Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Rather Be Lucky Than Good

I've always said,
I'd rather be lucky than good.
Luck has gotten me out of a lot of situations that no amount of being good ever would.

Luck is another one of those terms that is hard to define, but "everyone knows" what it means.

For instance, if you win the lottery (the big multi-million dollar one, not that piddly ass scratch and sniff shit), are you lucky?

Of course you are. Silly question.

OK, how about if you have a pretty good life, good job, nice wife and kids, then win the lottery, then become a rich asshole, have your kids kidnapped for ransom, and have your wife run away with your accountant, taking most of your future lotto payments with her.

Are you still in the "lucky" category?

According to this book I've been reading, the answer is - it depends.

The book is The Luck Factor, by Richard Wiseman. I happened to run across it pretty randomly when looking at some Amazon "Customers Who" links (you know, like - "Customers who viewed The Secret World Of Extreme Body Modification also viewed Back Pain Remedies for Dummies).

Some lucky break, huh?

Anyway, according to Wiseman, whether or not you are a lucky person depends in no small part on your attitude, and how you look at unfortunate events. (This is actually principle four - see below). And learning how to influence your luck could be a very useful bit of trivia to tuck away.
... luck plays a massively significant role throughout many different aspects of our lives. Luck has the power to transform both our personal and professional lives.

Wiseman has done some very interesting experiments and tried to rigorously (ok, as rigourous as psychology experiments ever are) determine why some people are lucky, and some people are not.
For over one hundred years, psychologists have studied how our lives are affected by our intelligence, personality, genes, appearance, and upbringing...very little work has examined good and bad luck. I supsect that psychologists have avoided the topic because they prefer, quite understandably, to examine factors they can measure and control more easily. Measuring intelligence and categorising people's personalities is relatively straightforward [oh really? - Ed.], but how do you quantify luck and control chance?

It's pretty interesting. He managed to rule out psychic phenomena, intelligence, and a few other factors that had no statistical correlation with being lucky. However, he also managed to identify some factors that are strongly correlated with being lucky. The way he characterizes the primary factors is a list of four:

  • Lucky people create, notice and act upon the chance opportunities in their life

  • Lucky people make successful decisions by using their intuition and gut feelings

  • Lucky people's [positive] expectations about the future help them fulfill their dreams and ambitions

  • Lucky people are able to transform their bad luck into good fortune

The book goes into some decent detail about why and how, and it's reasonably convincing. In a nutshell, if you remain positive and open to chance opportunities for good fortune, good fortune will eventually find you.

For the more religiously devout in the audience - not that there's likely any of you left, given my periodic teasing about dogmatic beliefs - the idea is already captured in the saying:
"God helps those who help themselves!"
Hezekiah 6:1**

I'm going to try to make a conscious effort to adopt some of his recommendations to become luckier. What can it hurt?

I'd be interested in hearing how you think luck works.

** Actually, there is no book of Hezekiah. And the bible (KJ) tends to promote the opposite belief. "He who trusts in himself is a fool..." (Prov 28:26)


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