Word-Of-the-Week #892: Luck

September 9, 2021 by · Leave a Comment 

Luck – to prosper or succeed especially through chance or good fortune.

How open are you to opportunities that come your way? Do you get mired in negative thoughts about the possibility of failure?

This week comes from Forbes, “What Is Luck, And Does It Affect Your Chances Of Success?”  by David Kleinhandler.

“I can’t count how many successful people I’ve known who, when asked how they got to where they are today, have simply said they were “lucky.” It’s true that a little modesty never hurt anyone, but luck isn’t what separates those who get what they want in life from those who don’t. What most people choose to call luck is the result of being open to opportunity — something that comes down to attitude, not happy accidents.

Though he may not have had the business world in mind, per se, the poet John Milton is often credited as describing luck as the residue of design. I think there’s a lot of truth to this, even if it’s not possible to design a blueprint for success in business. What you can do — on purpose and by design — is choose how to perceive good opportunities coming your way. No one would argue that a chance encounter can’t alter the course of a career, but it’s easy to discount how much goes into making an opportunity out of an encounter. You can call meeting a random stranger luck if you want, but what follows is anything but.

Psychologist and author Richard Wiseman has spent his career studying luck and our perception of it. What he found after years of investigation is that luck is completely a matter of how we choose to look at our lives. The people who consider themselves lucky are the ones who recognize their own good fortune wherever it happens and look at the world through that lens. What they aren’t are people onto whom amazing things shower down from above.

Wiseman’s work spans decades of interviews and experiments in which he has sought to prove that good fortune comes from within. The people who grab onto opportunities when they arise, expect the best, minimize their setbacks and weather difficulties are the so-called lucky ones. His research demonstrates that luck comes down to attitude, often in surprising ways.

One such experiment separated people who considered themselves lucky from those who characterized themselves as unlucky. Both groups were asked to read through a newspaper and count the photographs, reporting to him how many they found. The “lucky” people were much more frequently the ones who found the not-so-hidden message on page two that said, in bold letters, “Stop counting — There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.”

Those people were open-minded, rather than mired in negative thoughts about the possibility of failure. Considering yourself a perpetual victim of bad luck is the worst possible way to live life and do business, not only because you’re going to miss out on the great opportunities that do come your way, but because that negativity will inevitably become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Pessimism about your own situation, especially, puts you at a disadvantage in what might be the single most important luck-booster in business: networking — which is to say, leveraging your existing position to increase the likelihood of new encounters working in your favor.

To return to our random stranger example — perhaps at the expense of saying something obvious — people get less random the more of them you know. Growing your network is probably the most important external thing you can do in order to consistently get yourself in front of opportunity. In fact, it’s been proven that having a large, varied network of contacts is the single best predictor of career success. So many opportunities come from knowing someone in a position to help you and being open to new connections. Your attitude, in the end, will be the most valuable asset you have in getting those lucky opportunities.

The truth is, probability doesn’t care how lucky or unlucky you’ve been in the past when your next $10 million deal is on the table any more than it does how many ladders you didn’t walk under on the way to the office. Neither should you. If you’re looking for success (as most of us are), then what you need first and foremost is the right attitude. There are no guarantees, but what most people call good luck is the ability to notice great opportunities and take advantage of them. Open hands are a start, but an open mind is where luck is made.”

This week’s focus is on luck. Are you open-minded? Do you grab onto opportunities when they arise? Have you actively worked at growing a varied network of contacts? And how’s your attitude these days?

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Word Of the Week #567: Luck

June 11, 2015 by · Comments Off on Word Of the Week #567: Luck 

Luck: an unknown and unpredictable phenomenon that causes an event to result one way rather than another.

How many times have you had good things happen that were totally unexpected? When was the last time you recognized an opportunity and acted on it? How willing are you to take risks and be out of your “comfort zone?

This is the follow up to last week’s WOW from Parades Tom Brokaw’s lucky star article. Kathleen McCleary’s article featured an insert titled, 5 WAYS TO GET LUCKIER. A growing body of research says you can wield a powerful influence in your life. Here’s how.

“Open yourself up to serendipity and watch your luck improve.

  • PAY ATTENTION Curiosity, alertness, flexibility, courage, and diligence – they’re traits that prepare you to recognize opportunities and act on them. So are keen powers of observation. Several artists in Dr. Makri’s studies practice standing still every day to observe the world around them. Put down your cell phone. Step away from your computer screen. Look around.
  • OPEN YOUR CALENDAR A hyper-scheduled lifestyle can close you off to serendipity. Down time – walking, meditating, staring out the window – allows connections and patterns and ideas to reveal themselves. ‘Before I started working on serendipity I was very task-driven. I was not as willing to talk to anyone. Now I make sure I have unstructured time every week, and more opportunities seem to come to me,” Dr. Makri says.

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  • INCREASE YOUR ODDS If you try more things, more good things will happen, says Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University and author of Irrationally Yours: On Missing Socks, Pickup Lines, and Other Existential Puzzles. If you try 30 new things, at the end of the year you might count 15 good things that happened to you. But if you wait to try things only when you’re sure of success, you might count just three good things that happened that year.
  • TAKE CHANCES Just as Atkeson took a chance in changing careers at 48, serendipity is more likely to strike if you take risks or go outside your comfort zone – exposing yourself to new people, places, activities and information gives you the chance to make creative connections that lead to serendipity. Ariely went to an art gallery opening and met an artist interested in the social sciences. That connection led to Ariely lecturing on behavioral issues – dishonesty, self-control – while artists created art related to those concepts. The collaboration even led to a new class.
  • LET IT GO Research shows that a genetic variation in the brain makes some people naturally less anxious and better able to forget bad experiences, says Richard A. Friedman, clinical psychiatry professor at Weill Cornell Medical College. The ‘unlucky’ tend to ‘be data collectors for bad experiences’ – remembering every detail of negative events and weighing them all equally, so losing out on a great parking spot becomes just as awful as losing your mother’s heirloom diamond ring.”

This week’s focus is on luck. How task driven are you? How much unstructured time do you devote each day to just observe the world around you? How willing are you to take a chance and/or try new things? How many good things have happened to you this year?

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