How to Make Luck: 7 Secrets Lucky People Use to Succeed

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The executive editor of "Bottom Line/Personal" and editor-in-chief of "Moneysworth" takes his unique talent, resources, and investigative and research skills to the subjects of luck and success and tells readers how they can make them work in their lives.
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The executive editor of "Bottom Line/Personal" and editor-in-chief of "Moneysworth" takes his unique talent, resources, and investigative and research skills to the subjects of luck and success and tells readers how they can make them work in their lives.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402875076
  • Publisher: Renaissance Books
  • Publication date: 12/15/1998
  • Pages: 222
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.97 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Introduction xi
Part One: Developing a Good-Luck Personality 15
1. Good Luck Is Something You Make 19
2. Good-Luck Myths and Realities 31
3. Why Some People Are Luckier Than Others 41
4. Luck-Making Habits That Pay Off 55
5. Becoming a Luck Magnet--Goals, Contacts, and Timing 73
Part Two: The 7 Secrets of Lucky People 85
6. Lucky Secret 1: Make Life Look Easy--But Don't Rub It
In 87
7. Lucky Secret 2: Cultivate Charisma--Even if You're Shy 101
8. Lucky Secret 3: Become Known for Your Childlike
Curiosity 119
9. Lucky Secret 4: Simplify Other People's Lives 129
10. Lucky Secret 5: Let Powerful People Own a Piece of You 141
12. Lucky Secret 7: Turn Small Triumphs into Lucky Streaks 163
Part Three:How to Limit Bad Luck 177
13. Gaining Control Over Bad Luck 179
14. Get Over It 189
15. Watch Your Back 199
16. Bad Luck Is Good Luck 211
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First Chapter

Chapter One

Good Luck is Something You Make

Get as much experience as you can so that
you're ready when luck works.

Henry Fonda

The word luck dates back to the thirteenth century, when it entered the Middle Dutch language as luk. The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology says the word probably began as a gambling term. But the word may owe more to the medieval town of Lucca, Italy, than to a wager won in a Flemish game of chance.

    By the early 1200s, Italy had established itself as Europe's most exciting destination for ambitious traders. Ports on both of Italy's coasts had access to calm seas, and weather conditions were moderate year-round. Northern Italy's proximity to the rest of Europe and Asia exposed it to a wide range of cultures and ideas. Merchants from as far north as the Baltics, Holland, and England sailed down along the coast of France and around Spain to Italy's west coast port, Pisa. Traders from the Orient sailed into Venice on Italy's east coast.

    During this period, Holland was the most powerful trading nation in Europe and its financial skills were unsurpassed. Dutch seafaring towns embarked on enormous commercial expansion in the thirteenth century, and Dutch sailors, traders, and fishermen routinely shuttled back and forth to Italy.

    As trading picked up in the latter part of the thirteenth century, so did the demand for silver, which had begun to be mined on a large scale in Europe earlier in the century. Silver was much more efficient than barter and more plentiful in Europe than gold. Cities throughout Europe operated mines, and much of the mined silver was sent to mints in Pisa, Genoa, and Venice, where ingots were stamped into coins. During this period, a large percentage of the precious metal moved through Pisa, since it was easier for western European merchants to ship ingots for minting there, than it was to sail all the way around the boot of Italy to Venice.

    Venice used a clever strategy to maintain its share of the silver market. To attract the silver that poured into the Pisa region, Venice decided in 1270 to kick off one of history's first tax breaks on shopping. It exempted the men of Lucca — a town twelve miles from Pisa — from having to pay the customary bullion tax on whatever ingots the men brought with them to purchase goods in Venice.

    Given the close commercial relationship between Holland and Italy at this time, as well as the fact that Lucca's traders and bankers traveled all over Europe, luk may have been the word the Dutch traders used to describe the good fortune and tax-free status Lucca's men enjoyed.

    Whatever luck's origin, the word soon made its way across to England, where it turned up in Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor in 1598 ("Good luck lies in odd numbers.... They say there is divinity in odd numbers, either in nativity, chance or death...."), George Meriton's Yorkshire Dialogue in 1683, and Jonathan Swift's Polite Conversation in 1738. How and when luck, the noun, became lucky, the adjective, is unknown. But the word lucky finds its way into print in the mid-nineteenth century — and almost always in relation to people with a knack for winning a gambling stake.

    Today we've extended that definition. In an age when science has a logical explanation for almost everything, we use the words "luck" and "lucky" to help us rationalize anything that's incomprehensible. We call it luck when someone we know who isn't particularly attractive finds happiness with a handsome or beautiful lover, or when someone at work who doesn't seem very smart gets a promotion. People who survive train wrecks are lucky, as is the seemingly mediocre student who gets into an Ivy League school, or the young actress who lands her first role in a movie and wins an Oscar. Luck's existence is confirmed every time someone gets what he or she wants and makes that triumph look easy.

    In other words, luck is used as a convenient explanation for any event that we don't want to believe was caused by another person's effort. When someone we know gets a big promotion or raise, or a friend tells us about a sexy person they met at a party, we call their good fortune luck. Attributing other people's good fortune to luck allows us to feel better about not getting what they got. Face it — if we were to admit that all of the great things that happen to others was the result of their effort and not serendipity, we would hate ourselves for not trying harder or not being smarter or not being more attractive.

    So — the word luck has become an escape clause, a way to let ourselves off the hook. When we use it to describe another person's success or happiness, the word luck is a balm that soothes the sting of jealousy and guilt. And it comes to mean that which eludes us.

Does Luck Really Exist?

One of the luckiest days in history is said to have been June 6, 1944 — D-Day — when allied troops took advantage of a break in the weather to invade Europe and eventually defeat the Nazis. Yet the decision to invade wasn't completely the result of fate and good luck.

    As early as March 1942, General Dwight Eisenhower began contemplating an invasion of Nazi-occupied France. Tactical plans were prepared, spies tested the sands of French beaches, and arms, planes, ships, and men were amassed along the English Channel inlets. By late spring of 1944, Eisenhower knew that the large armada he had assembled had to strike soon or risk being detected by the Germans.

    The target date for attack was set for early June. But the weather, which had been flawless during the first three days of the month, took a turn for the worse. By June 4, a drizzle became a cold, driving rain, transforming the English Channel into a rolling, violent sea. On June 5, as the rain beat against his window, Eisenhower was told by his staff that there was a good chance of a thirty-six-hour break in the storm during the early hours of June 6. Upon hearing that, Eisenhower gave the green light to invade. The storm did break as expected, and the rest is history.

    Were Eisenhower's decision and success pure luck? Not exactly. While the break in the weather certainly was a stroke of good fortune, Eisenhower's decision to believe the weather forecast he was given wasn't based on superstition or military restlessness. Aware that military history was jammed with generals who mistakenly sent thousands of their men to death out of sheer frustration with the enemy or the weather, Eisenhower had taken steps to limit his chances of failure. Four weeks prior to the invasion, he met privately each day with Captain J. M. Stagg, a twenty-eight-year-old Scottish meteorologist. Stagg would bring Eisenhower the weather forecast and then remain for a half hour to answer dozens of Eisenhower's questions.

    Eisenhower's biographer and D-Day author and historian, Stephen Ambrose, told me that Eisenhower went through this meticulous process to get a strong feel for Stagg's reasoning. Eisenhower wanted to have a clear sense of how Stagg made his predictions and how accurate they were. Eisenhower knew that the weather over southeast England, the English Channel, and France's Normandy region was unpredictable, and had anticipated that a successful invasion would depend on the accuracy of a forecast.

    In effect, Eisenhower had taken careful, calculated steps to improve the odds of success and reduce his odds of failure. While Eisenhower's decision to invade may have seemed like a lucky call, he had actually taken a great deal of care to improve the odds of a favorable outcome. Had Eisenhower not sized up the accuracy of his weather forecaster, he may have doubted Stagg's prediction in light of the horrible weather at the time and delayed the invasion, giving up the critical element of surprise.

    Like Eisenhower's unexpected and ill-timed torrential rains, many of the dilemmas and challenges we face start as uninvited random events. Each day, when you leave the house, you enter a random world. Some of the random events that surround you pass you by. Some collide with you. Some are within reach and must be grabbed or encouraged to come to you. How you deal with these random events determines your luck. Whenever you walk down the street, you have dozens of choices to make. You can walk right past everyone you meet. You can walk directly into them, which probably would result in an argument or a fight. Or you could stop and talk to every person you encounter, which could take all day, even if it did produce a number of interesting opportunities.

    The point is, your behavior controls the quality of your luck. Act angry all of the time, and few people are going to want to befriend you or help you achieve your goals. Take steps to be more friendly, and you immediately have improved the odds of getting more of what you want, faster. We can control what we say and do. Everything else that happens to us depends on the actions of others and the random world in which we live. The only way to influence what we can't control is to take steps to attract the good things and deflect the bad.

    Even inaction has an influence on our luck. Do nothing to get a raise, and the current value of your income will diminish over time. Say nothing at a party, and your odds of meeting someone special are close to zero. Tell no one that you want a promotion at work, and you leave your destiny in the hands of others. Your odds of success in such situations are always low, since such opportunities almost always go to those who ask or show interest.

    The good news is that once you make specific changes in your behavior, you can attract more good luck. Experiencing good fortune depends on how skillful you are at influencing people to offer you opportunities and how well you manage those opportunities once they are offered.

Making the Switch from Wishing to Doing

I have always been conscious that luck depends on how well you influence events that appear out of your control. That's why I've always opted for doing rather than wishing.

    Several years ago, my family was living in a one-bedroom co-op apartment in New York City. The place was claustrophobic and became even tighter when my daughter, Olivia, was born. We needed a larger place, but we couldn't find a buyer for our co-op. Just when we thought we were going to have to live in that apartment forever, a young couple showed up. They loved the place. We came to terms, but when the couple was interviewed by the building's co-op board, which decides who gets to move into the building and who does not, half the board didn't want to let the couple in. The couple wanted to put down just ten percent, rather than the customary twenty percent. So the co-op board decided it would discuss the matter and vote on it. I could have left the vote to chance, under the assumption that there was little I could do legally to influence their vote. But leaving my family's fate to chance — fifty-fifty odds — didn't seem smart. The downside was too devastating to consider.

    So I wrote the board a letter. I respectfully and passionately explained that we were cramped in the apartment and that our potential buyers were the first we had seen in years. I also pointed out that the couple would be happy to take out insurance to guarantee that they wouldn't default on their mortgage or their maintenance payments. I also told the board that I didn't know whether my family could hold out much longer in such tight space. I delivered the letter and waited for the vote. I had tilted the table a little in my favor, treating the board members with respect and showing them how their biggest fears might be put to rest. The board approved the couple by one vote.

    Everyone I know called me lucky at the time. And I suppose I was. But I hadn't left everything to chance. I had influenced my luck by taking steps to improve my odds of getting what I wanted. That experience taught me an important lesson. Ask yourself a simple question whenever you find yourself wishing for good luck: What can I do to influence the odds of my success? It also taught me to never under-estimate the power of a respectful, heartfelt letter.

    If taking the right action improves our luck, why do so many people spend so much time wishing rather than doing? Because we give up hope and think that nothing we can do will have much of an impact on our circumstances. We wish for good luck when we feel helpless and need to get out of a jam. We also wish when we want something fast and don't believe there's anything we can do to get what we want quickly. We wish when we interview for a job. We wish when we make a pitch for new business. We wish all will go well when we must speak in front of an audience. In each of these instances, we hope that our wishes will be heard and that somehow we will be given just the edge we need to keep from failing.

    But wishing doesn't make it so. The trick to truly improving your chances of success is to stop wishing and ask yourself what steps can be taken to make "good luck" happen to you.

Here are some initial questions to ask yourself.

    They will help you begin to switch from wishing to doing ...

* What am I wishing for?
* Why am I wishing for it?
* Are there steps I could have taken so that I wouldn't be wishing now?
* What can I do now to improve the odds of getting what I'm wishing for?
* If the ideas in the previous question don't work out, what additional steps can I take to get another shot at what I want?

You're Luckier Than You Think

People who believe they are unlucky spend their entire lives playing defense. They only take action when bad things happen to them. Then they frantically try to dig themselves out of whatever mess they are in. Once order has been restored to their lives, they then go back to being passive, choosing not to engage the many opportunities that slide past them. "Why bother?" they ask themselves.

    The funny thing is that even people who don't think of themselves as fortunate are luckier than they think. This was shown in a recent study on luck done in England. The psychology professors at the University of Hertfordshire, near London, went out into the countryside and invited one hundred people to participate in an experiment. Half the participants claimed they were lucky while the other half claimed they were mostly unlucky. They were all brought to campus to take a computerized coin-toss test. Each person watched as a cartoon elf trotted across a computer screen and flipped a coin. Each was asked to call heads or tails.

    When the results were added up, an amazing pattern emerged: The people who thought they were lucky had guessed right about the same amount of times as those who said they were unlucky. In the end, those who thought they were unlucky really weren't any more fortunate or unfortunate than those who insisted they were lucky. After conducting further interviews, the professors discovered that people who said they were lucky were more likely to remember the good things that happened to them over the course of their lives and forgot the bad things. The opposite was true for the self-proclaimed unlucky ones. They mostly recalled the bad things and had forgotten the good ones.

    The study also concluded that the reason people think they are lucky is an upbeat outlook that helps them work a little harder and a little smarter to get what they want in life. People who remember mostly the bad things they experience and think they are unlucky are more likely to give up.

    Everyone experiences good and bad things in life, but some people choose to remember more of the good things than the bad while others think mostly of the bad things rather than the good. What this means is that most people are a lot luckier than they think — if they would just choose to remember the lucky things that have happened to them and forget their misfortunes. Once you perceive yourself as lucky, it will be easier for others to see you that way. And if you are believed to be a lucky person, your chances of receiving "lucky" opportunities will increase.

Take this luck quiz alone or with someone else. Use a pad
or talk into a tape recorder. Don't think too long about your
answers. Just be honest. Then review your answers ...

Mapping Your Luck Perspective

1. Name at least one person who you think is luckier than you are.
2. List three things that make that person luckier. More money? A more satisfying career? Fewer setbacks than you?
3. What do you think this person does to improve his or her luck?
4. Do you view this person positively or negatively?
5. If positively, do you respect the person because he or she deserves his or her good luck? If negatively, is it because you don't think the person deserves what he or she has achieved?

    Conclusion: With your feelings out in the open, you should be able to see that the person you think is lucky actually takes steps to influence his or her good fortune. Your answers should also reveal to you that the person you think of as lucky actually just has more of what you want.

Mapping Your Recent Good Luck History

1. What is the luckiest thing that happened to you in the past week? The past month? The past year?
2. What area of life did this luck pertain to? Money? Career? Health? Love? Wriggling out of a dangerous situation?
3. Exactly what role did you play in influencing the good luck you mentioned in question 1? Name everything you did, even if it was just deciding to attend a meeting at which you met someone who offered you an opportunity
4. Who else played a role in making your good luck happen? What did they do?
5. What aspects of your recent good luck were completely out of your control? Which were in your control?

    Conclusion: Now you ought to realize that you're a pretty lucky person — probably much more fortunate than you previously thought — and that you played an active role in attracting that good luck.

Mapping Your Recent Bad Luck History

1. What was the unluckiest thing that happened to you in the past week? Past month? Past year?
2. What area of life did this unlucky event pertain to? Love? Money? Career? Health? Wriggling out of a dangerous situation?
3. Why exactly did you call it bad luck? What role did you play in influencing your misfortune? List everything, even if it was just a bad decision, that led to the problem.
4. In hindsight, if you could go back in time, what would you do differently if you had the opportunity to change the outcome? How would you think and behave differently?

    Conclusion: Now you know that you aren't the random recipient of repeated misfortune, but that sometimes you play a role in attracting bad luck.

Having completed these exercises, you should now feel ready to play a bigger role in influencing your luck. Once you have reviewed your luck history, you'll see that being lucky really is a matter of how many unexpectedly good things happen to you over a short period of time. You'll also discover what your role or someone else's role was in making that luck happen. Most of all, you will realize that you are a lot luckier than you thought — and that how you feel about your past will guide your future luck. Reminding yourself each day how fortunate you are will make you begin to view yourself as lucky.

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