The Surprising Truth About “Luck”

Two Rust Horseshoes linked together sitting on the ground.Why are some people successful while others are not? Are some people predestined for greatness? What role does chance or luck play in this game that we call life? The truth of the matter is that there really is no such thing as luck.  Although some people may appear to be “luckier” than others, we must remember that appearances and perceptions can be deceiving.  In this article, I explore the misguided concept of “luck,” revealing that the truth actually lies within all of us.

Probability & Chance

A couple of years ago one of my best friends was at a Vegas casino playing on a slot machine.  Next to my friend was a gentleman who clearly had been playing on his particular slot machine for several hours.  And as luck would have it, this gentleman eventually hit the jackpot instantly winning $25,000.  My friend was so excited so he proceeded to high-five the man while shouting, “That’s amazing! Congratulations!”  The man solemnly replied, “Nah, I’ve won several times but I’m still down.”A five card hand showing a royal flush beginning with the ace of spades.

Many lessons could be taught from that story alone, however, I’d like to point out the fact that the man was not excited by winning a jackpot.  In fact, the man’s statement implied that he was a compulsive gambler and although he likely won many jackpots (any one of which would make the average person jump for joy) he was still losing money.  If someone wins a jackpot most people might say that this person is lucky.  However, was this gentleman lucky? No, not really.  What’s different about his situation is that he stacked the deck in his favor by playing for so long that he eventually had to win something.  Gambling is about chance and probability and one way to guarantee a win is to never stop playing. Or as the old saying goes, “You can’t win if you don’t play.” Life is very similar in this regard.

As I mentioned earlier, there really is no such thing as luck. However, chance and probability do exist and “lucky” people tend to find ways to exploit situations to tip the tables in their favor.  These people improve their odds of winning or succeeding by altering the situation, taking risks, and/or even changing their attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors. Since all of these things are actually within your control (at least to a certain extent), luck is therefore a product of the human mind and available to anyone who seeks it out.  Lucius Annaeus Seneca put it this way, “Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.”

Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity. – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

There are many ways you can improve your “luck” and some are situational. Nonetheless, here are some general tips that you can employ today to improve your chances of getting lucky:

Tip 1: Change Your Attitude

Changing your attitude is a really simple way to start seeing changes in your life.  Ridding yourself of negative thoughts and filling your mind with positive ones will impact every aspect of your life. The famous speaker and author, Zig Ziglar, was noted as saying “Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.”  You may have also heard of a bestselling book called The Secret where the author, Rhonda Byrne, uses the power of positive thinking as its central theme. Get a copy of Rhonda’s great book on Amazon here: The Secret (Affiliate Link).

By changing your attitude, you can slide the scale of “luck” in your favor. When things are held in a positive light, instead of seeing failure and disappointment in many of life’s situations you will be able to find the hidden blessings in everything. We must also remember that you are what you think about most often; the more positive your attitude and perspectives are, the more that positive things will start to happen to you.

Tip 2: Get Out More Often

How many stories of “lucky” people have you heard where they just happened to be at the right place at the right time?  The key to increasing luck by “getting out more often” is really about creating situations that increase the probability or likelihood that an atypical opportunity will present itself to you. How will you ever run into someone or something that could change your life if you never allow yourself to be in the situation in the first place? Simply put, no one will get lucky if they sit around at home watching TV all day. By getting out more (or just by getting more involved in your community and interacting with people,  …etc) you will put yourself in more situations where new opportunities can manifest themselves.

An eye looking beyond the bluel

Tip 3: Be More Observant

If you can train yourself to be more aware and observant of your surroundings chances are that you will be able into increase your luck as well.  One year on Halloween I was walking with my kids around the neighborhood in our usual pattern. As we passed the fifth or sixth house on a particular street I observed a crumbled $5 bill in the rocks next to the side walk.  After looking around to see who may have dropped the money I decided to keep it.  Who knows how long that money may have been there or how many people may have passed by it unaware of its existence before I came in and grabbed it.  Had I not been scanning the area for the usual dangers of cars, rabid dogs, bicyclists, and fast moving zombies I might not have seen the money laying on the ground.  Opportunities such as this often exist carefully hidden in plain sight. Just by being aware and observant we can all increase our odds of being able to spot (and then seize) such opportunities.

The golden opportunity you are seeking is in yourself. It is not in your environment; it is not in luck or chance, or the help of others; it is in yourself alone. – Orison Swett Marden

Tip 4: Skip The Routine

You’ve probably heard that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result.” In very much the same way luck and being lucky usually doesn’t find itself a resting place in the mundane and routine activities of daily life. While having a routine and being regimented about your daily activities can be great for many reasons, it won’t do much to increase your luck.  This is because as things become routine in our lives they also become automatic, requiring less energy and attention to execute.  A routine causes us to be less aware of our surroundings as we just “go through the motions” resulting in missed opportunities. However, when you change things up and keep things fresh, your mind opens up and begins to take in new information.  By doing some simple things like shopping at a different store, taking a different route, or doing something at a different time or place, you’ll be putting yourself into more situations where a potential opportunities could exist.

Tip 5: Learn Something New Everyday

Another great way to improve you luck is to never stop learning new things.  As long as we have the ability to obtain new knowledge, we will also have the ability to “get lucky.”  Knowledge allows people to do things that would not otherwise be possible and to see opportunities that no one else can see.  One way to learn more is to read everyday.A patent drawing for the first can opener.

For example, I’m reminded of a story I once heard regarding the invention of the can opener. Although storing food in metal cans had been around for decades, no one was able to develop an easy way to open them.  Surprisingly I suppose, people didn’t seem to be bothered that it required beating the cans with a hammer and a chisel to open them. This had its obvious problems. However, it wasn’t until 1858 when Ezra J. Warner invented and patented the first easy to use US can opener (Source: Warner, Ezra J. Patent Number 19,063 – Can Opener. 19,063. Waterbury, CT, issued January 5, 1858. Link.)  Warner had acquired knowledge during his life prior to 1858 that allowed him to seize an opportunity to invent a simple can opener that made it far easier for Americans to open canned food. This is just one of many examples where learning new things has enabled someone to do something extraordinary.

Tip 6: Practice and Persistence

The last of my tips on improving your luck is that you can actually stack the deck in your favor by developing  yourself in a way that can give you an edge over the general population.  For example, the famous British rock band, The Beatles, had played more than an estimated 1,200 concerts and shows before they ever made it big and found success.  To an outsider it may appear as though the band members were lucky to be “found,” however we know that it was practice and persistence that enabled the Beatles to experience success like no other music group before them.  When you persistently practice a skill or technique in your life, it will allow you to seize opportunities that others around you may not have the ability to seize.

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This young child jumps for joy for it's her lucky day!

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