Photo by Amy Reed

What Are The Four Types Of Luck?

Add this mental model to your internal latticework

Julia Clavien
Jul 1, 2018 · 3 min read

The topic of luck — or chance, is a fascinating one. There’s ideas like blind luck, but also ideas like you make your own luck. How can you conceptually fit them all together?

A mental model called The Four Types of Chance helps us do just that! 🍀


What are these four types of chance/luck?

James H. Austin (in his book Chase, Chance and Creatively: The Lucky Art of Novelty) lays them out in a four step hierarchy as follows…

The first type is the most basic:

…the good luck that occurs is completely accidental. It is pure blind luck that comes with no effort on our part.

For the second type:

…something else has been added … motion.

… A certain level of action “stirs up the pot”, brings in random ideas that will collide and stick together in fresh combinations.

Very little is likely to happen when we stay at home staring at the ceiling. When we are out in the physical world (or even clicking around in the digital world) in some kind of motion — we’re likely to experience more of the serendipitous events that we call lucky.

Chance II favors those who have a persistent curiosity about many things coupled with an energetic willingness to experiment and explore.

Charles Kettering said it well:

Keep on going and the chances are you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I have never heard of anyone stumbling on something sitting down.

The third type is about your receptivity:

[It] presents only a faint clue, the potential opportunity exists, but it will be overlooked except by that one person uniquely equipped to observe it, visualize it conceptually, and fully grasp its significance.

Chance III involves a special receptivity, discernment, and intuitive grasp of significance unique to one particular recipient.

This kind of luck is special to each of us. It’s when we are the right person with our unique set of experience and knowledge and are thus able to be receptive to the luck.

Chance III favors those who have a sufficient background of sound knowledge plus special abilities in observing, remembering, recalling, and quickly forming significant new associations.

Louis Pasteur was onto it when he said:

Chance favors the prepared mind.

The fourth type is about your somewhat directed behavior:

Chance favors the individualized action. … an active, but unintentional, subtle individualized prompting of it.

Chance IV is the kind of luck that develops during a probing action which has a distinctive personal flavor.

[It] comes to you, unsought, because of who you are and how you behave.

This type is probably closest to the idea of making your own luck. It comes to you because of the actions you take.

Chance IV favors those with distinctive, if not eccentric hobbies, personal life styles, and motor behaviors.

Need a summary?

That was quite a long one! Here’s the summary table from the book:

Want to go deeper?

👍 This post by Marc Andreessen is a fantastic longer summary and has excellent advice on how to apply the model in the context of entrepreneurship.

📖 The book Chase, Chance, and Creativity: The Lucky Art of Novelty has the original concept and much more.

📧 Like learning mental models? Check out this Mental Models newsletter.

Julia Clavien

Written by

Curious to a fault. Technology | Psychology | Philosophy. All opinion subject to change. ☺ linktr.ee/juliaclavien

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade