Again, we are faced with the question: Is there a way to control and increase your luck? Is there a strategy to boost your chances of success? Let’s try to pull all of the information we’ve explored into one solid strategy.
We know Richard Wiseman’s stance — absolutely, there is a way to boost your luck, and he expands his four factors into eight (well, seven and a half) personality traits one can cultivate deliberately. Some of these were explored in the previous chapter.
However, according to Max Gunther, there are actually a whopping 13 types of mindset that are likely to lead to luck, fortune and serendipity. Gunther was an author and researcher who was best known for his controversial bestseller on financial risk management, The Zurich Axioms, but he also wrote other works, including The Luck Factor; The Very, Very Rich; and Instant Millionaires.
His book on strategic luck planning outlines 13 different techniques for discovering and taking advantage of life’s good breaks. You’ll notice that there’s some overlap between his theory and Wiseman’s – according to him, some people are born with good fortune, while others need a little more deliberate strategy to get what they desire. If you’re reading this book, chances are you fall into the latter category. Either way, these 13 steps will help you do whatever you can to put you on the luckiest path forward.
How do the lucky organize their lives? Let’s take a look:
Luck vs. Planning
The first of Gunther’s rules is that luck and planning are two separate things that should never be confused. When a desired outcome is brought about by luck, you must acknowledge that fact. However, luck is not involved if you take the time to plan for the unexpected and things end up going well.
You need to have a crystal clear understanding of the role of cause and effect in your life, as well as know how to delineate what is pure chance or random unknown variables. If you end up confusing luck with planning, you all but guarantee that your luck will turn bad in the long run. Planning for something and then thinking it was just luck would take away the importance of all the planning that you have put in, and in the future, you may not repeat what caused your success. Being lucky and thinking that it was your planning that caused it will give you a distorted idea of what actually works, setting you up for failure later on when your luck runs out.
We live in a complex and unpredictable world. The first step for improving your luck is to recognize that it exists, but that you aren’t successful only because of it. Our locus of control can impact our interpretation of good and bad events; unlucky people tend to blame bad luck when they fail and their own hard work when they succeed. But though this may feel good in the short term, it disempowers you.
Be humble when you win, and don’t be too hard on yourself when you lose. After all, without the occasional loss, there would be no reason to improve. Try to take ego out of the picture entirely and simply become curious about what is happening. Learn from your mistakes, observe what unfolded, what could have been done better, and how external factors affected the outcome. If planning was why you were successful, then do it again. If it was luck, then find a way to ensure planning would have the same effect.
Likewise, don’t take advice from people who got lucky about how to earn success through hard work – they simply don’t know! Likewise, don’t discredit the good actions of yourself or others simply because the results have been disproportionately unlucky. Realize when people are taking credit where they shouldn’t, and be realistic about being sold big cheesy narratives that ultra-successful people would like you to believe.
This attitude makes a huge difference to your ability to learn, adapt and evolve. Take responsibility for your fate and pay attention to the results you’re getting. The person who knows the difference between luck and planning will always win out over the person with raw luck who nevertheless misunderstands their fortune. Whatever you do, don’t shrug and assume you can’t gain insight into the mechanisms behind the outcome, or that you have no control over them. After something goes your way, just ask – how much of this was luck, and how much planning? Be as honest as you can.
Find the Fast Flow
Have you ever thought to yourself that nothing ever happens to you? That events and opportunities just pass you by? This may be because you don’t position yourself in the best situations. Even if you are a quiet person, all you need to do is go to where the events flow fastest. Surround yourself with a churning mass of people, and things will inevitably happen. The more complex and well-connected a network you can insert yourself into, the more channels you create for luck to come and find you. All you need is to meet a lot of people and let them know who you are. The rest will come naturally, and they will direct opportunities your way.
There is no use sitting around waiting for things to just fall in your lap. Reclusive or aloof people are not lucky and have to grind through life on hard work alone. Instead, go where things are happening. Keep abreast of current events. Be curious, put your best foot forward, be interested in people, and make conversation. When you meet someone, ask about their life, their goals, their passions. Some of the most interesting people you will ever meet could be right in front of you, if only you had the initiative to look.
The more activity churning around you, the more luck will be included. This doesn’t happen if you confine yourself to your room each night. You can’t court luck directly, but you can build rapport with the people around you, be sociable and friendly, make contact, charm others, and generally, make sure that you’re not on the sidelines of life but an active player. Make sure that you are on people’s minds, or they’ll forget about you, and nothing will get sent your way. In the context of luck, isolation really is a dead-end.
Take Calculated Risks
There are two ways to guarantee unsuccessfulness.
One is to take risks that are out of proportion to the rewards being sought. For example, putting all your money toward an investment that you haven’t properly researched is a recipe for disaster, because even though the reward might be large, the chances of failure outweigh this reward.
The other way to ensure a lack of success and a lack of luck is to not take any risks at all, even when a perfect opportunity presents itself, like not wanting to talk to someone attractive even though you have been assured by three separate people that they like you. Think of it as extreme risk-aversion.
Lucky people avoid both extremes.
Unlucky people tend to let fear or over analysis undermine them and pull them out of the flow of the moment. This usually means they end up hesitating when they need to take a risk, or occasionally acting on misguided impulse and going too far to the other extreme – and then regretting it. You need to play to win, but that doesn’t mean you have to gamble recklessly. Rather, commit to sticking your neck out in a calculated way.
Good luck is all about getting a favorable outcome from an uncertain situation. The best way to do this is to take measured risks that are supported by the evidence and data, anticipating the possible disasters and knowing how to deal with them. But don’t get trapped in analyzing mode – at some point, you have to just act and be willing to face the consequences, good or bad.
To truly succeed, you need to understand the difference between foolish and calculated risks and know that some risk-taking is infinitely better than none at all. You can’t sit on the sidelines and expect to be successful, but you can’t leap at every opportunity that is shiny. No risk is as bad as excessive risk. You must walk a thin line which can only be ascertained through experience, practice, and failure. Don’t merely copy the risks other people have taken – do your own research and have faith in your own assessments. At the very least, understand that failing after taking a risk is not really the end of the world (there’s that growth mindset again!).
Cut Your Losses
This point is all about something that affects us all: greed.
Say you’re on a lucky streak and things just keep going your way. We have the tendency to believe that this will continue, but unfortunately, this will never be the case. You can call this arrogance, the Gambler’s Fallacy, or a simple lack of foresight. You’ve probably heard the expression “don’t push your luck” and there’s wisdom in that – if you know when to call it a day.
Knowing when to cut your losses and walk away is an important part of the road to success. You need to always assume that a run of luck is going to be short and never try to ride a run to its peak. Your “optimal stopping point” is often a little earlier than you would like! With this kind of thinking, the law of averages is heavily on your side, and you will be more likely to succeed if you accept that based on probability, your luck will eventually run out. As we saw in the first point about luck vs. planning, you’ll be in trouble if you don’t even realize you’re on a lucky run and simply assume that your hard work is the cause of your success – you’ll be in for a nasty surprise!
Don’t delude yourself into thinking that something good will last forever, or that you have it all figured out. You will end up losing everything before you know it – especially if you haven’t done anything to gain insight or understanding into why you’ve been successful. Imagine a person who has been lucky in life to have a string of romantic partners that are “catches.” Not realizing this lucky streak for what it is, such a person may be less hesitant to break up and move on, in the expectation they can do even better. But once this lucky streak runs out, the person realizes the role that luck was in fact playing all along, and how difficult it will be to find another amazing person. They’re like the gambler who confidently let their bet ride, only to lose everything.probabilistic feature. But in:
We tend to hear the stories of people who made it by pushing a run, and then luckily finding out that this risk paid off. But we seldom hear about those people that did well by making the best of short runs, which are more plentiful anyway. You have more to gain cumulatively by not pushing your luck on small runs of luck than you do to lose if you gamble everything on the off chance that you’re in a long run. Sure, life is not exactly like a casino game, but many of the same principles apply. Quit while you’re ahead. Appreciate and enjoy a lucky streak, but don’t depend on it. Certainly don’t expect it to last forever.
Select Your Luck
This is a carryover from the last point. So, we know that if your luck is good, stick with it and enjoy it as much as you can. But what if your luck is bad?
It is important to realize that some opportunities will never lead to great things. All investments, whether they be time, money, or love, will encounter problems. What you need to ask yourself is whether there is a likelihood that these problems will go away. Do you have some realistic hope of fixing them? If so, then stay aboard. If not, then you should get out and look for better luck elsewhere. In a sense, selecting your luck means knowing where good luck will flow, as well as knowing when to withdraw from a hopeless cause and spend your energy elsewhere.
Sometimes we can be so sure of an idea, whether it’s a career, relationship, business investment, or something else. Perhaps you landed a job that seemed thrilling to you and eventually you realized there was no hope of progression in that position. Perhaps it’s a new relationship that’s quickly lost its sheen. Sometimes what seemed like a great idea in the beginning doesn’t always work out when implemented – and that’s OK! But succumbing to the “sunk cost fallacy” and sticking with situations we know will not have a good outcome can seriously erode our luck, for obvious reasons.
The trouble can come when we’re unwilling to admit that we were wrong and instead stubbornly cling to an idea that has long since outlived its usefulness.. People can struggle to change their paths because it means that they weren’t unlucky; the misfortune was down to them and them alone. But making mistakes is inevitable, and not necessarily something that will derail your plans – unless you let them. What’s worse than taking a wrong turn is staying on that wrong path, with no hope of survival, getting further and further from where you want to be.
Here, lucky people differ from unlucky ones in that they can be more pessimistic when they need to be. It takes a certain kind of cold realism to acknowledge that a certain course has no future, and then quickly cut ties before it’s too late. But people who do this free themselves up for better choices and opportunities immediately afterwards. They don’t get trapped throwing time, money, energy or hopes down a black hole that will never give them anything back.
Take the Zig-Zag Path
Despite what many people think (and what many of us are actively told), the path to success is rarely a straight line.
Even the most well-thought-out plan doesn’t always work, and keeping to the same path may lead you nowhere. As we’ve seen, lucky people do not have trouble deviating from their course. It’s not that they intend to deviate, but they are simply open to the deviation and seize opportunity when it comes because it might be a better path overall. They do not have a misplaced sense of loyalty to the path they’re already on, and have no qualms about not having a neat, pretty narrative of how they got from A to B.
Plans work best when they are used as a guide, and if something better comes along, the plan should be discarded immediately and without regret. It’s not uncommon to have a set goal in mind, perhaps a career that you have always dreamt of, and begin to realize the job you have might not be the best to get you there.
When guiding a 4x4 on sandy terrain, drivers are told to loosen their grip on the steering wheel and resist steering against the minor turns to the left and right the car makes as it winds through ripples and bumps in the sand. Instead, they’re told to keep the car in roughly the right direction, but to try not to correct any side-to-side movement, or risk getting stuck. Life can be a little like that – we don’t need to white-knuckle our way through things. Instead, we can see what’s working, and follow that without too much forceful control. Ultimately, this gets us where we need to go more quickly and with less effort.
Change can be difficult, but sometimes, it can lead to the best outcome. Try a different job, accept opportunities with arms wide open, exploit a newly discovered talent, take advantage of serendipity, and if these things don’t work out, then find something else. Relax your grip a little on how you achieve the outcome.
It’s impossible to predict what will happen in the future, so don’t take long-term plans seriously. They can act as a guide, but unforeseen opportunities are the ones that will really get you places. Nobody has ever had an easy path to success, and you should always be prepared and willing to veer off your chosen course. The zig-zag path, in hindsight, looks incredibly lucky and fortuitous when in reality, you were just okay with discarding plans and taking risks.
Gunther refers to supernaturalism as any belief in an unseen spirit, force, or agency whose existence has not been proved to anyone’s satisfaction. But how can this belief help you? It’s not because it makes you luckier, but because it helps you make impossible choices. Sometimes there is no rational choice to make, but the worse reaction is to do nothing.
A supernatural belief can help people get into a potentially winning position by helping them make choices. For example, lucky numbers and omens may not be proven, but they can help you take a quick leap of faith into a decision that you may not have been able to make otherwise.
Use superstition and be irrational when things are in your favor, and be rational when they aren’t. Who cares if the planets truly did align or if it was just in your mind, as long as it gives you the confidence to take action? This is related to taking a zig-zag path in that deviating from what is planned or conventional, or even realistic, is sometimes the best course of action for luck.
Be A Bit Pessimistic
According to this theory, lucky people, as a breed, tend to be more pessimistic than unlucky people – if we are careful with how we define pessimism. Optimism means expecting the best, but good luck involves knowing how you’ll handle the worst. As discussed earlier, good luck often means taking risks, but it doesn’t mean being foolish about it. To avoid bad luck, you need to know how to handle the worst-case scenario. And you can only do that if you’ve actually considered what that scenario is. Lucky people, therefore, don’t necessarily see a glass as half-empty, but they do think about how to handle it if it were indeed half-empty. In essence, lucky people hope for the best but are prepared for the worst.
Think about what is the worst that could happen in any situation, and then come up with a solution to protect yourself from these outcomes.
Written agreements, budget plans, or getting insurance are examples of how you have to protect yourself from the worst. Lucky people plan ahead and are accountable. They take action to protect themselves and then don’t dwell on it. They cross their t’s and dot their i’s to set themselves up for luck and success as best they can. But make sure you don’t let your pessimism keep you from trying or cause you to give up. Use your pessimism to your advantage, but don’t let it hold you back.
When given the opportunity, we can often talk ourselves into a variety of situations that are not what we want. Talk can tie you up and lock you into positions that may seem right today but may be wrong tomorrow. When there is no good reason to say something, say nothing. Any opinion has the ability to polarize people, and you never know whom you are going to polarize.
Lucky people are careful of what they say and to whom they say it. They don’t take strong positions on controversial topics if they can avoid it. Talk has a way of spreading like wildfire, especially if it wasn’t the intention. Too much talk can constrict your choices, and you may find yourself in a situation where you think, “Why did I agree to this?” Remember that finding new plans and taking random opportunities are the keys to success, and you can’t do this if you’ve talked yourself into something that you can’t get out of. Mind your tongue because it can pigeon-hole you or even burn bridges before you know it. On the other hand, being a neutral presence as a default can work in your favor.
Recognize a Non-Lesson
A non-lesson is an experience in life that seems to be a lesson but actually isn’t. Not everything means something or implies something. You need to recognize when something was just bad luck and move on. In fact, it may not have even been bad luck — it was just a random event that you can’t make any conclusions from. You can’t learn anything about how to get better luck here, either.
Do not generalize or create theories out of random events, or it will just lead to you avoid things you have no reason to avoid. If you have several bad dating experiences, it doesn’t mean all men or women are impossible to date. It only means you have had a few bad experiences and need to improve how you choose people.
Knowing that human beings tend to construct meaning where they don’t find any, and seek patterns to help manage the appearance of randomness, commit to being comfortable with the fact that sometimes bad things just happen. You could construct an elaborate story about how your car accident was really a special lesson sent to you by the gods to teach you a life lesson about… whatever. It might be true, but how would you know? And more importantly, does having that belief actually enrich your life? You may find more relief, healing and meaning in acknowledging that sometimes road accidents happen, and that’s that.
By following non-lessons, you risk missing out on many good things in life just because of bad luck or a few bad experiences. You also risk creating personal myths and narratives to help explain something that truthfully doesn’t have much of an explanation, and these personal myths and narratives can be limiting or flat-out wrong. Be wary of these fallacies, and don’t let them guide your decisions. This is tough because we are powerfully conditioned to seek pleasure and avoid pain, so it requires getting past that instinct and removing the fear from anything negative you’ve experienced.
Accept that the Universe is Unfair
Related to this point, all of us, even the most optimistic, have had the occasional thought that the universe is out to get us. Although this may be counterproductive in some cases, it is important to accept that life is hard, and, most times, unfair. All of us — the good, the bad, and the in-between — are equally as likely to achieve our greatest dreams or live through our worst nightmares. You might be unlucky a few times in a row, and there will be nothing to make up for that fact. In other words, though we might want there to be meaning, or justice, or a logical cause and effect, sometimes there just isn’t.
Kids get terminal diseases, people who don’t try can end up succeeding, good people will be unlucky, and bad people will have good luck. What matters is what you do with this piece of information.
Fairy tale happy endings are just not the norm in life, and you should never expect good things to happen because you deserve it. The universe, evidently, does not run on “deserve.” You don’t deserve good luck, and you shouldn’t expect a break. We will all experience bad luck regardless of our hard work or good intentions because of how little is actually in our control. The important thing is to accept that everyone has it hard and probably sometimes thinks the universe is against them, as well. Accepting that things will always be unfair will prevent you from anger, self-torture, or giving up. It will also, ironically, make you appreciate all the wonderful things you do have, and how they were never a given. If you can truly grasp and accept unfairness, you are in a sense liberated – you do not wait around for what you want to happen. You make it happen.
Be Willing to Be Busy
Have you ever noticed that people with the most opportunities are those who seem to be the busiest? This is because the more activities you have going on, the greater the likelihood that an opening could present itself. Juggle as many ventures as you can, take up new hobbies, join new classes. One of them could be the gateway to your lucky break.
Avoid idleness. This will lead you nowhere. How can you expect to succeed if you wait for the opportunities to come to you when you can just as easily go out and search for them yourself? Follow your curiosity and let it guide you. Engage in projects you like and keep trying until you get your lucky break. Remember, in Gunther’s view, luck clearly is not a blessing sent from above; it’s the product of hard work and time spent. If you’re busy, eventually, you’ll run into something that you’d deem lucky.
Find A Destiny Partner
A destiny partner is someone who changes your luck over a period of time.
This is not necessarily a romantic partner and is usually someone just found by blind luck, though it can help if you are actively looking. Maybe it’s someone you talk your ideas through that inspires you to do better things. Maybe it’s someone who always seems to lead good opportunities your way. There are people who can change the course of your life and the nature of your luck, and you can often do the same to them. Destiny pairs can cause an explosion of good luck when they work together.
Some people are just naturally average by themselves, able to achieve, but struggling to do so. Sometimes, all it takes to become incredible is the company of the right partner. This person can be a spouse, business partner, colleague, or friend. Meeting them happens by chance, so pay attention to your gut. Your destiny pair will elicit a quick, strong, and positive reaction, and good things will begin to unfurl.
Each of Gunther’s 13 steps has the potential to change your life, if you genuinely work to put them into practice. A lot of the time, luck is out of your hands, but with these strategic planning techniques, you have the ability to control as much as you can – which may be a lot more than you first thought. Whether you agree more with Wiseman’s approach to luck or feel that Gunther has a better theory, one thing remains clear: it is your attitude and your willingness to achieve that is the sole difference between waiting for life to give you what you desire or going out there and hunting down success on your own.
• According to author Max Gunther, there are 13 attitudes, traits and habits that set lucky people apart from unlucky ones. Lucky people clearly understand the difference between luck and planning, and never confuse them. They repeat hard work that gets results, and are grateful for luck when it happens, knowing they weren’t responsible.
• Lucky people find the “fast flow” of people and information and position themselves within it, being extroverted and sociable and building connections with others to maximize possible channels for luck. Lucky people take appropriate risks – neither overextending themselves nor being too hesitant. They allow data and research to guide them.
• When something isn’t working, know when to cut your losses and move on. Quit while you’re ahead rather than risk losing it all on a bet that your luck will continue. On a related note, “select” your luck by cutting ties with any course that is 100% not going anywhere, rather than wasting more time and effort on it.
• The path to success is usually a zig-zag and not a straight line, so relax and become curious about the most optimal – even if unexpected – path from A to B. Superstitions can help you make decisions in impossible situations, since they encourage you to act rather than freeze with indecisiveness. A little irrationality won’t hurt if it ultimately gets you to do the right thing!
• Pessimism can be a useful thing if it helps you to protect yourself and plan for when things go well. Lucky people plan for the worst but expect the best. Gunther also believes that lucky people don’t narrow their possibilities by talking indiscriminately about controversial or divisive topics – it makes sense if you’re trying to connect optimally with people!
• Recognize a “non-lesson” which is just bad luck but doesn’t mean anything. Don’t twist yourself in knots trying to understand it. Likewise, accept that you are owed nothing and that none of us “deserves” luck or a charmed life.
• Avoid idleness and stay busy to increase your exposure to lucky new opportunities. Finally, partner up with people that seem to improve your luck, or pass opportunities your way.