30 April, 2015

How to be Lucky

The recent earthquake in Nepal and the emerging accounts of survivors who believe that they have been ‘lucky’ or ‘unlucky’, in relation to this specific event, led me to consider my own ideas about what we mean by ‘luck’ in relation to a single experience compared to someone who is a lucky person by virtue of having experienced what might appear to be more than their ‘fair share’ of good luck.

The luck that sees you survive the collapse of a building during an earthquake is a one-off experience we would hope, unless you live in an earthquake zone.  On that theme I’m sure that we have all heard stories of people who have survived being struck by lightning on several occasions and I’m sure that probability experts could explain this fairly readily.  However back to our theme. A lucky person, over time, appears to experience a pattern of luck that defies probability.

We may think of someone as ‘exceptionally lucky’ because they seem to meet lots of famous people, or travel to exciting places, or have a fun career or successful business or win prizes in competitions. Could we be attempting to excuse our own inertia by crediting another person’s enterprise and success to luck?

The question, “If a man who cannot count finds a four-leaf clover, is he lucky?” (Stanislaw J. Lec) is one that is rich with inference. Can the more persistent form of luck that a lucky person experiences be sought out and cultivated? To seek out and grow ‘luck’ might require curiosity, networking, investigation and planning. Luck also requires that the lucky moment or opportunity is actually recognised. If the window of opportunity is small and momentary a lucky person may need the confidence to focus, accept risk, act and welcome the adventure. But to recognise and grasp an opportunity you are likely to need skills, knowledge, resources and flexibility; the lack of these creates a barrier to luck. So maybe despite the apparent contradiction, luck needs to be anticipated and prepared for. So maybe an optimistic and confident disposition is also a significant factor.

So, if you want to be ‘luckier’ by cultivating your own luck what can you do? Here are my top 10 tips:

  1. Have a positive attitude to work and play. When you work hard and play hard you attract other positive people who can believe in you and help you
  2. Be open to meeting people. Discuss their ideas, your ideas, share knowledge and cultivate influence. Follow up immediately on leads and opportunities
  3. Have a very clear purpose and future goal but enjoy the journey there, even if that journey includes B-roads and unexpected detours
  4. Be engaged with the world. Avoid becoming too introspective or the over-thinking that can lead to analysis-paralysis
  5. Focus on activities that will be strategic and productive but also leave space in your life to take advantage of unanticipated opportunities
  6. Be curious ask questions, decipher trends and patterns, see opportunities to act on
  7. Avoid becoming a slave to routine, instead seek out the new and stretch yourself
  8. Value action over the risk of failure. Even a failed experiment promotes learning, perseverance, resilience, and therefore progress. Action creates its own forward momentum
  9. Accept uncertainty and ambiguity and still act where others would become risk averse
  10. Begin each day with a positive thought or activity. You are what you think and activity creates mental and physical energy