By Jillian Broaddus and Chuck Cusumano
What do you think got you to where you are today?
If you’re like the majority of Americans, you likely attribute your success to a myriad of self-determined factors: hard work, skill, aptitude, attitude, grit, and determination, to name a few.
And while these are important, there’s likely another factor at play that we’re unwilling to acknowledge as much as we maybe should: Luck!
We undermine luck in our lives for a few reasons – starting with our egos, of course! Plus, the hindsight bias makes us tend to think, after the fact, that an event was predictable even when it wasn’t. This, along with the availability heuristic – a cognitive shortcut wherein we tend to estimate the likelihood of an event or outcome based on how readily we can recall similar instances – makes us more easily remember examples where hard work paid off, as opposed to one-off situations where luck might’ve been on our side!
Tim Gilovich’s metaphor, as described in The Atlantic, perhaps describes it best: Luck is like the wind: “When you’re running or bicycling into the wind, you’re very aware of it. You just can’t wait till the course turns around and you’ve got the wind at your back. When that happens, you feel great. But then you forget about it very quickly—you’re just not aware of the wind at your back. And that’s just a fundamental feature of how our minds, and how the world, works. We’re just going to be more aware of those barriers than of the things that boost us along.”
No matter how much hard work contributed to your success, there’s almost a 100% chance that luck and opportunity played a part as well. Consider these examples from Scientific American:
And the list goes on!
However, you CAN improve your luck – without touching crystals or carrying a rabbit’s foot. Here are a few ways… (Source)
Shoot your shot! As the old adage goes, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. So… are you shooting? After all, you can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.
Go with your gut! Research shows that overanalyzing can negatively impact your likelihood of making the best decisions in life. Richard Wiseman confirmed this in his book, The Luck Factor, where he noted that typically “lucky” people tend to follow their intuition much more often than typically “unlucky” participants. Malcolm Gladwell expands on the idea that our intuition is a lot more powerful (and knowledgeable than we think) in his book, Blink, where he argues that our gut decisions are actually due to "a steady accumulation of knowledge that lies below the surface and comes out in the form of intuition." So, when in doubt, listen to yourself!
Be optimistic! Being positive and emotionally present can literally open up your world and opportunities. Christine Carter from the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California describes this philosophy with an example of finding a parking space: “If you’re anxious that you won’t find a parking place, then literally your vision narrows. You lose your peripheral vision.”
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! We hope luck is on your side – or that you can make it so! We’d love to hear about how these tricks work for you at firstname.lastname@example.org!
“I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” Thomas Jefferson