Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Luck Factor - Azara Feroz Sayed

Luck exerts a dramatic influence over our lives. A few seconds of bad fortune can unravel years of striving, while a moment of good luck can lead to success and happiness. Luck has the power to transform the improbable into the possible; to make the difference between life and death, reward and ruin, happiness and despair.

Read the book "Luck Factor" by Richard Wiseman, head of a psychology research department at the University of Hertfordshire in England. It is an interesting read on the results of Dr. Wiseman's experiments on Luck conducted over 8 years with hundreds of people as part of the Luck project. The Luck Project scientifically explores why some people live such charmed lives, and aims to develop techniques that enable others to enhance their own good fortune. The main findings from the research have been published in the bestselling book 'The Luck Factor'

Lucky people meet their perfect partners, achieve their lifelong ambitions, find fulfilling careers, and live happy and meaningful lives. Their success is not due to them working especially hard, being amazingly talented or exceptionally intelligent. Instead, they simply appear to have an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time and enjoy more than their fair share of lucky breaks.

Psychologists have studied how our lives are affected by our intelligence, personality, genes, appearance, and upbringing. Measuring intelligence and categorizing people’s personalities is relatively straightforward, but how do you quantify luck and control chance? Dr Wiseman began by carrying out a survey to discover the percentage of people who considered themselves lucky or unlucky, and whether people’s luck tended to be concentrated in one or two areas of their lives or
spread across many different areas.

The book describes a scientifically proven way of understanding, controlling and increasing our Luck. The exercises in the book provide strategies to improve our Luck Factor.

Over time, Dr. Wiseman built up a database of about 400 people from all over the UK, all walks of life, who considered themselves especially lucky or unlucky. The people in both groups were saying, "I've no idea why this is the case; I'm just lucky" -- or unlucky. Dr Wiseman didn't believe that for a minute. He thought there was something else going on. So in the Luck Project, he've had the volunteers take part in experiments, interviewed them, had them keep diaries -- all sorts of things -- trying to piece together why we have one group of people for whom everything would work out well and another group for whom things would be completely disastrous.

Dr Wiseman uncovered thar Luck is not a magical ability or gift from the Gods. People are not born lucky or unlucky, but they create much of their own good and bad luck through their thoughts, feelings and actions.

If you are not able to get your hands on the book - the short colorful booklet is must read for getting insights into 'The Luck Factor'. The PDF has good graphics and a color print will make a good read - and easier to pass it on to someone else as a gift
I have pasted brief of the book at the bottom of the post.

The Q & A session with Dr Wiseman on some of the FAQs on Luck

Isn't there a distinction between chance and luck?
There's a big distinction. Chance events are like winning the lottery. They're events over which we have no control, other than buying a ticket. They don't consistently happen to the same person. They may be formative events in people's lives, but they're not frequent. When people say that they consistently experience good fortune, I think that, by definition, it has to be because of something they are doing.

In other words, they make their own luck.
That's right. What I'm arguing is that we have far more control over events than we thought previously. You might say, "Fifty percent of my life is due to chance events." No, it's not. Maybe 10% is. That other 40% that you think you're having no influence over at all is actually defined by the way you think.

What are some of the ways that lucky people think differently from unlucky people?One way is to be open to new experiences. Unlucky people are stuck in routines. When they see something new, they want no part of it. Lucky people always want something new. They're prepared to take risks and relaxed enough to see the opportunities in the first place.

How did you uncover that in your lab?
We did an experiment. We asked subjects to flip through a news-paper that had photographs in it. All they had to do was count the number of photographs. That's it. Luck wasn't on their minds, just some silly task. They'd go through, and after about three pages, there'd be a massive half-page advert saying, STOP COUNTING. THERE ARE 43 PHOTOGRAPHS IN THIS NEWSPAPER. It was next to a photo, so we knew they were looking at that area. A few pages later, there was another massive advert -- I mean, we're talking big -- that said, STOP COUNTING. TELL THE EXPERIMENTER YOU'VE SEEN THIS AND WIN 150 POUNDS [about $235].

For the most part, the unlucky would just flip past these things. Lucky people would flip through and laugh and say, "There are 43 photos. That's what it says. Do you want me to bother counting?" We'd say, "Yeah, carry on." They'd flip some more and say, "Do I get my 150 pounds?" Most of the unlucky people didn't notice.

But the business culture typically worships drive -- setting a goal, single-mindedly pursuing it, and plowing past obstacles. Are you arguing that, to be more lucky, we need to be less focused?
This is one of the most counterintuitive ideas. We are traditionally taught to be really focused, to be really driven, to try really hard at tasks. But in the real world, you've got opportunities all around you. And if you're driven in one direction, you're not going to spot the others. It's about getting people to have various game plans running in their heads. Unlucky people, if they go to a party wanting to meet the love of their life, end up not meeting people who might become close friends or people who might help them in their careers. Being relaxed and open allows lucky people to see what's around them and to maximize what's around them

Much of business is also about rational analysis: pulling up the spreadsheet, running the numbers, looking at the serious facts. Yet you found that lucky people rely heavily on their gut instincts.
Yes. You don't want to broadly say that whenever you get an intuitive feeling, it's right and you should go with it. But you could be missing out on a massive font of knowledge that you've built up over the years. We are amazingly good at detecting patterns. That's what our brains are set up to do.

What are some other ways you found that lucky people's minds operate differently?
They practice "counterfactual thinking." The degree to which you think that something is fortunate or not is the degree to which you generate alternatives that are better or worse.
Unlucky people say, "I can't believe I've been in another car accident." Lucky people go, "Wonderful. Yes, I had a car accident, but I wasn't killed. And I met the guy in the other car, and we got on really well, and there might be a relationship there." What's interesting is that both ways of thinking are unconscious and automatic. It would never occur to the unlucky people to see it a different way.

Isn't there something delusional about that approach -- sort of a modern version of Dr. Pangloss's "All for the best in the best of all possible worlds"? Suppose I said, "I just wrote this article, and the article stinks, and nobody read it. But hey, at least I have two arms."
What's so delusional about that? If it keeps you going in the face of adversity and softens the impact of the fact that no one read your article, and therefore you think, "Well, I can write another article, and I'm going to learn from the mistakes of the past one, and I'm going to keep on going," I think that's fine. It would be delusional if you took it to the extreme -- especially if you weren't learning from your mistakes.

But can we acknowledge that sometimes bad stuff -- car accidents, natural disasters -- just happens? Sometimes it's purely bad, and there's nothing good about it.
I've never heard that from a lucky person.

So if you buy that way of thinking, then there is no bad luck.
That's right. That's what was weird about conducting some of the interviews. Subjects would say, "I'm the luckiest person alive" -- and they'd come up with dreadful stories. They'd have the same life events as the unlucky person, but they'd look at them entirely differently.

The Four Principle for Luck Factor - Dr Richard Wiseman
Principle No.1: Maximise Your Opportunities - Make your luck
The way lucky people think and behave makes them far more likey than others to create, notice, and act upon chance opportunities in their lives. People who tend to think and behave in the same way are said to have the same personality. Dr Wiseman compared the personalities of lucky and unlucky people on 5 dimensions of personality: agreeableness, conscientiousness, extroversion, neuroticism, and openness.

Agreeableness is a measure of the degree to which someone is sympathetic toward others and willing to help them. Lucky people scored no higher on agreeableness than unlucky people. Conscientiousness is a measure of the degree to which a person is selfdisciplined, strong-willed, and determined. There was very little difference in the conscientiousness scores of lucky and unlucky people. The groups did, however, obtain very different scores on the remaining three personality dimensions – extroversion, neuroticism and openness.

The differences explained why lucky people constantly encounter chance opportunities in their lives while unlucky people do not. Lucky people score much higher than unlucky people on extroversion, and there are three ways in which extroversion significantly increases the likelihood of having a lucky chance encounter – meeting a large number of people, being a “social magnet,” and keeping in contact with people. Lucky people dramatically increase the possibility of a lucky chance encounter by meeting a large number of people in their daily lives. The more people they meet, the greater opportunity they have of running into someone who could have a positive effect on their lives. Social magnets attract others because, without realizing it, they exhibit the types of body language and facial expressions that other people find attractive and inviting. Lucky people exhibit exactly the same pattern of behaviors. Upon reviewing video tapes of interviews with lucky and unlucky people, we found that the lucky people smiled twice as much as the unlucky people, and engaged in far more eye contact. The lucky people also tended to engage in three times as much open body language (point their bodies toward the person they are speaking with, uncross their arms and legs, make gestures that display open palms) as the unlucky people.Lucky people are also effective at building secure and long-lasting attachments with the people they meet. They are easy to get to know and most people like them. They tend to be trusting and form close friendships with others. As a result, they often keep in touch with a much larger number of friends and colleagues than unlucky people. This network of friends helps promote opportunity in their lives. Together, these actions result in a massive “network of luck” and a huge potential for chance opportunities. And it takes only one chance encounter to change a life.

People who obtain a low score on the neuroticism dimension of personality are generally calm and relaxed, and people who obtain a high score are more tense and anxious. Lucky people score much lower on neuroticism than unlucky people, and this makes a big difference. Because lucky people tend to be more relaxed than most, they are more likely to notice chance opportunities. The same principle applies when lucky people meet and chat with other people. They are relaxed and attuned to the opportunities around them. Lucky people see what is there, rather than trying to find what they want to see. As a result, they are far more receptive to any opportunities that arise naturally.

People who obtain a high score on the openness dimension of personality like a great deal of variety and novelty in their lives. They love trying new experiences, new kinds of foods, and new ways of doing things. They tend not to be bound by convention and they like the notion of unpredictability. People who obtain a low score on openness tend to be much more conventional. Lucky people score much higher on openness than unlucky people, and this greater openness can help promote chance opportunities in their lives.

Professor Wiseman provides examples of people whose lives are full of opportunities. He cites, for example, a 40 year old housewife Wendy who wins about 3 competition prizes per week and whose winnings have included major prizes such as significant amounts of cash and holidays. Her secret? – She enters a lot of competitions. Wiseman’s initial point here is that if she didn’t enter any competitions then she would have no chance of winning them.

Lucky people maximise opportunities by
a. building and maintaining a strong network of luck
b. having a relaxed attitude towards life
c. being open to new experiences in their lives

Principle No.2: Lucky people make successful decisions by using their intuition and gut feelings - Your Gut is right

Lucky people consistently place their trust in colleagues and clients who are honest and reliable, and they make sound choices when it comes to their careers and financial matters. Lucky people simply know when a decision is right. In contrast, unlucky people view many of their poor decisions as yet more evidence of how they are always destined to fail. Dr Wiseman found that lucky and unlucky people differed on a rather mysterious aspect of decision making, namely, intuition. Unlucky people often ignore their intuition and regret their decisions.

Wiseman indicates that his research results suggest that a large percentage of lucky people trust their intuitions when making decisions in four important areas of their life – careers, personal relationships, business and finance. He gives many examples, including one from his own life where he felt a gut feeling that something was wrong when being asked to hand over his credit card at a particular hotel for a booking despite having done this many times before. He chose instead to pay by cheque and subsequently discovered that credit card fraud had been committed by one of the hotel employees. He had avoided being one of the victims of this fraud through following his intuition, although he had no obvious reason to suspect the fraud might occur.

Wiseman also suggests that lucky people are more likely than unlucky people to take steps to boost their intuition such as meditating and this feeds into the recommendations he makes later in the book for how you can begin to increase your own chances of being the beneficiary of good luck.

a. Lucky people listen to their gut feelings and hunches
b. Lucky people take steps to boost their intitution

Principle No.3: Expect Good Fortune
Lucky people are certain that the future will be bright. Over time, that expectation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because it helps lucky people persist in the face of failure and positively shapes their interactions with other people.

Good luck and bad luck, it seems, can sometimes become a self fulfilling prophecy. If you expect good luck, the suggestion is, you are more likely to receive good luck and if you expect bad luck you are more likely to receive bad luck. Wiseman also gives some examples of psychological experiments which indicate that people’s perceptions of their abilities can influence their capacities – for instance, in one experiment he alludes to, two groups of people were asked to press a switch the moment a light came on. The second group, but not the first, were told to imagine they were fighter pilots with very fast reactions. Remarkably the second group responded much faster than the first – they expected to do well and therefore performed better.

a. Lucky people expect their good luck to continue in the future
b. Lucky people attempt to achieve their goals, even if their chance of success seems slim, and perservere in the face of failure
c. Lucky people expect their interactions with others to be lucky and successful

Principle No. 4: Turn Your Bad Luck Into Good
Lucky people employ various psychological techniques to cope with, and even thrive upon, the ill fortune that comes their way. For example, they spontaneously imagine how things could have been worse, they don't dwell on the ill fortune, and they take control of the situation.

In this section, Wiseman argues forcefully for a positive attitude towards difficulties and bad luck that besets you. He suggests that if you can adopt the belief that any ill fortune that besets you will in the long run work out for the best, then cultivating this positive attitude will help you to move forward and create a luckier future for yourself. In talking about this he seems to be highlighting a kind of resilience, resourcefulness and determination alongside positive belief which can help you. He gives a number of illuminating examples including one from his own life where, in his past career as a musician, his case with all his magic tricks was stolen when he was distracted in a restaurant. Instead of bemoaning his bad luck, he used the opportunity to work through the night to create new magic tricks, with the result that is performance was much better than it would have been and his new tricks later received awards.

a. Lucky people see the positive side of their bad luck
b. Lucky people are convinced that any ill fortune in their lives will, in the long run, work out for the best
c. Lucky people do not dwellon their ill fortune
d. Lucky people take constructive steps to prevent more bad luck in the future


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