This Is How To Be More Lucky: 4 Secrets From Research


At times, inexplicably bad stuff happens to all of us. The kind of thing that makes you want to stand in front of the universe with a sign reading, “Really? This is what we’re doing now?”

And sometimes we call it “bad luck.” Oh, magical thinking, my favorite kind of thinking when I want to avoid responsibility and logic, which, if I’m honest, is most of the time. We all have a friend who believes every retrograde Mercury heralds personal disaster. I never thought I’d have a friend who blames late credit card payments on distant celestial bodies, but here we are.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a reasonable amount of time, you know I’m no fan of magical thinking. Avoiding black cats? Do you really think Mr. Whiskers, who spends 18 hours a day licking himself, is suddenly moonlighting as an agent of dark fate? And don’t even get me started on those so-called “lucky numbers.” We all know the only numbers that are truly lucky are the ones that appear on your bank statement after payday.

The trouble with magical thinking is that it’s often just laziness with a New Age twist. If you find yourself tempted by magical thinking, consider this: Reality might be harder, but it’s also where stuff actually gets done. You don’t need a crystal ball to see that working hard and thinking logically usually pay off.

Some might scoff at the idea of “making your own luck”, saying it’s about as useful as trying to make your own gravity. But people tend to underestimate how life could have unfolded differently had we done different things.

So let’s talk about “smart luck.” This isn’t luck as ineffable, passive, magical thing that happens to us. This is when we actively and deliberately do things to shift probabilities in our favor. There’s always some randomness in life but “smart luck” is like card counting, skewing the odds so that positive events become more likely. A talisman is unlikely to bring you more money but making the decision to go to college is.

This type of luck takes work but it’s not that flimsy, magical “found a penny heads up” luck. No, I mean the real deal, the luck that makes you feel like you’ve just won a bare-knuckle fight with Fate itself. And the best part of it is this type of luck can be managed and sustained. We’re gonna get this luck thing down to a science…

Who is going to teach us this not-so-dark art? Richard Wiseman is a professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire (and with a name like that, he must know something).

His research suggests that luck isn’t just a random occurrence but something that can be cultivated through specific attitudes and behaviors. By being open to opportunities, trusting intuition, expecting success, finding the good in bad situations, and nurturing relationships, we can enhance our luck in many areas of life.

Research – that ever-sober party guest – tells us it’s true. 80% of people who followed his advice said their luck had increased. And not by a little – they reported they were more than 40% luckier.

We’re gonna pull some four-leaf clovers from Wiseman’s book, “The Luck Factor.” And we’ll call in some backup from USC professor Christian Busch’s “The Serendipity Mindset.”

Let’s get to it…


Maximize Chance Opportunities

Wiseman writes: “Lucky people are skilled at creating, noticing and acting upon chance opportunities. They do this in various ways, including networking, adopting a relaxed attitude to life and by being open to new experiences.”

Certain personality types are luckier because they tend to create scenarios that maximize opportunities and thereby increase luck. So who is more lucky?

  • People who are extroverted: More time with others, more interesting possibilities.
  • People who aren’t neurotic: Tense, anxious people are less likely to notice and take advantage of opportunities.
  • People who are open to new experiences: If you resist the new, you’re probably not going to have many interesting things happen.

Remember: it’s not really your personality that matters – it’s your behavior. By acting more extroverted, less neurotic and more open, you can increase luck. It makes intuitive sense: if you lock yourself in your house, how many exciting, serendipitous things are going to happen to you? Not many.

Networking for extroverts is like breathing. They collect contacts like I collect unopened mail. They’re out there shaking hands, kissing babies, and probably hugging random street poles for good measure. What if you’re an introvert? Might be a little disappointing that Mother Nature, in all her evolutionary wisdom, somehow decided that “Chatty Kathy” over there should have a cosmic advantage. But you can still get some of the advantages of extraversion by networking. Knowing more people increases the chances that more opportunities come your way.

Then there’s the neuroticism issue. Decision-making for the neurotic is an epic saga. The stakes are so impossibly high, you’d think they were choosing a kidney donor, not a comedy special to watch. People who are neurotic recoil at the mere suggestion of stepping out of their meticulously organized comfort zones – but this limits the chance of serendipity.

And then you need to stay open and aware. Plenty of things may come your way but usually it’s up to you to recognize the potential in those opportunities. Curiosity and open-mindedness are key. Being immediately dismissive of new job possibilities doesn’t lead to career luck. Lucky people ask to hear more because, maybe, beneath the surface, there’s actually a good fit.

Again, “smart luck” isn’t passive. Successful people experiment with more projects outside of work hours, always trying new things. (You can’t have “beginner’s luck” if you’re not trying new things and being a beginner.) Instead of sitting home, lucky people are putting themselves in situations and environments where things are more likely to happen, like parties and conferences. Start doing more of this stuff and it’s very probable that something improbable will happen.

So what’s the next non-magical step to magical results?


Listen To Lucky Hunches

Lucky people notice when their Spidey Sense tingles. Wiseman writes: “Lucky people make successful decisions by using their intuition and gut feelings.” They’re like human metal detectors for fortune, except instead of metal, it’s great opportunities.

But here’s the thing: intuition isn’t magic. Here’s Wiseman: “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…”

Turns out, intuition isn’t just some whimsical fairy dust sprinkled on our decision-making process. No, it’s the result of our brain and body playing Sherlock Holmes, deducing patterns and clues that our conscious mind is too busy watching cat videos to notice. But let’s be real here: the whole “expertise in the area” thing plays a big part. You can’t just waltz into a nuclear physics lab, glance at a bunch of equations on a chalkboard, and think your gut is going to solve quantum entanglement. Don’t assume your gut always knows what it’s talking about if you have no experience in that arena.

Busch writes: “Serendipity is about seeing what others don’t, about noticing unexpected observations and turning them into opportunities.”

We’re all really good about connecting dots after the fact. We turn random aspects of life into a coherent narrative. (Or when you turn your haphazard job history into an inevitable-seeming progression on a resume.) But people who are lucky are good about connecting the dots with foresight rather than hindsight. They’re looking at the innocuous thing in front of them and saying, “What could this lead to?” Serendipity is about seeing the hidden pattern of opportunity in the giant Rorschach test that is existence.

Hindsight is that friend who, after you trip and fall, says something helpful like, “Watch out for that banana peel.” Foresight, though? That’s like being psychic but without the creepy crystal ball and the room that smells like patchouli.

Alexander Fleming could have said, “This mold is screwing up my petri dishes!” and thrown them in the trash. Instead, he took a look, gave it a think and discovered penicillin. It’s not about waiting for a pot of gold to fall into your lap; it’s about noticing that the rainbow ends in your backyard and grabbing a shovel.

We’re quick to say, “Oh, they’re so lucky” as if it’s a totally passive process, when, in fact, that person actually did the work to make a connection in their head and see potential value. Being in the right place at the right time is huge – but if you’re not putting your thinking cap on to connect the dots and create opportunities, you won’t get much out of it.

And what attitude produces luck?


Expect Good Fortune

Bad news: the universe is largely indifferent to your lucky socks. And I’m not going to encourage you to go looking for four-leaf clovers. Scouring fields for mutant plants that have probability distortion abilities? No thanks. And don’t even get me started on the “lucky penny”. Look, if a dirty, germ-ridden coin is your symbol of prosperity, we need to have a talk. The kind where I sit you down and tell you about the magical world of hygiene and scalable financial strategies.

But guess what? While none of these things may have true mystical powers, they actually can increase luck. Research shows good luck charms often inspire confidence — and irrational as that may be, it can improve performance on a variety of tasks. At times, superstitious belief can do the same.

Point here is not to start believing in pseudoscience, but that when we expect good things for any reason, it can make a difference. Richard writes: “Lucky people are certain that the future is going to be full of good fortune. These expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies by helping lucky people persist in the face of failure, and shape their interactions with others in a positive way.”

Plain and simple — it’s optimism. Unflinching optimism is like pouring Red Bull into your soul. Everything’s in Technicolor, and you’re just zipping around, high-fiving fate and giving Lady Luck noogies.

Optimists face life with a grin so wide it could crack their face. And these relentless, upbeat creatures view life through a lens smeared with the gooey jam of positivity. They’re applying to jobs that require 20 years of experience when they’re 19 years old. Because, hey, why not? And that attitude makes good things more likely. (To learn how to be more optimistic, click here.)

And what’s our fourth and final tip to becoming someone who could find a four-leaf clover in a field of astroturf?


Turn Bad Luck to Good

The research shows lucky people aren’t always lucky — but they handle adversity differently than unlucky people. They’re more resilient. And we all know persistence is powerful, like when you’re trying to finish a marathon or eat an entire pizza by yourself.

Wiseman found that lucky people do not dwell on their ill fortune. They see the positive side of their bad luck and take constructive steps to prevent more bad luck in the future.

It’s like they’re playing life on a different difficulty setting. They’re not immune to bad days; they just handle them like they’re collecting funny stories for a future bestseller. They don’t dwell on problems. Nope. They treat obstacles like I treat my phone’s terms and conditions – acknowledge briefly and then ignore.

How do you respond to disappointment? Imitate lucky people when things don’t go your way. Giving up, getting gloomy and locking yourself in the house won’t help the world offer you better opportunities.

Okay, we’ve covered a lot. Let’s round it up and we’ll also learn one more tip to keep your luck level moving up and to the right…


Sum Up

Here’s how to be more lucky…

  • Maximize Chance Opportunities: Whoever said “no rest for the wicked” clearly never met me on a Sunday, sprawled out on my couch, leftover pizza precariously balanced on my stomach, marathoning TV shows. But that’s not how luck happens. Get out there and try more things.
  • Listen to Lucky Hunches: In areas where you have expertise, intuition is like GPS for opportunities.
  • Expect Good Fortune: Getting a lucky rabbit’s foot? You want me to carry around a decaying limb? I’d rather explain my internet search history to my mom. But, that said, anything that gives you optimism and confidence can increase luck.
  • Turn Bad Luck to Good: Breaking a mirror does not produce bad luck but it can lead to seven years of bad interior décor. Find the possibilities in life’s obstacles and persist.

So how do you make sure your luck continues to increase? Try keeping a “serendipity journal.” When something good happens think about what might have led to that. Same for the bad stuff. Over time, you’ll see patterns that you can exploit by doing them more or less often. (“Networking events have been a waste of time, but calling old friends has led to more job offers.”)

Keeping a “serendipity journal” is basically admitting to the universe, “Hey, I can’t control you, but I can certainly stalk your patterns like a crazed ex.” It’s like keeping a diary, but instead of recording your deepest, darkest secrets, you’re tracking when Lady Luck decides to give you a cheeky wink. It’s like being a detective in your own life, but instead of solving crimes, you’re solving the mystery of why good things happen to you when they do.

There is a certain terror that goes along with saying “My life is up to me.” It’s scary to realize there’s no magic and you can’t just wait around. You have to do it yourself. But by being open to more opportunities, interacting with a large network of people, breaking routines and keeping a relaxed attitude, you can start to inch your life toward a being a never-ending carousel of “You won’t believe this!” stories.


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