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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

the skill of luck

Some people just have all the luck. But according to psychologist Richard Wiseman, there is more to luck than mere chance:

I gave both lucky and unlucky people a newspaper, and asked them to look through it and tell me how many photographs were inside. On average, the unlucky people took about two minutes to count the photographs, whereas the lucky people took just seconds. Why? Because the second page of the newspaper contained the message: "Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper." This message took up half of the page and was written in type that was more than 2in high. It was staring everyone straight in the face, but the unlucky people tended to miss it and the lucky people tended to spot it.

There's more:

For fun, I placed a second large message halfway through the newspaper: "Stop counting. Tell the experimenter you have seen this and win £250." Again, the unlucky people missed the opportunity because they were still too busy looking for photographs.

So is luck simply a matter of making the most of our opportunities? Wiseman seems to think it is:

My research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.

Remarkable. I've had plenty of bad luck over the years. But is it really within my power to turn it all around?

Wiseman offers three strategies for being more lucky:

  1. Follow your intuition

  2. Introduce variety into your life

  3. Look at the positive side

Seems like good advice, but is luck really nothing more than seeking opportunities when they present themselves?

I don't want to be a Debbie Downer, but these strategies aren't going to do anything to stop life's major bad luck events, like whose house gets struck by a tornado, or who is struck with a crippling genetic illness, or whose bank account number is stolen and used for fraudulent transactions, or who is born into deep poverty. Wiseman's ideas may help a person become more resilient and possibly make someone feel more lucky — and those are good things — but the reality is, this game of life is not played on a level field. Some people really are more lucky than others, and no amount of positive thinking will change that.

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At 10/15/2009 7:43 AM, Blogger Bad Alice said...

I suspect that it is the people who demonstrate the "lucky" traits who have the best chance of survival in extreme situations. The ability to be on the lookout for opportunities, to not let fear blind you or narrow your vision - those strike me as survival techniques. I thought of the characters in Empire of the Sun and Slumdog Millionaire. But no, it doesn't answer the bigger questions of injustice and oppression that put people in precarious situations.

At 10/17/2009 11:28 AM, Blogger James Higham said...

One way is to trust is G-d.


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