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Monday, October 19, 2009

Review: The Luck Factor

After I read Richard Wiseman's article on how you can be lucky, I was intrigued enough to pick up his book on the topic, The Luck Factor.

Perhaps the ironic result of reading the book is that it's convinced me that there's no such thing as luck. The book starts off by convincing us that people who consider themselves lucky are in fact, actually not any better at picking lottery tickets, for instance --- it turns out that luck has nothing to do with chance.

However, Dr. Wiseman quickly shows us that behaviorally, lucky people do several things that are very different from what unlucky people do:

  1. They notice, create and react to opportunities. By deliberately introducing variety into their lives, and being open to new things, they create situations where they are exposed to people or ideas that they wouldn't have been exposed to otherwise.
  2. They listen to their intuition. In fact, they train their intuition actively.
  3. They persevere. One of the reasons they persevere is that they are optimistic about the future, which enables them to keep trying even when others have given up.
  4. They bounce back quickly from failures. The classic method of bouncing back here is to reframe a failure or an unlucky incident as something that would have happened for the best.

In one case, Wiseman set up an experiment where he invited both a lucky person and an unlucky person to a coffee shop, ostensibly to meet with an experimenter. Before each person arrived, they planted a 5 dollar note in front of the door to see if they would arrive. One of the folks in the coffee shop was a successful business man as well. The lucky person would show up, find the money, sit down next to someone, and start talking to them. The unlucky person would show up, walk past the money, and sit down silently not talking to anyone, and missing all the opportunities that had been set up. Wiseman set up more than one such experiment, and it's interesting to hear all the stories.

The section of the book I enjoyed the most was what Wiseman called luck school: he took a bunch of people who were unlucky, and tried to teach them to unlearn their habits so that they would start to see opportunities. In fact, it turns out it is possible to deliberately introduce variety into your life (by deliberately introducing randomness, for instance), meditate to improve your intuition, visualize your success, and all the other things that coaches have been after you to use. So unfortunately, you already know everything you needed to do to be lucky.

I enjoyed the book, but felt that reading his article already exposed me to 90% of the benefit, hence can only mildly recommend it.


Unknown said...

I just finished the book myself and it got me thinking that "EN" types in the Myers Briggs personality system are more lucky than other types...

Wiseman's research points to that Extroverted - iNtuitive types tend to be luckier than others...

Extroverts becasue they talk to more people than Introverts and iNtuitives because they use their gut to make decisions, whereas Sensing types don't.

I wonder what Jung would make of that since his work on Synchronicity and personality types seems parallel to Wiseman's.

Anyone interested in a video summary of the book, might enjoy this Luck Factor video I made on YouTube summarizing the book.

David desJardins said...

Maybe one of the "unlucky" people who wasted the opportunity to talk to anyone, instead sat silently thinking and invented a new technology worth billions of dollars. How did the experimenter measure that?

It seems to me he stacked the books by loading the clientele with a "successful entrepreneur" whom the subject would "win" by talking to. If he is going to make the experiment fair, then 95% of the time he should instead seed the clientele with an ignorant fool, whom it would be a big waste of time to converse with, and then regard the subject as having lost opportunity value if he falls into the trap of conversation.

Piaw Na said...

I didn't mention that part of the group that went to the cafe self-identified as being unlucky. If they had invented billion-technologies they probably wouldn't have self-identified as unlucky.

You see similar behavior from successful entrepreneurs. Many of them will talk about how lucky they were. They often neglect to mention how they often created those opportunities themselves by being open to them or by the 50 failed meetings before the successful one.