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Jul 25, 2019 22:28:27

How to be lucky: A method checklist

by @jasonleow | 984 words | 582🔥 | 621💌

Jason Leow

Current day streak: 582🔥
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Parent post: Luck

I wrote a series of four posts (1, 2, 3, 4) of book notes on How Luck Happens: Using the Science of Luck to Transform Work, Love, and Life, by Janice Kaplan and Barnaby Marsh. It was such an enjoyable, exciting and enriching read that I now want to try to synthesize and pare it down into a practical method checklist of to-dos that I can use in applying the science of luck to various aspects of my life.


How to be lucky: A method checklist

1. Set an aspiration/goal
Set an aspiration/goal behind what you want to be lucky in. Just saying "I want to be lucky" in a general sense isn't enough, because to be lucky, you need to be able to see opportunities as they emerge. And to see opportunities, you need some frame of context. Too broad, it makes it hard to recognise the opportunity in a sea of other events and people popping up. Too narrow, you might be too rigid and inflexible to capitalise on tangential opportunities that might bring you to your goal in a non-linear way. Remember, luck is not a one event thing, it doesn't happen in a straight line, one thing leads to another in a multiplier effect. Navigate with a compass, not a map. For example, "I want to work as a developer in Google" might be a good framing to start. 

2. Instill a lucky attitude/outlook
Believe that you can be and are lucky, and it just might. There's a bit of faking it till you make it here, but self-belief and reality distortion is key. What does a lucky attitude look like? Basically, good moods and emotions like informed optimism, openness, willingness to try the unexpected, positive attitude, and a sense of hope. If others also believe it ("You are so lucky!"), that compounds your luck too. But avoid wishful thinking. Remember: luck is not a zero sum game. There's plenty of it for everyone, and you being lucky doesn't mean someone else will be unlucky.

3. Diversify by choosing and being well-prepared in 2-3 options/approaches
Have a portfolio of choices or approaches. In the example of wanting a developer job at Google, maybe you can also try other tech-related job options as a way to get a foot in the door into the organisation, or you can try a few approaches to applying, instead of just through the usual routes of submitting your resume. Also load up on information, and prepare well (in terms of skills, knowledge, contacts) in the different options/approaches. 

4. Increase luck by increasing your exposure in the larger landscape of lucky opportunities
Imagine the act of trying to be lucky to be like fishing or hunting. Luck and lucky opportunities as fish, that's swimming in a fast flowing river that's the frame/context of your aspiration. In the example of finding a Google position, imagine opportunities flowing between in the river of interactions of people, events, situations both within and outside of Google. 

If you were to fish with a fishing net in this river, how would you increase your chances of catching fish? Use a large net, leave the net in the water for a longer time, placing the net at the right spot in the river where more fish would swim to and where there's less other fishermen competing with you, make sure the net is the right mesh density, has no holes in it, etc. Basically, increase the exposure of the net to the water (and therefore, fish) either by space or time. 

A large net means enlarging your network by meeting more people, and/or tapping on your network of weak ties - acquaintances, ex-colleagues. Leaving the net in the water for a longer time means anything that helps you stay in the game longer will help - it can be persistence, passion, resilience, optimism. Placing the net in the right spot with many fish means relocating to or hanging out in a place where you can meet the more people, and more of the right people who can help you (e.g. moving to Silicon Valley). Right mesh density and no holes in the net means increasing your nodes and connections by making them want to help you be lucky by you helping them first, or simply declaring your goals. To get more fish than others, you also need to be more competent and prepared than others, so build your skill. You also need to try unexpected things that others don't try, so that you have the opportunities exclusive to yourself.  

5. Spotting and acting on the opportunity
Attentiveness and proactiveness is the next step after you set yourself up to be exposed to the right opportunities. You need to be able to spot it, and act on it to maximise the luck. Spotting it requires flexible attention and curiosity of being able to zoom in and out, seeing the larger picture and going about your luck in a round-about way. Being proactive means being iterative, agile and action-oriented to adapt and turn situations to your favour. Focus on what you can influence rather than what's outside of your control.

6. Take the long view
Sometimes, even after doing all of the above, luck doesn't come. Sometimes to optimize your luck, you need to pass through a valley (bad luck) to reach a higher peak - things get worse before they get better. Sometimes bad luck are blessings in disguise, and you can make good luck from bad moments, so use anything that comes. That also feeds back to feeling in control and optimistic.  

(Side-note: I feel that luck is very much about complexity science, systems theory and navigating complex systems of entities, nodes, interactions. But that's a topic for a different post!)

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    @jasonleow -thanks for your posts, I become interested in "lucky", too. (Since you wrote summary here, I think I've got the core ideas of this book. Not brothered to read :D)

    I start to reading another "lucky" book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams. Similarly, it's about the strategy 'of managing opportunists in a way that would make it easier for luck to find me'.

    Now I try to make "lucky" be my theme of experiments, too. And I'm not alone, haha

    5plus6 avatar 5plus6 | Jul 27, 2019 10:48:54
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      @5plus6 nice. The book might be worth a read if you like to understand concepts by case studies or examples. Otherwise, skip away! ;) Let me know the book How to Fail goes! It's on my read list but won't get there yet... update us about your lucky experiments too :)

      Jason Leow avatar Jason Leow | Jul 27, 2019 20:55:32
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    @jasonleow - Just as I was working on tweaking my method for luck, you write this awesome post. I am getting lucky already :).

    Thank you for this Jason.

    Let me know when you start this experiment.

    @brianball - see this.

    Keni avatar Keni | Jul 25, 2019 10:35:33
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      @keni helping others is lucky for me too haha.

      Jason Leow avatar Jason Leow | Jul 26, 2019 20:24:47
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