Do You Feel Lucky, Punk?
Luck has been scientifically proven. But it’s not what you think it is. Here is how you can increase your luck.
Luck is often believed to be a mystical form of energy that may favor some people more than others. Luck works in mysterious ways and is entirely out of our control. Some people swear on the power of their lucky charms and get anxious when a black cat crosses their path.
While luck may be important when trying to win the lottery, most aspects of your life are not down to luck at all. Even if it sometimes feels that way.
Whether someone is lucky or not, we can only say in hindsight. You see someone being successful again and again, that’s when you start calling him lucky. But it’s impossible to call someone lucky before he has a streak.
Because in the end, luck is not real. Probability is, and it doesn’t care under which star you were born or what your favorite number is. However, science has accepted the challenge to verify luck’s existence. Here’s what they found.
The luck factor solved
As it turns out, luck does exist. It just exists in a different form than we think. Rather than being a mystical wheel of fortune, luck is the product of opportunities that fly your way and your skill to grab them.
And like any other skill you have, you can train it.
Prof. Wiseman has run countless questionnaires, experiments, and interviews with more than 400 people who either consider themselves really lucky or really unlucky. And these people, coming from all sorts of backgrounds, couldn’t be more different from each other. A retired accountant, a nurse, a salesman, a flight attendant…
There was only one thing that separated the lucky and unlucky people from each other — Their behavior.
Lucky people are more open and try new things, while those who consider themselves unlucky are generally more cautious, more anxious, and less prone to taking any risks.
So it’s true that “luck favors the bold.” Not because they are being bold. But because they create more chances to get lucky.
Wiseman’s selective attention test
In one experiment, Prof. Wiseman asked the participants to take a prepared newspaper and count the number of photographs in it. Halfway through page 2, he wrote:
“There are 43 photographs in this newspaper — stop counting”
It was written in a 2-inch wide font across half the page. The luckier participants noticed it. But the less lucky ones were so focused on counting the photographs, that they missed this big hint entirely.
Prof. Wiseman also included a second message in a similar fashion, announcing:
“Stop counting, tell the experimenter you have seen this and win $250.”
Again, the ones considering themselves lucky found it, while those who consider themselves unlucky were too busy counting photographs. What does that tell us?
Stop focusing too much on one task and be open to look around for opportunities.
If you think you are unlucky, you’re really not. You’re just not as good at recognizing opportunities when they pass you by. Some people are looking for a job in the newspaper, and they are so determined to find a specific job offer that they completely skip and thus miss a lot of other, possibly incredible opportunities.
Others go to a club or a party, determined to find the love of their lives. So they run around, only speaking to men or women who could be that partner. Meanwhile, they miss out on a lot of chances to make new friends or even meet a new business opportunity.
The four core qualities of “lucky” people
Overall, Prof. Wiseman has found 4 important attributes of lucky people that unlucky people don’t have:
- They are good at creating and identifying opportunities and chances
- They listen to their gut feeling when making important decisions
- They create self-fulfilling prophecies by always expecting a good outcome
- They search for the good in bad situations and stay resilient even if “bad luck” happens
So the secret to being lucky has nothing to do with the alignment of the stars, your zodiac sign, or your karma. It depends mostly on how willing you are to welcome lady luck with open arms.
Think about the last time you felt lucky and see if you could check these four points for that situation.
- Did you see or create an opportunity?
- Did you risk it even though you could have failed?
- Did you believe in your success more than your failure?
- Did you keep your cool even in a moment where failure seemed imminent?
These are the only four ingredients you need to be lucky.
I found the love of my life, completely by chance, while learning Japanese on a free online platform. I considered myself lucky. But was I?
No. All of the above applies to my situation. I risked it and believed that I’d succeed. Even when things turned south, I worked at fixing the situation asap and getting back on track. I wasn’t lucky. I was determined and confident that all will be well.
Do you see the good or the bad?
One questionnaire of Prof. Wiseman pointed out how some people appreciate the good in any situation, while others focus only on negativity.
He presented the participants with the following scenario:
Imagine you’re being in a bank to withdraw some money. At that moment, a bank robber enters the bank. He fires a shot and you get hit in the arm. How do you feel?
The less fortunate people quickly found their answer. “That’s typical for my bad luck to be there and get hit.”
But the fortunate people answered differently: “That’s lucky. He could have hit me in the head. And now I can sell my story to newspapers and TV.”
So whether you are lucky or unlucky in a given situation only depends on how you look at it. If you only focus on finding the bad, you will sooner or later find it everywhere. But if you focus on finding the good things instead, you can find a ray of light in the darkest moments.
Whether you are lucky or not, depends on how you look at your situation.
It’s this resilience and positive thinking that causes lucky people to consider themselves lucky. If you adopt this way of thinking, you will feel lucky and thus less stressed. And less stress means you will be more open to additional opportunities as they pop up.
Prof. Wiseman’s apple orchard
Another great visualization of how luck works can be found in Prof. Wiseman’s article.
Imagine living in the center of a large apple orchard. Each day you have to venture into the orchard and collect a large basket of apples. The first few times it won’t matter where you decide to visit. All parts of the orchard will have apples and so you will be able to find them wherever you go.
But as time goes on it will become more and more difficult to find apples in the places that you have visited before. And the more you return to the same locations, the harder it will be to find apples there. But if you decide to always go to parts of the orchard that you have never visited before, or even randomly decide where to go, your chances of finding apples will be dramatically increased.
And it is exactly the same with luck. It is easy for people to exhaust the opportunities in their life. Keep on talking to the same people in the same way. Keep taking the same route to and from work. Keep going to the same places on vacation. But new or even random experiences introduce the potential for new opportunities.
— Prof. Wiseman in “The luck factor”
Lucky people tend to change their routines. They take a different way to work just to see something new on the way. They go out of their way to talk to different people. And if an opportunity knocks at their door, they open it with a bright smile on their face.
Seeing luck as part of your own personality and behavior makes it much easier to take control. You decide whether you are lucky or not.
Final thoughts and the way to luck
If you want to have luck in life, create it. Keep your eyes open for opportunities, and create your own. Then don’t hesitate when you get a chance. Talk to people you wouldn’t talk to. Take a different path. Try new things. Change your routine.
When things go wrong, don’t waste time complaining and self-criticizing. It could have been worse, right? Look at the bright side and move on. Everyone tumbles and falls now and then.
Don’t expect the worst. Prepare for the worst, but keep expecting the best. This will influence how you think and feel throughout the day. How others perceive you. How your day turns out.
Look in the mirror, smile, and repeat: “Today will be a good day.”
You may not win the lottery by following the tips in this article. That’s really just up to a 1:240 million chance. But you’ll see so many opportunities in life that you didn’t see up until now. And you need to grab them. If your gut tells you that you should risk it, do it.
That’s how lucky people start companies, find the love of their life, and enjoy their life with a never-ending smile. They truly are lucky. Because they have learned how to be lucky. And you can too.
- Seek opportunities and keep an open mind. Don’t limit yourself to something out of anxiety.
- Listen to your heart. If your instinct tells you that it’s a great idea, it probably is.
- Believe in your success at all times. We can’t win always, but we certainly can believe that we will.
- If bad things happen, search for the silver lining.
That’s all you need to be lucky.