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We make our own luck


None of us has Harvey Dent's two-headed coin to make our own luck, but we constantly do it nonetheless. In order to prove this, Richard Wiseman, a professional magician and a psychologist conducted several experiments.

1. It's often not luck, but just about being observant.

He called a bunch of people and asked them to classify themselves as 'lucky' or 'unlucky' and once they had done that, he gave them a newspaper and asked them to count the number of photographs in them, and to do it as quickly as they could. The 'unlucky' people took two minutes on average to count them, while the 'lucky' people took just a few seconds. There was a headline on the third page that read 'You can stop counting, there are 43 photographs in this newspaper'.

2. Anxiety focuses us, but also keeps us from noticing opportunities.

Wiseman, in another experiment, had one group of people watch a moving dot on a computer monitor while other large dots flashed on the screen. They noticed the large dots. He did the experiment with a second group of people, but this time he offered a financial reward to make them more anxious. This group missed a third of the large dots that appeared.

I have seen this happen quite often. When someone is panicking or is anxious about doing well in an exam, or impressing a girl at a bar, they almost invariably fail at it.

I did a quick mental count of the people who have told me they feel they are unlucky or someone else not as deserving as them ended up getting what they wanted for themselves. And the thing common among all these people? They are very hard-working.

Hard work and a single minded focus on something is often touted as a good quality to nurture. But it is only true when this is decoupled from anxiety. And hard work rarely comes without a dose of anxiety.

3. Keep meeting new people and have new experiences and try new things.

Wiseman also found that lucky people went out of their way to try new things and meet new people.

This kind of follows on from the second point. The more open you are to new experiences and new people, the less anxious you are. The biggest reason for people to not meet new people is the fear of the unknown. Will this taste as good as the pizza that I know tastes alright? Will I be able to make that girl laugh? Will I be able to bear the freezing weather? Start finding out already!

4. Good things happen to lucky people while bad things happen to unlucky people.

Even though the thing that is happening is the same.

In another of Wiseman's experiments, he created a hypothetical situation where the subject is in a bank and a robber comes in and shoots the subject in the arm. And he asked the subjects to describe how they felt about it.

The 'unlucky' subjects lamented about their misfortune of having been in the wrong place at the wrong time while the 'lucky' people were thankful for not being shot in the head.

Often, we make our own luck by projecting onto the world around us. Show the world some optimism and trust, and you are likely to be rewarded in the same way. Be a pessimist and a cynic and you are likely to be rewarded in the same way.

Wiseman, through his experiments, was just putting across the idea that luck isn't something out of our hands that chooses to grace upon some people and stay out of reach for the rest. Instead, it is just a state of mind, a way of looking at the world around us.

Even the Harry Potter series tells you that you make your own luck (it's all in your head) and that you don't need a vial of Felix Felicis to have a great day like Ron Weasley.

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2 comments:

  1. Good post! Enjoyed reading and thinking about this.

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  2. Good read,
    Making a mental list myself on how many occasions I have believed myself to be "unlucky" and things around it :p

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