A good friend of mine — but a huge pain in my butt — kind of gave me a backhanded compliment the other day. You know the kind…”I’m a fan of your earlier work” or “Your presentation will be inspiring if people are listening.”

Hers was in the form of a sentence that basically said she would be great at photography or video editing if she had the network of friends I have. I could hear my mother say, “Robert, keep it positive, I mean it,” so I just smiled. I offered her resources to learn from but, nope, she said she doesn’t learn like that, only in person. I offered a ticket to Photoshop World, “can’t… I’m busy,” she said. Then she had the gall to say — after she saw I roomed with Richard Harrington at Shutterfest — that the reason I must be good is that I’m lucky to have talented friends like him.

Instead of getting upset, I sent her an article I wrote — Is Formal Photography Training Necessary? — and even sent her a link to an Infocus Interview Podcast I had with Scott Kelby talking about the same subject. But for some reason, she — and others like her — think there is a simple shortcut to success. Her statement inspired me to write this article and explain what LUCK is. By the way, I told her I was writing this especially for her.

LUCK Will Avoid Wasting Time

LUCK is an acronym for Laboring Under Correct Knowledge. People who appear to be lucky usually have found the right person to learn from. The right person may be different for each of us. I personally gravitate toward instructors who teach in a structured manner — demonstrating how to begin a project and the steps needed to complete it. I stay away from instructors who talk excessively about themselves or their work. I don’t care how good they are, I want to know how good they can make me. Our time is limited, so choose the right person to learn from.

Set Aside a Time to Learn Each Week

My friends Richie and Iris run a successful wedding and portrait photography business in my hometown of Melbourne, Florida. If you ask them if Daenerys Targaryen was taken down by Sansa Stark in the last episode of Game of Thrones, they would look at you funny. But if you asked them about a posing technique Roberto Valenzuela talked about in his online class, they would know the answer. I’m not saying ditch watching your favorite TV shows — heck, I’m addicted to several of them. I’m suggesting setting aside several hours each week to watch videos or read articles on areas you want to improve on and stick to the schedule.

Start a Notebook or Write Docs in Google Drive

I’m not suggesting creating more work for yourself — although it may sound like it is. Writing notes will help commit to memory the topics you’re learning. This is how I started blogging. I originally recorded videos and wrote articles as a resource intended just for me. To this day, I’ll Google a topic only to find an article I’d written on the subject but had forgotten about.

Learning Doesn’t Come Cheap

Imagine how much it cost to earn a degree from a college or university in the field you are interested in. Higher education isn’t always cheap. There are less expensive options to receive a formal education—notice I said “less expensive,” not free. Online training companies such as LinkedIn Learn, Lynda.com, Creative Live, Kelbyone, and SLR Lounge offer great classes and information as a paid service. Now, before you say, “Well, I’ll just search YouTube,” remember we talked about LUCK? YouTube is great as a reference. You can search how to change the battery in your smoke detector, but you won’t find a free course on how to build a state-of-the-art smoke detector. Why? Because educators have to make a living, too.

What About Free YouTube Videos or Podcasts From Top Photographers?

YouTube photographers such as Joe Edelman, Gavin Hoey and Jared Polin offer great FREE videos on YouTube. Photofocus had several FREE Podcasts. In order for educators to keep producing quality content, someone has to pay. Either a sponsor pays or the public does. Watching ads on YouTube or clicking sponsor links help fund these projects and keeps quality education flowing.

The advice I wrote is the same advice I’ve followed — and still follow to this day. If you want to be good at anything, roll up your sleeves and apply the LUCK concept.