Are we lucky by design? Or designed by luck?

Opportunities are knocking at your door. Are you listening? — Photo by Jeremy Thomas

“Luck is being in the right place at the right time, but location and timing are to some extent under our control.” — Natasha Josefowitz

When people are successful, we call them lucky.

Success can happen overnight. That’s why we believe in the power of luck. The truth is, successful people, prepare for that moment — it requires purpose, effort, and focus to be ready for luck to strike.

End-of-ball bonus dramatically increases the final score in pinball games. However, to earn those bonus points, you must play well.

Luck is a bonus — it multiplies the scores of great players. Fortune doesn’t turn a lousy player into a good one.

Lucky by design or designed by luck?

“Luck is the residue of design.” — John Milton

This challenging piece by Oliver Burkeman provides a fresh perspective: do we have free will or does luck determine everything in our lives?

The Guardian columnist makes an excellent point: your social situation is a matter of luck, but also many of the factors that influence who you are.

“What if you’re super-rich but got there thanks to your intelligence? You were just lucky to be born intelligent. What if differences in intelligence are down to nurture, not nature? Again, luck: you didn’t choose your parents or most of your teachers; and in any case, you might not have been gifted with the self-discipline to learn from them.” — Oliver Burkeman challenges the reader.

Conversely, Dodgers’ manager Brach Rickey — best known for breaking MLB color barriers — believed that there is no luck. For him, luck is a residue of design. During a famous talk to members of the Y.M.C.A. at State University, he discussed the law of cause and effect.

Rickey stated that a man’s life is governed by ‘causes’ — one should focus on taking care of the causes and let the results take care of themselves. He believed that causes are generally in the power of us to govern.

The Luck Factor

Can luck be fabricated or is it out of our control?

More than 50 percent of Americans are at least a little superstitious, and 25 percent admitted to being somewhat or very superstitious, according to a Gallup study.

Our brain is susceptible to superstition, as demonstrated by the ‘power of the jinx’ study. A group of college students had to say out loud that they wouldn’t be involved in a car accident in the next few months. A followup interview found that they were more afraid of having an accident than those students who hadn’t jinxed themselves.

Luck and superstition are two different things.

As Mukundarajan V N wrote here: “It appears counterintuitive that luck can be ‘fabricated’ or ‘manufactured’ because we associate luck with a happy accident.”

Luck has the power to transform the improbable into the possible, as author Richard Wiseman, the author of The Luck Factor, explains. The psychologist has made a career studying luck and our perception of it — luck is ultimately a matter of how we choose to look at our lives.

Wiseman suggests embracing ‘Positive Skepticism’ — to move away from a magical way of thinking and toward a more rational view of luck.

His research demonstrates that luck comes down to attitude, often in surprising ways. The people who consider themselves lucky are the ones who recognize their own good fortune wherever it happens — they look at the world through a positive lens.

The psychologist conducted an experiment to confront the mindset of (self-proclaimed) lucky and unlucky people. Both groups were asked to read through a newspaper and count the photographs. The ‘lucky’ people were more frequently the ones who found the not-so-hidden message on page two that said: “Stop counting — There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.”

Wiseman explains how lucky people generate their own good fortune via four basic principles:

  • Are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities
  • Make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition
  • Create self-fulfilling prophecies via positive expectations
  • Adopt a resilient mindset that transforms bad luck into good

How to get ready for the luck bonus

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” — Seneca

1. Between preparation and luck lies obsession:

Daniel Day-Lewis is the perfect archetype of method-acting. He has learned Czech, spent almost the entire shoot of My Left Foot in a wheelchair, built a canoe with his own hands, and

The actor’s obsessive preparation for each role has earned him three Oscar awards and three nominations. Day-Lewis has inhabited his film characters, in mind, body, and spirit since early in his career. He didn’t wait for luck to show up to give his best, but the other way around.

2. Your choices define your opportunities.

Most people believe that Roger Federer is lucky because he’s not getting injured as it happened to most top-ten tennis players. Luck might have eased his path towards recovering the number one position but has nothing to do with him not getting injured.

Unlike most players, Federer has purposefully selected in which tournaments he participates and, most importantly, in which not. By choosing wisely, your chances to succeed increases.

Federer skipped the entire clay season — not his best-performing surface — to be ready for Wimbledon (grass) and U.S. Open (hard courts). By focusing on making the right choices, Federer is increasing his chances to win.

3. Adopt a positive skeptical mindset

You don’t create success; you attract success. The same happens with luck. Luck is a byproduct of your mentality.

However, attracting luck requires more than wishful thinking. Find the middle ground between denialism and optimism: positive skepticism.

A skeptical mindset will help you see life sharply, as I wrote here. Life opportunities are closer than you think, you need to get better at seeing them.

4. Synchronicity happens, notice the opportunity

Deepak Chopra said: “Coincidence is the conspiracy of improbabilities. Synchronicity is when you and the Universe are both participating in a creative process.”

The world is an extension of yourself — everything is interconnected. The universe can do whatever it wants with your dream, so there’s no reason for you not to invest in it.

Look for the connections between the world and your consciousness. When the ‘stars align,’ what does it mean? What’s the message? Why is it happening? Luck is meeting opportunity and preparedness. Notice the opportunity. Silence is a powerful tool to slow down, pause, and observe — it’s the think tank of the soul.

5. Show up before your audience does

Preparation is about getting ready. Showing up is about moving readiness into action.

Don’t wait to have one million followers to write at your best. Don’t expect to get an award to share your best ideas. Showing up is living your life as if everyone is watching you perform but, at the same time, realizing that there’s no better audience than yourself.

You deserve your own best. Practice. Give all your passion and energy.

Who cares if no one is listening to your lyrics? Keep on composing. Are no clients calling you yet? Spend that time in improving you act. Open your shop early in the morning as if thousands of people were standing in the line.

Luck is a bonus — you never know when everyone will show up. So, you’d better get started. Be ready if you want to win the most.

When your audience finally shows up, that’s luck knocking at your door.