position to take advantage of good luck when it happens.