The science of luck – can you really engineer your own good fortune?

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I have always considered myself lucky – I win raffles and competitions. I find parking spaces easily and if there’s something I want, it somehow all seems to pan out for me. Serendipitous moments are a common occurrence in my life.

Take the way I landed my first job out of university. I ‘randomly’ saw a job posting on Twitter from a blogger I followed who worked for the company I would later be hired by. I tweeted her, applied and she and her boss interviewed me for the position.

People around me often tell me “You’re so lucky!” and I always reply with what my Dad taught me many years ago:

“You make your own luck”

I truly believe it. That tweet might have seemed random but, since studying the science of luck over the last few years, I believe I engineered my own good fortune.

And the good news is, so can you.

How? By taking the principles of Professor Richard Wiseman’s psychology of luck and adopting them in your own life.

1. Maximise chance opportunities

Take my Twitter job example… I followed interesting people, checked in on the social network frequently and when I noticed the opportunity, I tweeted the person to find out more, which built the beginnings of a professional relationship.

2. Listening to lucky hunches

Lucky people take note of their gut instinct and listen to it. They increase their intuitive abilities by meditation or other techniques that clear and focus the mind.

I would consider myself very intuitive – I seem to know how things will turn out and get a good, or a bad feeling about things before they happen. When I listen to the warning signs, I maximise my luck or reduce my misfortune. The one time I recall not listening to my gut instinct, I paid for it. I chose to see it as a necessary ‘plot twist’ in the story of my life, but even so, it could have been avoided if I listened to my intuition. Now, I’m much more trusting of it and find I’m luckier by the day.

3. Expect good fortune

Those who consider themselves lucky often expect good things to happen to them more than the unlucky pessimists of the world. This attitude has lucky people looking for the good in everything, which then perpetuates their luck.

Thinking back to the Twitter job posting – if I was someone who didn’t expect lucky things, I might not have a) noticed that tweet or b) applied. I might not have believed I was lucky enough to find a job on Twitter or expected it to come to anything.

4. Turn bad luck to good

Sometimes things don’t always go our way. Lucky people tend to look for the silver lining, or the lesson and learning from a bad situation. This helps them get into a problem solving mindset, and not a defeated one. Solving problems and challenges leads to growth, opportunity and luck.

That job I knew I shouldn’t have taken if I’d listened to my gut instinct? Like I said, I chose to see it as a learning curve and accelerated my journey into self-employment. It wasn’t bad luck in my mind, just a necessary challenge.

Just in case you don’t quite believe me yet, or want further evidence that there is a science behind luck, let’s take a look at some of the successful people who engineered their own good fortune:

Steve Jobs

Many people say Steve was just lucky to be friends with Steve Wozniak (his business partner for many years and the engineering mind behind Apple computers). But without either of the talents of the other, and hard work they both put in, they wouldn’t have built one of the most successful and most innovative companies in the world. They both saw the opportunity, and Job’s vision along with Wozniak’s technical skills combined to a ‘lucky’ break for both of them.

Oprah Winfrey

“I believe luck is preparation meeting opportunity. If you hadn’t been prepared when the opportunity came along, you wouldn’t have been lucky.”

Oprah grew up in very difficult circumstances, and was an unlikely candidate for a lead anchor on TV, let alone presenter of her own show when she began her career. Some say she got lucky when she turned the ratings around for morning tv show ‘AM Chicago’ after being relocated from Baltimore. From there, her career skyrocketed. But, Oprah worked hard to get to that point, and was a savvy broadcaster who knew what the public related to and wanted to see. The years running up to that ‘lucky break’ were her preparation.

Richard Branson

“Those people and businesses that are generally considered fortunate or luckier than others are usually also the ones that are prepared to take the greatest risks and, by association, are also prepared to fall flat on their faces every so often.”

Richard recites a story about how ‘luck’ (or engineered good fortune) helped make the first ever album released through Virgin Records a hit in the US. Read the full story here.

If you want more resources about engineering your own luck, I highly recommend checking out the work of Denise Duffield-Thomas or read The Luck Factor by Richard Wiseman.

Jen Smith coaches entrepreneurs in social media.

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