I was having a coffee with a friend who was bemoaning his lack of luck. He had never won a lucky draw, not even a school raffle. He was passed over for his latest promotion.
As I listened to his tale of woe, in a nice cafe, with a view of the beach in a city that has been free from COVID for two months, I had to shake my head.
Luck is a matter of perspective. Many people would have gladly swapped places with my ‘unlucky’ friend who would leave the cafe in his nice car and go to his comfortable house after our coffee. And most would have focused on the luck they had enjoyed rather than what they had missed.
Is The Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty?
Selak from Croatia lays claim to this intriguing title. For he seems to have a lot of luck. And whether it is good or bad depends on which way you look at things.
In summary, the following events of luck have happened to him.
- In 1962 he was traveling by train from Sarajevo to Dubrovnik when the train left the tracks and plunged into an icy river. Seventeen people drowned, but Selak, although suffering from hypothermia, survived.
- Three years later, he was ejected from a plane moments before it crashed and landed safely in a haystack.
- 1968, a bus he was on fell into a river, killing four people (Remind me never to take transport with Selak across a body of water).
- Avoiding public transport, his car caught fire in 1970. Just as he escaped, the fuel tank exploded. Amazingly this experience repeated in 1973.
- To round things off, he was hit by a bus in 1995 and had crashed into a United Nations truck in 1996.
So my question to you is — is Frane Selak incredibly lucky to have survived so many near fatalities? Or very unlucky to have so many mishaps?
Before you answer, let me give you one more fact about the man. In 2003 he won 900,000 Euros in the lottery.
“You could look at it two ways. I was either the unluckiest man in the world or the luckiest. I preferred to believe the latter.” Frane Selak
5 Ways to Make Your Own Luck
Frane considered himself lucky and seemed to have embraced the above incidents with a positive outlook. And there is science-backed research to suggest that people who are considered lucky help increase their chances of achieving good luck.
1. You have to be in it to win it
I’ll admit when I see someone win millions in a lottery, I will have pangs of jealousy. Why don’t I ever win the lottery?
There is a good reason I have never won the lottery — I never buy a ticket. And that makes winning the lottery, well, impossible. The people we perceive to have good luck are the ones participating, putting themselves out there. Not just in the lottery but in most opportunities that life presents to them.
Srini Pillay M.D writes in Psychology Today, “a recent study showed that when outcomes are uncertain, pessimistic people tend to avoid these situations and are averse to them whereas optimistic people do not. Thus, optimism is necessary to take a chance.”
You need to put yourself in situations where you can be ‘lucky.” This could be anything from going on a blind date to turning up to an event where you may not know anyone, to signing up for the new class.
The old saying is you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Make sure you are taking those shots.
“I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” Thomas Jefferson
2. Follow your intuition
Dr. Richard Wiseman studied 1000 people in order to analyze truly ‘unlucky’ people and how a shift in their mindset made them luckier. He wrote about these in his book, The Luck Factor.
In it, he says, “what intuition seems to be most of the time is when you’ve got expertise in the area, that somehow the body and the brain have detected a pattern that you haven’t consciously seen. When we were talking to our lucky people, they would often say, “If I get a gut feeling about something, I stop and consider it.” Even when unlucky people got those feelings, they didn’t follow them because they didn’t know where they came from. They were anxious about the world.”
Research shows that overanalyzing things can actually lower your odds of making the best decision when it comes to the big decisions in life. Studies have found that your brain discerns subtle, complex patterns that go beyond conscious understanding. Therefore it can pay dividends to listen to your ‘gut instinct.’
3. Employ positive thinking
Some turn their ‘disadvantages’ into advantages. Stephen Hawking is a good example of this. He was diagnosed with a motor nervous system disease and given just a few years to live. He lost his ability to speak and was confined to a wheelchair.
He decided to treat this as good luck. He wrote that because of his disability, he did not have to give lectures or teach first-year students. Hawking was also able to avoid time-consuming committee meetings and devote himself completely to his research.
“I believe that disabled people should concentrate on things that their handicap doesn’t prevent them from doing and not regret those they can’t do. In my case, I have managed to do most things I wanted.” Stephen Hawking
Dr. Richard Wiseman says, “lucky people imagine how things could have been worse and compare their experience with a far worse scenario.” If you focus on the negative in a situation, you are more likely to have adverse results. Consider something small like finding a car park.
Christine Carter, a sociologist and senior fellow at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, says, “if you’re anxious that you won’t find a parking place, then literally your vision narrows. You lose your peripheral vision.”
By thinking positively, you are more open to your environment, both physically and emotionally. Being present in a moment will increase our luck rather than literally limiting our options. If we expect to be lucky, we’re more likely to be in tune with opportunities.
4. Keep your eyes open to all opportunities
One study conducted by Dr. Wiseman involved giving a group of volunteers a newspaper and asking them to count the photographs inside. In huge font on half of the second page was the message: “Stop counting — there are 43 photographs in this newspaper.”
Halfway through the paper, he inserted another large message, “stop counting, tell the experimenter you have seen this and win $250.”
All the participants who had called themselves unlucky before the study missed these and counted the photographs. The self-identified lucky participants saw one of the messages. Wiseman suggested that luck had something to do with spotting opportunities, even when they were unexpected.
Keeping an open mind and attitude to all possibilities can open you up to lucky chances. Many people are blind to opportunities because they don’t notice them.
5. Use your lucky charms
Many of us have superstitions or items that we believe bring us luck. And research shows that these actually help boost confidence and performance.
A study conducted by the University of Cologne in Germany found measurable performance benefits to superstitions. In their study, a group of students who had lucky charms was recruited for a series of memory tasks. Half the students were allowed to keep their lucky charms with them, while the rest had their charms taken away. The students who were allowed to keep their charms performed better.
Professional sportspeople often have lucky charms. One famous example is Michael Jordan, who wore his 1982 UNC College shorts under his NBA shorts in every NBA game he played, believing they brought him good luck.
Maia Young, associate professor at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, says, “optimism is positively associated with luck. If someone believes that they are lucky and believes that good things will happen, they will try harder at a task. When people view themselves as lucky, they are more likely to choose and persist at challenging tasks.”
So the next time someone asks you if the glass is half full or half empty- make sure you say it’s half full. Believe that you will have good luck and it is more likely to come. And you may have the “luck’ of people such as Frane Selak and Michael Jordan.
“Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.” — Ray Kroc, founder of McDonalds.