Monday, October 19, 2009

Review: The Luck Factor

After I read Richard Wiseman's article on how you can be lucky, I was intrigued enough to pick up his book on the topic, The Luck Factor.

Perhaps the ironic result of reading the book is that it's convinced me that there's no such thing as luck. The book starts off by convincing us that people who consider themselves lucky are in fact, actually not any better at picking lottery tickets, for instance --- it turns out that luck has nothing to do with chance.

However, Dr. Wiseman quickly shows us that behaviorally, lucky people do several things that are very different from what unlucky people do:

  1. They notice, create and react to opportunities. By deliberately introducing variety into their lives, and being open to new things, they create situations where they are exposed to people or ideas that they wouldn't have been exposed to otherwise.
  2. They listen to their intuition. In fact, they train their intuition actively.
  3. They persevere. One of the reasons they persevere is that they are optimistic about the future, which enables them to keep trying even when others have given up.
  4. They bounce back quickly from failures. The classic method of bouncing back here is to reframe a failure or an unlucky incident as something that would have happened for the best.

In one case, Wiseman set up an experiment where he invited both a lucky person and an unlucky person to a coffee shop, ostensibly to meet with an experimenter. Before each person arrived, they planted a 5 dollar note in front of the door to see if they would arrive. One of the folks in the coffee shop was a successful business man as well. The lucky person would show up, find the money, sit down next to someone, and start talking to them. The unlucky person would show up, walk past the money, and sit down silently not talking to anyone, and missing all the opportunities that had been set up. Wiseman set up more than one such experiment, and it's interesting to hear all the stories.

The section of the book I enjoyed the most was what Wiseman called luck school: he took a bunch of people who were unlucky, and tried to teach them to unlearn their habits so that they would start to see opportunities. In fact, it turns out it is possible to deliberately introduce variety into your life (by deliberately introducing randomness, for instance), meditate to improve your intuition, visualize your success, and all the other things that coaches have been after you to use. So unfortunately, you already know everything you needed to do to be lucky.

I enjoyed the book, but felt that reading his article already exposed me to 90% of the benefit, hence can only mildly recommend it.
Post a Comment