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Is it luck? Or just belief?

When I was growing up, I had a friend named Bobby, and Bobby was the luckiest person I had ever met. He didn’t come from a privileged background or anything – he was raised by a single mom who bounced from job to job trying to make ends meet – but it always seemed that luck was just favoring him. Just when he really wanted a new jacket, a jacket sale would happen. If he needed money for a trip, a temp job would suddenly become available. He could walk into the Financial Aid department of any college empty handed and walk out with a small grant, a student job, and a pre-approved loan application he just needed to fill out and return by Friday. People he had just met were constantly offering him help. It was just amazing to behold.

I always thought that it certainly didn’t hurt that Bobby was utterly charming; what it took me years to figure out is that it was less about his charisma, and more about Bobby’s sunny disposition… that, and his complete belief that good things were going to happen for him.

Noted management thinker and trainer of organizational behavior and development, Dr. Shailesh Thaker, wrote about a “luck experiment” he conducted years ago with 400 male and female volunteers of varying ages. He discovered people who considered themselves “lucky” tended to be less stressed, more positive, and more open to new experiences than their “unlucky” counterparts. “Unlucky” folks tended to get more tense in situations, fixating on a goal and missing the big picture. Dr. Thaker illustrated this point with the following story:

“I gave both lucky and unlucky people a newspaper, and asked them to look through it and tell me how many photographs were inside. On average, the unlucky people took about two minutes to count the photographs, whereas the lucky people took just seconds. Why? Because the second page of the newspaper contained the message: ‘Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.’ This message took up half of the page and was written in type that was more than 2 in high. It was staring everyone straight in the face, but the unlucky people tended to miss it and the lucky people tended to spot it.

For fun, I placed a second large message halfway through the newspaper: ‘Stop counting. Tell the experimenter you have seen this and win £250.’ Again, the unlucky people missed the opportunity because they were still too busy looking for photographs.”

Per Dr. Thaker, lucky people generate good fortune through four basic principles:

  1. They are adept at creating and noticing chance opportunities.
  2. They listen to their intuition instead of just following logic to create lucky decisions.
  3. They have positive expectations that manifest in self-fulfilling prophecies
  4. They have a positive, resilient attitude that allows them to see the good in situations.

As part of his experiment, Dr. Thaker instructed his volunteers to perform exercises meant to facilitate them seeing themselves and behaving as a “lucky person,” exercises to help them notice and take advantage of chance opportunities, go with their gut instincts, expect good things to happen, and help them bounce back from bad luck. After a month, a full 80 percent of the volunteers felt happier and more satisfied with their lives… and yes, felt luckier. A change in mental attitude changed their lives for the better.

Bobby expected good things, so good things came. Bobby was open to new experiences and new opportunities, so positive opportunities would present themselves. Bobby always considered how a decision would make him feel, listening to his gut before making choices. And most importantly, Bobby never let a bad beat get him down, so he was always in a good space to receive the next bit of good luck that came his way… and so good luck kept coming his way.

In our busy, stressed out lives, it can be difficult to see the positive side of events… but consider giving it a try. Attempt to see the good. Attempt to break out of routines and ruts, be open to new experiences. And see if a little more luck starts coming your way, too.

Keith Craker
Marketing Contractor