Lessons from the luckiest people on earth!
What are we talking about this week? We’re talking about being lucky, of course! “Blaine, you just did two episodes about the recession, inflation, and all the things we should be doing, and now you’re talking about being lucky, What is going on, man?!”… and that is exactly the point of this week’s episode, my friends. We’re talking about luck in this week’s episode precisely because of the times we’re headed into and to change your thinking on exactly what luck is, and how to create your own luck. Yes, that’s right, I said create your own luck!
When you say the word luck, or lucky, to most people, they imagine some kind of energy or force of nature that some are in tune with, while the rest of us just have to slog on through life luckless and without any extra help whatsoever. Somebody wins the Powerball lottery, and we all say, ‘damn, they are so lucky!’, meanwhile, most who say that didn’t buy a Powerball ticket, which we’ll talk a little bit about later in the show. Somebody gets the job you wanted, and they’re considered lucky. Somebody catches the award-winning Bass and they’re lucky. Some dude invests heavily in Doge coin and wakes up one day a millionaire (and we’ll talk about that one too).
I began studying luck about 10 years ago when I came across an article by a British psychology professor named Richard Wiseman. Dr. Wiseman had been conducting studies on the lucky and the unlucky to see if there were any correlations or outstanding variables that could be identified in either group in order to crack the code, so to speak. It turns out that there are variables for both the so called lucky, and the unlucky, that he was able to observe and identify. He then set about expanding his testing by creating what he called his ‘luck school’ to see if he could make the lucky people luckier, and the unlucky people lucky.
Now, before we go on, we have to define what luck is so that we’re all on the same page and not equivocating about what we all might consider lucky or unlucky. There are definitely situations and scenarios that all of us would agree entails some level of pure luck, both good and bad. Winning the Powerball would definitely be considered lucky by most people, although there are many who have won significant money in lotteries and say it changed their lives for the worst. I think I’d be ok if I won 10 or 300 million dollars, but I haven’t, so I can’t say. If you’re one of the people boarding a plane that goes down in the Venezuelan jungle, I’d say you were one of the unlucky people whose number came up. There are odds and probabilities in all things, especially lotteries and plane crashes, and you can’t change one of those. You can alter the odds of either happening by flying more frequently or playing the lottery, but the probabilities of winning the lottery or dying in a plane crash are unalterable by anything you do or don’t do. I won’t go as far as to say it’s ‘pure’ luck, because you have to buy a lottery ticket to win, and you have to buy a plane ticket and board the plane to die in a crash, so the doing of something removes the purity part, but it’s pretty close to pure luck. Pure luck would be winning the lottery without buying a ticket or dying in a plane crash while sitting in a park feeding the ducks. That’s pure luck!
So, the definition we’re using for luck is the chance happening of fortunate or unfortunate events. We could also use the definition of one’s personal fate, but that would entail first believing in the idea of fate and predetermined events and that would be a whole other podcast, so let’s just go with chance happening. What I hope to do by the end of this episode is show you that it’s often not chance at all and that lucky and unlucky people have a strong hand in making their own luck.
Back to Dr. Wiseman, the British psychology professor, and his research on luck. I’ll share with you what he found in his research on both lucky and unlucky people, and then I’ll give you 8 things, we might call them traits or even habits, that can change your fortune from lucky to luckier and from unlucky to lucky if you’re willing to try. When it comes to those that were deemed lucky, either because they were self-proclaimed lucky people, or because of a series of things deemed lucky by Dr. Wiseman, they all scored very high on the extroversion scale. That simply means they were more outgoing and extroverted than their unlucky counterparts. They smiled twice as often and engaged in more eye contact than the average person. Now, as it turns out, because they’re more social, they increased their odds of creating or being exposed to more opportunities to meet more people, make more connections, and maintain more relationships. The lucky crowd was far more open to new experiences willing to start up conversations with complete strangers, travel to more places, and try new things. They were more optimistic about life, they had far more positive expectations, and their overall outlook led to more self-fulfilling prophecies about all the good that can come to them.
Essentially, what Dr. Wiseman found was what many of us have known for a long time, when you look for the good, you’re more likely to find it. When you look for the bad, you’re just as likely to find that as well. The ‘lucky’ crowd seemed to know the value of breaking routine and not getting into ruts. Routines often lead to ruts in life and positives can turn into negatives in a hurry.
Now, for the unlucky people, Dr. Wiseman found that they scored twice as high on the neuroticism scale than their lucky counterparts, meaning they were highly neurotic about bad things happening. They had considerably more anxiety about life in general, which is a trait that can actually be beneficial because anxiety is about focusing on things that haven’t happened, but could, and feeling a lack of control over those things. Anxiety can help some people focus more on a task, but that focus also increases the odds that those people will not be able to see the opportunities around them. Or, if they do see what the lucky people would consider opportunities, the unlucky people see as more anxiety and potential danger. The unlucky people are more interested in their routine of staying in their safety bubble than going out and meeting new people or trying new things. The unlucky people, Dr. Wiseman found, also had a tendency to have tunnel vision in their careers because they were more interested in playing it safe than stirring things up and creating opportunities for themselves. All of this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for the unlucky as well because they end up creating lives for themselves that proves their beliefs about what can and can’t be. They end up being apathetic about their careers, which is what they told themselves would happen, they end up working in careers they don’t enjoy for far too long, and then they tell themselves that that’s just life. The lucky people, on the other hand, since they are more extroverted, more outgoing, out meeting new people, and more positive about life in general, tend to create their own new opportunities that lead to better job and career prospects, better growth opportunities, and, again, a self-fulfilling prophecy of a life filled with what some would call luck.
So, here are the 7 traits, or habits if you prefer, of lucky people that, if you adopt and deploy in your own life, will surely increase how lucky you are. The first trait or habit is that of mindfulness. Now, I know, the term mindfulness is typically associated with meditation practices, zen, yoga, and a whole movement over the last 20 years to help people lead more meaningful and awakened lives, but the term mindfulness in this case is more a reminder toward situational and self-awareness. Being aware of what’s going on around you, as well as inside of you; your emotions and thoughts, leads eventually to being less judgmental about things and more open to good things coming your way. Those deemed unlucky tend to be quick to judge, and usually negatively, which also closes them off to seeing something good from situations and watching as things unfold naturally. If you want to become a lucky person intentionally, become more mindful and situationally aware.
The next habit of lucky people is to become more proactive. Quite simply, lucky people make shit happen! A saying that I’ve become very fond of is, ‘if you want to predict your future, create it!’ Lucky people create their own futures by being proactive, instead of reactive. They take responsibility for their thoughts, their words, their actions, and their behavior. When you take responsibility for all of yourself you retain complete control to make good things come from everything. Say something stupid? Take responsibility, apologize, turn bad into good. Do something that doesn’t lead to positive results? Take responsibility for it, learn from it, make the necessary modifications for the next time and turn it into something good. It’s almost guaranteed that people will call you lucky when good things happen without ever fully understanding that you created that ‘lucky’ results by your attitude, your outlook, and by taking responsibility for everything that happens to you. It’s been said that there are three kinds of people; those that make things happen, those that watch what happens, and those that wonder what just happened. Which one are you? And which one do you want to be? Be proactive and make things happen!
The third habit of lucky people is that they are opportunistic. I made a video for some of my coaching groups a couple years called, ‘become an unabashed opportunist’. The word opportunist typically connotes something negative, like somebody who takes advantage of somebody else’s bad luck, but it doesn’t have to. It can simply mean somebody who waits for and takes advantage of opportunity. Lucky people are opportunists in that they are always on the lookout for opportunities. When you’re always looking for opportunities, you’ll build up your opportunity muscle. With a strong opportunity muscle, you’ll see opportunities that others often miss. Hopefully you’re starting to get the idea that those we often call lucky aren’t lucky in the traditional sense, they are actually just people that are constantly creating the circumstances in their lives that allow ‘luck’ to reveal itself to them. They get out more, they meet more people, they’re more positive, they have a sunny outlook in spite of clouds, and they are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to live the life they believe they should be living. You don’t have to take advantage of others to have opportunity. There is enough to go around for everyone. You just have to be on the lookout for opportunities to see it. I’ve witnessed many times throughout my life what I would consider huge opportunities land in people’s laps that they turned down, for one reason or another. Either they didn’t perceive it as an opportunity, it didn’t fit their model of the world, or they weren’t in a position to take advantage of it. If you want to be somebody others perceive as lucky, you have to be able to spot opportunities, and to do that you have to be open to seeing them.
The fourth habit or trait of lucky people is their flexibility. Lucky people tend to be people who can go with the flow of life and not have to stick to a rigid plan. Life is dynamic and ever changing and lucky people are often the ones who are willing to leave the safety zones of their lives and move to areas of uncertainty. Those areas of uncertainty are often where opportunity lives and thrives. Being flexible is a trait that doesn’t come easy to everyone, so it’s something you might have to work toward if you’re the kind of person that needs everything to be planned, scripted, and certain of the outcome before you’ll try it. Unlucky people, on the other end of the spectrum and based on the research, were people who tended to be stuck to tightly to a plan and to conformity, meaning that they tended to conform more to what everybody else was doing, and then also not deviate from their arbitrary plans. When something goes awry, they tend to see it as bad luck and something that has thrown off the plan. Now they’re required to do extra work to get back on plan, instead of seeing the alteration of the plan as an opportunity to pivot and see what comes of it.
I can tell you from personal experience as a non-planner, meaning I’d much rather head off in a direction of travel and let the experiences sort of unfold in front of me and guide my decisions, that the greatest experiences in my life have come from what almost everyone else deemed an unlucky event or circumstance. It didn’t matter if it was in business, in my personal life, in travel, in sports, or whatever the scenario may have been, being flexible and learning to take what’s handed to you and make something of it is a worthwhile skill to develop.
The fifth trait or habit of self-proclaimed and scientifically identified lucky people, and this one is closely tied to the last trait, in my opinion, is their optimism. I’ve talked about this trait in prior podcasts and have referred to it in the context of being what I call a good ‘reframer’. Reframing is the ability to take any situation and reframe it in a way so as to see the good in it. Instead of seeing the world through somebody else’s frame or framing of it, you can see things through a different lens and in a way that appear to be advantageous and offer some opportunity, even if the opportunity is simply in growing as a person. Lucky people tend to see the silver lining in everything, while the self-proclaimed unlucky tend to just see things as, well, unlucky. Something negative happens and the unlucky person sighs heavily and says something like, ‘ughhhh, that’s just my luck! Of course this would happen to me!’ Those who tend toward the luckier side say, ‘well, that sucks, but life can be challenging, so lets see what comes of this!’ Now, there is an important ending to these two made up exclamations that gives us an important clue to the lucky versus the unlucky individual, and it’s what those two people likely do differently later on. The unlucky person will tell the story to others in exactly the way they experienced it, which was a negative. They may even reinforce in the telling of the story just how unlucky they tend to be, and that’s why the bad thing happened. The lucky person will sift through the situation later on as well, but not to find the negative, they do it to find the positive that has come from the situation. When you’re in the habit of looking for the good, you tend to find it. And the same is true when you’re always looking for the bad.
Being optimistic, by the way, does not mean unrealistic. That’s how the unlucky tend to frame very optimistic people. They’ll say things like, ‘well, I’m just being realistic. I just tell it like it is! I’m not unrealistic like those people!’ The optimist is a realist as well, they just believe in their ability to sift through a situation and find the good, which means they are always learning and always reinforcing their belief in the silver lining. It’s very difficult to see something in life before believing it. Believe that every situation has a lesson, a silver lining, and an opportunity, and life looks a lot different.
Closely tied to the last trait is the sixth trait of thinking outside of the box. I know, I know, it’s an overused phrase at this point, but it’s an easy to understand one. It simply means looking outside the frame, so to speak, to see another view. People who tend to create their own luck are people who learn to ask, ‘what might I be missing here?’ What is the lesson in this? Where is the opportunity that others are not seeing? For most people, we learn from early on to see the world through the frame that has been given to us via early education systems, our authority figures, and the life that we slowly create for ourselves. Over time, this creates walls, boundaries, and guard rails that tend to keep us inside the lines. When you are willing to look and move outside of those walls and guard rails every now and then, you tend to see things others don’t, won’t, and can’t. Look and think outside the box more and see if you don’t start to have some more luck come your way.
The seventh trait and habit of those who tend to be, or consider themselves to be, lucky is the trait of resilience. Resilience, which is closely tied to being flexible, is the ability to bounce back from things unplanned and unexpected. Resilience is the ability to learn from your failures and losses and be better next time. Resilience is the ability to get knocked down and bounce back up ready to go.
One of the greatest things I learned from studying the martial art of Aikido is the art of intentional and deliberate resilience. When you practice Aikido, you are always practicing one of two different sides of a technique. One side of the technique is called the nage, or the one doing or applying the technique to their partner. The one having the technique applied to them is called the uke, or the one receiving the force. The uke, the one who throws the fake punch or kick so that the Nage can practice a technique, is not just a training dummy in Aikido. The uke is a whole other art in itself because you have to learn how to make it to the ground safely, how to take care of your own body, how to move in ways that minimize or neutralize the energy being applied, and so on. Essentially, when you learn Aikido, you’re learning two arts: the art of throwing and redirecting energy, and also the art of receiving and redirecting that energy. As the uke, loosely referred to as the attacker, you’re learning one of the most valuable life skills ever, and that’s the ability to be slammed to the mat hard and bounce back up and attack again. If you’ve ever seen a good Aikido demonstration, you’ll see somebody delivering attacks to somebody who moves off the line from those attacks and then flips, throws, and joint locks the attacker into submission. You might be tempted to only watch the person doing all the throwing because they appear to be in control of the situation. However, it’s the person taking all the falls and popping back up afterwards completely unscathed that’s teaching the most important lessons of all: the art of resilience.
So, to wrap up and sum up, my friends, if you want to turn your bad luck into good luck and be one of those people that good things just tend to magically happen to, you have to work on seven things:
You’ll have to become more mindful of what’s going on inside and outside of you, you’ve got to be more proactive and take the position that, if it is to be, it’s up to me. Lucky people make things happen. You’ll have to learn to be opportunistic and be more open to things looking like opportunities, instead of seeing everything as a hassle. You’ll have to become more flexible and learn to go with the flow, as well as learning to be more optimistic about outcomes and opportunities. You’re going to have to learn to think outside of the box and develop some blackbelt level resilience and have the ability to pop back up off the mat when you’re slammed on your back. Develop these traits and habits and watch your luck soar!
Until next week, I’m out…