I don’t believe in luck

I once told someone glibly that I didn’t believe in luck. That triggered a lengthy discussion about being hit by lightning and other instances of unpredictable mishap or serendipity – aren’t all of these luck?

I’m closer now to articulating what I meant. I don’t believe in systematic chance. Or to put it another way, some people are luckier than others, but this is a function of attitude rather than fortuity.

My dad likes to remind me that ‘the harder I work, the luckier I get’ [1,2]. There’s some truth to this – but Lady Luck wants to be serenaded not seed-sown; pan-handled not strip-mined.

Richard Wiseman is the standard-bearer of the scientific study of luck, and he writes beautifully on the four characteristics he has identified in lucky people – they:

  1. are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities
  2. make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition
  3. create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations
  4. adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good
Each of these principles fits within existing psychological research, but there’s something satisfying about seeing them re-inferred and unified in one place through years of questionnaires and experimental studies on the hapful and the hapless.

For fun, substitute ‘lucky’ for ‘entrepreneur’ when reading the above 4 points.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”