How luck Happens: Using the Science of Luck to Transform Work, Love, and Life by Janice Kaplan and Barnaby Marsh

Part Two – How to Get Lucky – 4. Skate to Where the Puck Will Be

  • Many of you may recognize the title of this chapter as a famous quote by hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. The main point here is that in addition to getting off the couch, you will probably have to get out of town to a place where luck is more likely to happen and where your skills are competitive. Place effects luck. There are cool stories here about famous people who did just that. My favorite is why did Mother Teresa fly first class? The answer is that is where the rich people sit who are more likely to gladly donate to her cause. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

5. Connect to the Power of Other People

  • The key idea here is that a good deal of luck comes from people you connect with. This means that you need to put yourself in a position to connect to some degree with as many people as possible. Talk to as many people you can as you travel. Go to every party that you can and be sure to mix. Here we meet the strength of weak ties concept. Weak ties are those that exist between people your friends know who you don’t know. They probably have a very different social network so connecting with them opens up a whole new community of possibilities. What might seem like random luck often comes from networking and social media. You should also be willing to extend luck to others without expecting anything particular in return.

6. Zig When Others Zag

  • It isn’t unusual for lucky people to be those who follow different paths that others miss. A lot of luck is seeing what others don’t see and you rarely make breakthroughs staying on the standard path. A guiding mantra should be try new things. Note that new ideas may sound nutty at first. We can take a lesson from some animals who always zig zag as they move about. This is great practice for when they are being chased.
  • People who think they are right aren’t always right so it’s key to challenge accepted wisdom. In pursuing unfashionable ideas you will have less competition. People who are naïve often can see things the people close to situations can’t. Young people often fit this description. Be sure to reflect on what you are doing so that if your idea is a dud you can get out quickly. There are a number of examples here of people who did the unexpected and found great success.

7. The Power of Persistence and Passion

  • Research shows that simply wanting can change your luck helps. Goals make a large difference. You should realize that the more at bats you get, the more likely you are to get a hit. You also need a fairly accurate sense of your capabilities to avoid delusional optimism. They cite Angela Duckworth’s book Grit that points out that passion for one’s work is a little bit of discovery followed by lots of development, and a lifetime of deepening.
  • The role of optimism is important and the authors believe that it can be learned. Optimistic people have the cognitive disposition to take advantage of good events and not get bogged down by bad ones. Believing you can create a lucky future for yourself fuels trying.

8. How Many Eggs in Your Basket (And How Many Baskets?)

  • While some people can succeed with a single-minded pursuit of one goal, it’s best for most of us to have our eyes on multiple opportunities. Some people who do well spend most of their time looking around for the next opportunity. The main metaphor here is the standard financial advice that suggests that you spread your money around into different investment vehicles. If one takes a hit the others might do just fine. Venture capitalists, for example, are happy if one in ten of their new adventures succeeds. Be sure to enjoy where you are as if your backup plan is more important than real life, something is wrong.
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