My daughter is a talented writer. She’s been writing obsessively since she was small, and at the age of 14 some of her satirical writing was published by the State Library of Victoria. She was so pleased, and rightly so (I almost burst with pride). When her first article went live, my daughter went to school and told her friends that she had been published. She showed them the website – and they told her how lucky she was. When she came home and told me, I was furious.
Let me backtrack for a minute. Without a doubt, my daughter and I are lucky people. We have the good fortune to live in a country where we are safe and healthy. We are well educated, middle class, we have shoes on our feet and food in our tummies. We are allowed to vote, and go to school, and have the internet. We’re also lucky enough to be born with intelligence and talent, neither of which we earned.
But I believe we need to be careful about giving luck too much credibility when it comes to our creative achievements. My daughter was not only published because she was lucky. She was published because she saw a call out for contributions for the website. She wrote some funny pieces, emailed the editors of the website to introduce herself, submitted her pieces for publication, followed up in due time, and was selected and published. She was proactive and optimistic in her approach, and I think that has far more to do with her success.
In 2003 Dr. Richard Wiseman wrote a fabulous book called The Luck Factor (revamped in 2011), which was a ten-year scientific study on the nature of luck. By interviewing and observing hundreds of self-declared lucky and unlucky people, Dr. Wiseman was able to deduce that people, generally, make their own fortune whether it’s good or bad. Again, we’re not talking about the luck of entitlement, or talent, we’re talking about enhancing or reducing the impact of what you already have.
Here are the four basic principles outlined in the book, to enhance your luck.
Tip 1: Maximise Chance Opportunities
People are generally luckier if they notice chance opportunities, and have the courage to act on what they see. Creating your own opportunities is even better. It’s even possible to enhance this ‘luck’ by maintaining your research (on anything and everything), observing your world and your networks, and being open-minded about new experiences in your creative and professional life.
Tip 2: Listen to Lucky Hunches
Wiseman found that ‘lucky’ people listen to their intuition, and feel empowered to make decisions by paying heed to their gut feelings. Listening to your gut, and learning how to trust it, can therefore help increase your ‘luck’. Enhancing Tip 2 includes using meditation and mindfulness to focus on your thoughts, measuring the impact of acting on your hunches to see if they work out for the best, and learning more about the way hunches work. I highly recommend a fabulous book called Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman to find out more about how your mind handles intuition and gut responses.
Tip 3: Expect Good Fortune
Lucky people tend to be optimistic, and feel that their future is going to be positive and laden with good fortune. These expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies. ‘Lucky’ people believe so surely that everything will be OK, they persist in the face of failure, which in turn means that they are very likely to be successful over time. ‘Lucky’ people are also more likely to attempt to achieve their goals, even if their chances of success seem slim. They understand fundamentally that determination, persistence and patience are the keys to success – not, as it turns out, ‘luck’.
Tip 4: Turn Bad Luck to Good
Wiseman found that people who identified as ‘lucky’ also tended to employ psychological techniques to help them cope with, and often even thrive upon, any ill-fortune that came their way. For example, when something bad happened, they could spontaneously imagine how things could have been much worse. ‘Lucky’ people also tended not to dwell on their bad luck and persisted until everything started to work out for the best. To enhance your ‘luck’ in this sense, Wiseman suggests taking control of bad luck situations, and developing constructive steps to turn the situation into a positive and prevent more bad luck in the future.
The experiments in The Luck Factor that prove the science behind these little tips are truly fascinating and well worth a read.
In creative practice and business, understanding the benefits of your entitlement (with deep gratitude), coupled with practice at enhancing the four luck principles, could result in a brighter future for you and your craft. Even if you fail, you can create a world through your own optimism and persistence that brings you benefits.
F*ck luck – embrace your good fortune, but remember that you are in charge of your own luck, and your destiny, not the other way around.
You can watch a fun animated film about The Luck Factor here: