I'm looking for an English version of the German

Nicht die Zufaelle machen den Meister, der Meister macht die Zufaelle.


Not coincidence makes a master, a master makes coincidence.

It refers to the observation that opportunity seemingly out of a random alignment of stars is often the result of a person giving themselves the best chance by skilfully creating favourable circumstances.

In particular, can we say "makes a master" for "macht den Meister"? The most common use of this phrase in German would be "Uebung macht den Meister", "Practice makes perfect".

Which word would one use for "Zufall" in this context? "Coincidence", "luck", "opportunity", ...?

EDIT Clarification:

I'm aware of the more general phrases offered in some of the answers.

God/Heaven/Luck helps those who help themselves.

@Weather Vane

make your own luck

@Edwin Ashworth

Both also exist in German and probably many other languages as apparently they can in some form be attributed to Aesop ~600 BC and Appius Claudius 307 BC, respectively.

I would, however, argue that those are about effort and attitude and not so much about skill.

  • 3
    You might want to look at "The Harder I Practice, the Luckier I Get" which seems to be a very similar saying in English. Feb 5, 2022 at 12:03
  • 1
    Luck favours the brave/fearless.
    – user358018
    Feb 5, 2022 at 16:07
  • 1
    In particular, can we say "makes a master?" No, in English, "master" does not quite carry the same nuance as the German "Meister". In German, the idea is of someone who has mastered any craft or skill, and is the equivalent of "a highly skilled person in any trade or profession". In English, without "...of/at a named craft", "master" takes on the meaning of "boss", "headman".
    – Greybeard
    Feb 5, 2022 at 16:16
  • 'I would, however, argue that those are about effort and attitude [which is not what I'm asking for] and not so much about skill' ... But this partially conflicts with ' a person giving themselves the best chance by skilfully creating favourable circumstances' (application/attitude, and effort). Even the greats don't win when they've neglected to practice / study / research etc. // Some thought that Paganini had traded his soul for the gift of mastery of the violin. Some thought that he had been born with overly large tendons in his hands. But a post-mortem showed that they had actually ... Feb 6, 2022 at 15:27
  • been worn away, so that they were thinner than normal. By 12-15 hour's practice a day. Feb 6, 2022 at 15:28

2 Answers 2


One well-used proverb is

  • God/Heaven/Luck helps those who help themselves.

Farlex has

Heaven helps those who help themselves

God will assist people who are already putting forth effort toward something without relying solely on divine intervention. A less common variant of the phrase "God helps those who help themselves."

  • Thank you. This goes in the right general direction but from a less specific angle (skill) than what I am looking for. My bad for not making it clear enough in my original question (now updated). Feb 6, 2022 at 6:15

The transparent idiom [you] make your own luck is often defined.

Though the idiom is listed by the Farlex Dictionary of Idioms, this definition and usage illustration given by a senior member on WordReference is more helpful:

make your own luck

It is a fairly common expression. It is a way of saying that people who are successful may appear to be simply lucky, but in fact it is the way they behave which has led to their success. Hence "making you own luck". [FAC13]

It's an idiom because it is a perverse usage, in fact denying that luck exists (at least to a degree) while seemingly assuming the opposite.

The great golfer Gary Player was sometimes accused of being a lucky player. He countered with the classic

“The more I practice, the luckier I get.”

  • Thank you. The second one looks close. Though it appears to leave quite a bit of room for interpretation. Feb 6, 2022 at 6:32

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