Being lucky can mean anything from finding a dollar on the ground to getting your dream job. You can’t change the laws of the universe, but people who consider themselves lucky tend to exhibit certain traits. Here’s how to use that to your advantage and create your own “luck”.
The Four Types of Luck
In his book, Chase, Chance, and Creativity: The Lucky Art of Novelty, Dr James Austin writes about four types of luck. Austin believes that luck, which is chance — capricious and unintentional — and divides it into four types:
- “Chance I is completely impersonal; you can’t influence it.”
- Chance II: “A certain [basic] level of action “stirs up the pot”, brings in random ideas that will collide and stick together in fresh combinations, lets chance operate.” You bring events together to form “happy accidents”. This favours people who try lots of new things, since they have more attempts. Think about a scientist in a lab, furiously conducting different experiments.
- Chance III: “Chance presents only a faint clue, the potential opportunity exists, but it will be overlooked except by that one person uniquely equipped to observe it, visualise it conceptually, and fully grasp its significance.” This type of chance is the result of your background knowledge, an old memory, an observation, or a new combination of ideas (similar to the Medici Effect).
- “Chance IV is the kind of luck that develops during a probing action which has a distinctive personal flavour.” Follow your instincts and your passion. Your personal perspectives, lots of life experiences, and unique lifestyle can combine to produce this type of chance. It’s the most rare, unpredictable, form of chance.
You can’t directly control any of these types of chance. However, at the crux of each type lies a fundamental ingredient: Exposure to different ideas and experiences. Expose yourself to new things (and remember them). Follow your hunches and explore your personal quirks (like your hobbies).
Leave Some Room in Your Life for Serendipity
Serendipity is the key ingredient behind luck. It’s when events unfold in a way that benefits someone.The more flexible your schedule, the more room you have for serendipity. You might juggle work, exercise, and your social life every day. If you have no flexibility for your hobbies, or to explore new things, then you have less capacity for luck.
Increase the space between the things you have to do and the things you have room to tackle, which Richard Swenson, MD, calls margin. It takes time and planning to increase your margins, since it might call for an essentially new structure and schedule, but it will be worth it. As blogger Michael Hyatt writes, “Margin is not something that just happens. You have to fight for it.”
Break Your Routines Occasionally
We gravitate towards our routines and habits. And there’s no doubt that they can improve your productivity. However, to become lucky, it helps to break your routines every so often. Getting out of your routine means new experiences. You may find that you need to break out of your comfort zone to get lucky.
Unlucky people tend to be creatures of routine. They tend to take the same route to and from work and talk to the same types of people at parties. In contrast, many lucky people try to introduce variety into their lives. For example, one person described how he thought of a colour before arriving at a party and then introduced himself to people wearing that colour. This kind of behaviour boosts the likelihood of chance opportunities by introducing variety.
Talk to new people at a party. Pick up an unfamiliar magazine. Try a new grocery store or restaurant. If you have the day off, get out of your pajamas and outside of the house. Err on the side of exploring and living in the moment. For example, successful artists all run into writer’s block just like amateurs do. They know and implement different routines to get around it. Breaking routines exposes you to new opportunities and better timing. Both elements are crucial to experiencing serendipity’s positive outcomes.
Invite Randomness by Taking More Little Risks
Probability determines luck. If you don’t play, you’ll never win. Author Frans Johansson likens luck to betting in his book The Click Moment: Seizing Opportunity in an Unpredictable World. He suggests placing small, purposeful, bets to experience the positive outcome known as good luck.
Two variables determine how purposeful your bet is. Based on Johansson’s observations, author and professor Cal Newport puts forth the idea of a serendipity equation:
<success of a project> = <project potential> x <serendipitous factors>
Newport describes the two variables:
- The first is the potential of the project. The more rare and valuable your skills, generally speaking, the more potential you have for the project to succeed. This is something you control.
- The second variable captures serendipity. You cannot predict or control this factor, but you can expect that really big values are really rare (hence the approximation to an exponential distribution).
You can expand this beyond Newport’s suggestion to create a steady stream of side projects. After all, that’s the only factor you can control. Johansson makes time for coffee conversations with no agenda, no matter how busy he is.
If you want to get luckier in love, make more small talk with strangers. Get out of the house and talk to people that might have ordinarily intimidated you or not seemed like your type (use the three-second rule). Try social events you might find unusual. You might find this tactic to benefit your career as well, since it’s influenced by who you know.
For example, if you’ve hit a plateau at the gym or find yourself in a rut, break your current routine. Try switching your rest times or an entirely new workout plan. Make small diet changes to see if it influences your performance. Find new information from web sites or forums you don’t usually frequent (like our fitness blog, Vitals) or by asking friends. You might fail. You might regress. But you also might find that the change works wonders for you.
When in doubt, follow your instincts when you’re placing a bet. Johansson says in an interview with Fast Company:
So the question is, what can you apply? What is the metric to use? It’s passion. Passion helps you figure out how many bites of the apple you’re willing to take. In a world where success is random, you have to place many bets, or else you’ll never make it.
Remember Chance IV. Your personal quirks and passions might lead you to the outcomes you like. Recall that Fleming’s passion for swimming and water polo brought him to where he needed. Jobs’s passion for typography led to the beautiful computer fonts everyone loved.
Luck favours you when you make room for it. Create a more flexible schedule to allow yourself greater room for serendipity. Break out of your comfort zone and routines. Schedule randomness into your life. It’s all about probability, so even during an unlucky break or streak, don’t take it too personally.