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The luck factor

Back from France… I’m writing this post mainly for myself, as a reminder and because writing helps me remember, but thought some of you might find it interesting. But you might already feel extremely lucky.

This one is about luck. Or rather the lack of. As for many years I have felt quite unlucky in life, I came accross this book from Richard Wiseman (his real name), The luck factor. Essentially this guy has examined the behaviour of over a thousand volunteers who considered themselves ‘lucky’ or ‘unlucky’ for over ten years and has found patterns and behaviour techniques we can all apply to our lives.

Despite the cheesy title, I must confess the book stroke a chord with me. It makes some pretty sound points, which I’ll be going through with my own spin and experience, as I’m one of the people that might have thought of himself as unlucky. Not with the big things in life but shit seemed to happen to me more than it did to my friends. Or so I thought.

By lucky people, you can actually read very successful, the ones you envy. Here are four things Juan Cabral and other very successful people do without even realising, that you don’t (you can stop reading if you are one of them). They feel fairly common sense, yet, on a more profound basis, had I applied them in my life, I could have saved myself from serious troubles, be better at my job and a lot happier in general. And even though you know you should, you probably don’t. Like me. But it’s all going to change.

Here goes:

  1. Maximise your chance opportunities.

“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” Thomas Jefferson.

1.1 Work on your network.

It’s fairly simple, the more people you meet, the more likely you are to have opportunities coming at you. Apparently, we all have 300 peoplee who are close to us. Each time you meet someone new, you improve your odds of finding something what you are looking for. These so-called lucky people had an uncanny way to meet and keep in touch with people. One called herself a ‘people collector’.

This has always been hard for me, as I can be pretty shy and find it hard to talk to strangers. But we’ll come back to how to do that later on. But they are many occasions for us advertising-types to meet like-minded people. We should do more of it. Because meeting new people can only have long term benefits. A new job, a patner, a friend. In France, it’s being said that only 10% of the job offer actually go public. The left 90% are dealt with through networking.

1.2 Lucky people have a relaxed attitude to life

Stress, defeatism, pessism, stops you from seeing opportunities. Like in the ‘do the test’ ad, most unlucky people miss out on the good things in life by being too tensed. This is the equivalent of blinding themselves to life. Having a relaxed attitude to life allows you to see opportunities where they exist. Our jobs don’t stop when we leave the office. I actually think that’s when they start. Outside of the office is where life really is and an endless source of inspiration for the mind who knows how to see it. The last Cadbury ad might just have been created by a relaxed mind in an airport…

There are many ways to help relaxing, but I won’t start here, because I actually don’t know which ones really work. I do admit from being again here a culprit. Too often I’m so deep in my troubles that I stop seeing what’s around me… After reading the book and trying a more relaxed attitude to life, I found a fiver on the tube, so guess it’s working already.

1.3 Be open to new experiences in your life

How surprising. One of the findings of Wiseman’s study was that lucky people always try new things.

Lucky people tend not to be bound by convention and they like the notion of unpredictability. Unlucky people tend to do things the way that they have been done in the past. They like the idea of tomorrow being broadly similar to yesterday and today.

There are many ways to try new experiences. Playing the dice game, reading, talking, doing different things. Forcing ourselves out of routine should be a mandatory for anyone working in the creative industry. But again, I admit not doing enough of it. Actually my blog was one of the first thing I did that was slightly different. What are we, if the sum of all of our experiences? How do you want to keep up with a job that constantly requires new idea if you are not experiencing new things on a constant basis?

2. Listen to your lucky hunches

“the only really valuable thing is intuition” A. Einstein.

A big difference between lucky and unlucky people is that the first ones always trust their instinct when it comes to big decision, be it personal or career-wise. Again it sounds pretty simple, yet the most unlucky thing that’s happened to me came exactly because of that. Despite many alarms and signs, I did not listen to my intuition and now regret it quite badly. I know of some people who have thrived from listening to their gut-feeling and taking risks that paid-off. It’s not about making irresponsible decisions, but just making sure you actually listen to your inner-voice and act upon it when it matters. We’ve all had moments when we didn’t have the courage to do something we really wanted because we weren’t sure. Lucky people don’t dwell on it and just go for it, no matter how hard it seems at first. Or the opposite, they won’t go for something unless they feel good about it.

Another finding from Wiseman’s research was that lucky people tended to take steps to boost their intuition. Sounds silly, but most of them actually used meditation techniques (it doesn’t have to be pony oriental meditation, it can be just going to a quiet place for a few minutes).

3. Expect good fortune

“I wasn’t lucky. I deserved it”. Margaret Thatcher.

3.1.Lucky people expect their interactions with others to be lucky and successful

Basically, we are responsible of how other people look and behave towards us. Because lucky people expect good things, they smile more, are more outgoing, and generally nicer, thus creating the conditions for others to be nice in return. Unlucky people feel miserable and are wary of interacting with other people, thus creating the pattern they wanted to believe in. The first ones create a virtuous circle, the other ones a vicious circle. The author uses an example of going on a blind date. The only thing you have been told is that the person you’ll meet is extremely pleasant and nice. You’ll be likely to smile a lot, therefore getting he/she to smile back. Whereas if you go thinking he/she is going to be unpleasant, you won’t smile and get the other person to behave unpleasantly towards you. Simple really. It’s all a mind game, and you decide how you want other people to react to you.

3.2. Lucky people expect their good luck to continue in the future

Another easy one, lucky people see bad luck as a short-term challenge, unlucky people see good luck as something that can’t be and expect even more bad luck to come as a result of it. They have high expectations for themselves, and do everything in their control to achieve them.

3.3. Lucky people attempt to achieve their goals, even if their chances of success seem slim, and persevere in the face of failure

Because lucky people expect good things to happen to us on a constant basis, they don’t give up until they succeed. Sound obvious, yet it’s all too easy to give up too quickly and blame it on bad luck.

I’ll go on with a personal example here. When I went back to France after a successful spell in advertising in Montreal, I could not find a decent job in Paris for more than 15 months. There are 150 advertising agencies in Paris. I contacted them all, with a personalised letter, a bit of humour, followed-up with calls. It took me more than a year. I only managed a couple of interviews, that ended up pretty badly. When I had contacted the last one, I was faced with a tough decision. My dream of working in advertising seemed to come to an end. I started looking for other jobs. I went for an insurance selling job, I almost signed in, so desperate I was. But the day before taking the job, I woke up in the middle of the night realising how shit it would be, sold all my belongings in a week and went to London. I didn’t know anyone there and I barely spoke English. That was 5 years ago. I don’t say that to boast but to show how easy it would have been to give in to adversity and feel miserable for the rest of my life in Paris.

4. Turn your bad luck into good.

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”, Seneca, Roman philosopher.

4.1. Remember that the ill fortune in your life may work out for the best

While I was in Paris looking for a job, I was close to depression. Being unemployed was really hard for me, as it would be on anyone I guess. The point is I now realise that, thanks to this situation, I moved to London and achieved a much better career that I could have dreamed of staying in Paris. Although it was really hard at the time, my bad fortune actually helped me in the long term. Had I found a job in Paris, I would have stayed there and my career would not have gone too far and I wouldn’t have been great, taken how planning in France seems to struggle as a discipline.

4.2. Do not dwell on ill-fortune

Again, something I used to do too much of. There is no interest in punishing yourself, thinking about how unlucky you have been. It’s in the past, and there is nothing you can do about it. Lucky people just forget it and move on. Unlucky people stay stuck in this negative thinking… Introducing the last point…

4.3. Prevent ill-fortune to happen again

When shit happens from various reasons, lucky people anaylse what went wrong and make sure it won’t happen again. My shit time in Paris encouraged me to take on actions to prevent being in such a position ever again.

There you have it. There is no such a thing as chance. Most of the bad fortune that’s happened to me, was down… to me, as were the good things. I hope it doesn’t sound too cheesy and pony, if it’s the case, I haven’t done justice to the book. Again, I wrote it for me. If you find it interesting, that’s great, if you don’t well, too bad. But I’m feeling luckier as a result of writing it, and that can’t be a bad thing.

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  1. catchthevision
    April 28, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    Hi, I liked your blog having read and enjoyed the Luck Factor.

    I’ve never heard whether Richard Wiseman understands what a stoke of luck it was to be named, in somewhat polite terms, Clever (for Wiseman) Dick (for Richard)?

    I’ve got a blog on “how lucky to be you and living now!” Have a look and let me know what you think, the link is

  2. Digicynic
    April 28, 2008 at 8:25 pm

    Hilarious!
    What’ the link?

  3. catchthevision
    May 29, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Sorry Digicynic:
    – firstly, the system won’t let me leave my blog address, but if you Google “catchthevision blog” there’s a good chance you’ll find me;
    – secondly, apologies for not seeing this sooner – I’m new to this stuff.

  4. catchthevision
    May 29, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    Hi Digicynic

    A kind soul has given me some advice, and it’s worked once already!

    Heregoes:

    Url: http://catchthevision.wordpress.com

  5. stockresearch52
    December 31, 2008 at 4:20 am

    What is the difference between luck, success and destiny ?

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