Can You Learn to be Lucky? Part 2

By Robert Bernstein   |   August 9, 2022

As I discussed in Part 1, The Luck Factor author Dr. Richard Wiseman gleaned Four Principles of Luck. Here are the last two.

Principle Three? Expect good fortune! Start by affirming your luck. “I deserve good luck and will receive some today.” Set Lucky Goals. Make lists of short-, medium-, and long-term goals. Be very specific. Have high expectations, but make them achievable.

Lucky people attempt to achieve their goals, even if their chances seem slim. They persist in the face of failure. They do not take unnecessary risks.

Wiseman asked his subjects to imagine what they would do if they failed repeated job interviews or their dates went badly or a home repair project broke. Unlucky people were quick to give up. One unlucky woman had a series of car crashes and decided that her cars were “jinxed.” Rather than taking driving lessons! This is called “magical thinking” and causes untold suffering for unlucky people.

Unlucky people are superstitious and say things like “It was meant to be” when things go wrong.

Lucky people see failure as short-lived. Unlucky people see good fortune as short-lived!

Lucky people take failure as a sign that they need to learn something new and/or work harder. Or think outside the box or get help.

Unlucky people expect they will not be picked for a job so they don’t even apply. They expect to fail an exam so they don’t study or show up. They think they can’t lose weight or stop smoking, so they don’t even try. “80% of success is just showing up.” I once won a TV in a local bank sweepstakes. Winners enter contests. Wiseman almost didn’t enter a BBC call for ideas, thinking too many others would apply. But he did enter and his idea was picked!

Lucky Marvin in the book failed a woodwork exam. But he applied for a carpenter job anyway. The interviewer was impressed with his attitude and hired him.

Lucky people expect the best from other people. Imagine: How you would respond to someone who is suspicious of you versus someone who is cheerful and expecting a positive collaboration with you?

Principle Four? Turn Bad Luck to Good. Wiseman asked his subjects to imagine various scenarios and decide if they are lucky or unlucky. Imagine you walk into a bank and a robber enters and shoots you in the arm. Unlucky people say this is just their kind of bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Lucky people say they would feel lucky nothing worse happened to them. And one lucky person brightly offered that they might sell their story to the newspaper!

The Phoenix is a legendary figure that arises from the ashes of disaster. Lucky people find the new career or relationship that results from a terrible setback in life. My neighbor was wrongly sent to jail, but he said it turned his aimless life around. In his first year out, he started a successful business and married his dream partner. And published a book about it!

Wiseman talked of a woman Mina who survived the Holocaust. She felt very lucky because she saw so much horror all around her and she made it through. 

In 2002, I was hit by a car and seriously injured. My lady friend at the time had a refrain “Things could be worse” that was very helpful. One of my brain injuries led to some valuable published research.

Wiseman noted that Olympic bronze medal winners often are happier than silver winners. Why? They realize they might have won nothing if they hadn’t done so well. Whereas silver winners wish they could have tried just a bit harder to get the gold. Lucky people do “counter-factual thinking” and note that they did better than what might have happened.

Lucky people do not dwell on bad things that happen to them. But they do take constructive steps to learn from bad experiences to avoid having those bad things happen again in the future.

Wiseman set up a “Luck School” to see if he could make unlucky people lucky and lucky people even luckier. Short answer: Yes! The book is full of examples and exercises for you to do this yourself.

The Luck Factor is not about New Age supernatural nonsense. It is about very practical steps you can take to be a lucky person!  


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