Psychology Today (article reprinted with permission)
These Stories Will Change Your Beliefs About Luck
Is it possible to influence luck?
Posted Sep 13, 2016
Eight year old Julie Amberg was excited when her Aunt Nancy showed up to visit. Nancy, however, wanted some adult time with her sister, so she sent Julie on a mission. “Go outside and see if you can find a four-leaf clover, and I’ll give you a dollar for each one you bring me.” The odds of her getting a long, one-on-one, conversation with her sister were pretty good: studies show there is only one four-leaf clover for every 10,000 three-leaf clovers.
A few minutes later, however, Julie was back in the house with a four-leaf clover. Aunt Nancy gave her a dollar and sent her back out again. A few more minutes passed and Julie was back with another. In short order, she returned three more times, the final time with a five-leaf clover which is very rare.
The legend that four-leaf clovers are lucky comes to us from the Druids of ancient Ireland. They believed a four-leaf clover would protect them from bad luck. Today, Julie is a successful Atlanta-based artist, and she still has an uncanny knack for finding four-leaf clovers. A skeptic, however, might suggest that it is her artist’s eye for detail which enables her to find so many.
Painting by Julie Amberg Source: Copyright Julie Amberg used with permission
Luck is defined as the chance happening of good fortune, prosperity or success. I’ve never been one to believe I was lucky, but I recall reading in 2010 about some scientists at the University of Cologne conducting studies which showed that a belief in luck can improve a person’s chances to succeed.
Ron Currens, a technology sales professional in Atlanta, can attest to this: “I have played competitive backgammon for many years and the throw of the dice is central to the game. I have found that if I can convince my opponent that I am lucky, then I often get throws like double-six with far greater frequency than normal. It’s as if the expectation of luck affects the roll of the dice in some profound manner.”
I’ve been intrigued about the motivational factor of believing in luck for some time. So, I recently asked some of my friends and acquaintances if they believe they are lucky; if their belief affected their luck; and to share some of their luck stories. I hoped to receive two or three stories, but I was rewarded with dozens. Perhaps I’m lucky after all.
Through my interviews, I noticed some patterns among lucky people, what they consider to be luck, and in what seems to cause luck. I’ll share some of those with you, along with some of their stories.
Many responded that they didn’t believe in luck at all; that luck is merely the result of hard work and comes when preparation meets opportunity. Several people told me they don’t consider good fortune as luck, but as blessings from God. Others told me they believe their serendipity results from the Law of Attraction. And, a few simply accept that they are lucky without questioning it.
Susie Carter says, “Am I lucky? Yes, I win at everything I try.” She started AlaskaMen magazine and calendar on her kitchen table in 1986 because she wanted to help the single men who came to her day care center needing child care. It was an overnight success. “I just believed I could help the men find wives if I could figure a way to do it. No computers! Just legal pads and the old style paste up method of printing.” Susie and AlaskaMen have been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show five times; in Cosmopolitan magazine four times, People magazine three times, and hundreds of other magazines, newspapers, and TV shows worldwide.
Anita Jefferson, author of Climb Every Obstacle: Eliminate Your Limits! told me, “Often when I have experienced ‘luck’ it’s because I know exactly what I need. Then, the exact shoe, book or person shows up at the moment I set that intention. I experience kismet most days because I start my morning with prepared, defined intentions and firmly expect to be lucky.”
Debbie Silverman, author of It’s Just a Conversation, says she’s been on a lucky streak for several years. She attributes her luck to gratitude. An example of her luck is getting a hole in one after playing golf only 8 months; she has since gotten a second.
One pattern I’ve noticed is that many lucky streaks seem to start after experiencing bad luck such as surviving an economic hardship, or worse a traumatic event like severe injury or life-threatening disease. For Paul Babin, a successful cinematographer in Hollywood, it was getting fired from a job that turned his luck around. He says, “Luck comes when we make choices, and often it’s the choice that’s the most frightening that brings the greatest reward. Conversely, getting mired in uncertainty will curtail luck faster than anything.”
Bill Slagle, President of the Atlanta Fundraising Foundation, said, “I would say surviving cancer definitely started a whole series of lucky things.” His string of luck includes meeting the girl of his dreams and moving to the beach.
Joey Reiman, CEO of BrightHouse, and author of Thumbs Up! told me, “When I was 22 years old I got a job working for the great film director Federico Fellini in Rome, Italy. Two weeks later I was in a near fatal car accident that promised to paralyze my right arm. Immobilized and terrified in the hospital, I was visited by a South African minister who told me I was lucky. ‘Lucky? I don’t have the use of my right hand. No one will hire me or love me.’ He laughed and said, ‘That is why we have two arms.’ Then over the next few weeks we talked about just getting my thumb up. I thought he meant I had to get my thumb to move, but what he shared was this secret: thoughts have wings and when you create a thumbs up mind set it becomes your gift set. Two weeks later my thumb actually moved. Thirty years later, I have built a marriage of 25 years with two amazing sons, and three successful businesses. That little advice put me on lucky street because regardless of what happens in life all that matters is what happens in your head!”
Another of those patterns I’ve observed from some of the very luckiest people I spoke with is that they are bold enough to go after what they want and frequently get it. Written as an equation: Desire + Action = Luck. People who believe they are lucky expect to win, so they are more likely to enter a contest, and buy a lottery or raffle ticket. A statistician might counter that it is because they enter so often that their odds of winning are increased.
Tom Marcoux attributes his many successes to luck. Here, as a stuntman in the feature film BOATDREAMS, he jumps a jet ski from the San Francisco Bay into a moving truck for a perfect landing.
Copyright Tom Marcoux used with permission
Some people shared that they have had luck, but only in one area of their life. Susan Griffin, a controller for a structural steel company, says her whole family is lucky, but she’s mostly lucky when it comes to winning office pools.
Several respondents told me luck is what you make of it. Turning lemons into lemonade for example. Identifying what is or isn’t serendipitous is a subjective interpretation that lies in the eye of the beholder.
Kirsten Ott Palladino, Editorial Director for EquallyWed.com, an LGBTQ+ wedding resource, told me, “I feel incredibly lucky in my life, but others have told me that’s a funny way of looking at it.” She explained to me that she was sexually abused for 10 years. “I was lucky enough to finally gain the strength and self-love needed to walk away from my abusers. I managed to turn my life around. I’m now an award-winning successful entrepreneur with a wife, and twin 5-year-old boys.”
Patricia Pitsel, PhD, a management coach in Calgary, Canada, who spent the earlier part of her life as an unhappy and unlucky person, told me, “I happened to read Fear of Flying by Erica Jong. In it, the protagonist is told by her psychiatrist husband, that she is responsible for how she feels; others don’t make you unhappy, we make ourselves unhappy. Anyway… I decided to spend the rest of my life being happy and not miserable.” Afterward, she says her luck gradually began to change; she won a $5000.00 home entertainment system, and a trip to the Caribbean. She went on to tell me that the luckiest thing that has happened to her is being able to share with others the belief, “that we can be happy, that we can be lucky.”
Some reported having a brief spell of luck. Julia Hobbs, Founder of Project Free Hand in Wales, experienced a year of luck in 2007. Wherever she went she would find money on the street. “It was ridiculous how I kept finding fivers, tenners and loose change. There hasn’t been another year like it.” Adding to the fascination of this story is Michelle Gregg, a Counseling Astrologer in Atlanta, who explained to me, “Folks who are in the midst of a Jupiter transit tend to have good luck, receive money, etc. for the period of time that the transit is active.”
One of the luckiest people I interviewed is Andrea Gold, owner of Gold Stars speaker bureau, she said, “I expect to win. And I often do. I’ve won big stuff, small stuff. I don’t consider winning out of reach. So when I enter a contest, I do it seriously, and responsibly. I make sure I want the prize, so I don’t take something that would better benefit another.” She adds, “I believe that my confidence in winning does help to manifest the ‘win.’ And taking that contest or raffle seriously reinforces the manifesting. We may not always understand or see the forces at work in our lives, but that certainly doesn’t mean they aren’t there. I also listen to my intuition on when to enter. I consider intuition a core part of everyone’s abilities. Some just don’t pay attention to the subtle cues.” She has won raffles, drawings, a college scholarship, a $1,000 lottery, even slot machines. She also finds valuables, especially money; ones, fives, tens and twenties. “I find coins nearly every day. Money even finds me.” Once when Andrea was swimming in Hawaii a bread bag floated up to her. Thinking it was trash that needed to be thrown away, she picked it up and found $68 in it. Andrea tells me she always has a sense of gratitude when she receives what she calls gifts from the universe.
Michael Lissack, a business executive, philanthropist, and entrepreneur, considers himself to be very lucky. In 1994, he was waiting to fly back to New York City from Boston. Wanting something to read for the flight, he purchased a copy of the Washington Post, which was not one of the papers he regularly read, but he’d already read his regulars that day. On the front page was an article about the law firm Phillips and Cohen and the False Claims Act. The article gave him just the information he needed to become a Whistleblower against several Wall Street investment banks that were defrauding the federal government by overpricing securities. He said the 50 cents for that newspaper led to him being awarded millions of dollars. Talk about luck!
The conclusion I draw from all the people I’ve interviewed is that those who believe they are lucky are willing to take more risks than the average person. That willingness seems to open more opportunities for success. If you want luck to come your way, then put yourself in its path.
Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. is an author, humorist/speaker and innovation consultant. He works with companies that want to be more competitive and with people who want to think like innovators. Robert is the author of …and Never Coming Back, a psychological thriller-novel about a motion picture director; The Annoying Ghost Kid, a humorous children’s book about dealing with a bully; and the inspirational book: Wisdom in the Weirdest Places. For more information on Robert, please visit www.jumpstartyourmeeting.com.