Posted by: yannaungoak | October 17, 2009

Learning to be Lucky

Hmm… Interesting article (link)

And so it is with luck – unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else. They go to parties intent on finding their perfect partner and so miss opportunities to make good friends. They look through newspapers determined to find certain types of job advertisements and as a result miss other types of jobs. Lucky people are more relaxed and open, and therefore see what is there rather than just what they are looking for.

My research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.

The claims he makes are intuitive enough. Since my personality fits what he describes to be the “unlucky” type, but I’ve always considered myself pretty lucky, it got me thinking a bit.

I think he’s got a point about the resilient attitude, being relaxed and open, and creating self fulfilling prophecies through positive expectations. I remember a few years ago when I was absolutely broke and did not have any money to pay for my college tuition. It was overdue for like two semesters and I couldn’t even officially register for classes because I hadn’t paid tuition. I got multiple warnings from the administration, even threatening to suspend my student visa. But through some weird arbitrary mental block, a certain inability to worry about certain (apparently random but important) aspects of my life, I was completely relaxed about it the whole time. I always knew (believed would be a better word maybe?) that the problem would sort itself out. And at the end of the day, it was solved, somehow.

That is strange, because I’m not usually like that. I always think I worry too much about certain things and not at all about others. I usually stick to some fixed algorithm when trying to figure something out, and usually not a well thought out algorithm either. Like when I’m meeting with people I’m not close to, or when I’m playing poker, or whatnot. I stick to some dumb routine, because I’m really bad at making snap decisions.

The  article goes on to say the following:

Unlucky people often fail to follow their intuition when making a choice, whereas lucky people tend to respect hunches. Lucky people are interested in how they both think and feel about the various options, rather than simply looking at the rational side of the situation. I think this helps them because gut feelings act as an alarm bell – a reason to consider a decision carefully.

This part, I would have to disagree with. I think he’s using the words “rational” and “intuitive” in a way that muddles up the issue and create artificial dualistic divides. From my own experience, like I said earlier, I am usually not someone who would do things based on intuition, but that doesn’t mean I’m rational. I am anything but rational when it comes to making personal decisions. Instead, I would usually stick to some fixed method when doing something without considering alternatives in a relaxed and open-minded manner. That IS NOT rational behavior as I understand it.

A truly rational approach would not only have a coherent method to perform a task or make a decision, but would also incorporate feedback through some Bayesian updating system (like what your spam filter does). Also, a truly rational approach would require that options are weighed according to the probabilities of the various possible outcomes, and these probabilities should be estimated using unbiased statistical data. And as you can imagine, nobody does ANOVA or multiple regressions before deciding who to talk to at a party. So, I, for one, think people should stop equating stupid, closed-minded stubbornness with rational behavior. Rationality gets such a bad rep for all these silly reasons.

But then again, I think psychologists use the word “rational” in a different sense than what I understand. The way they use it probably has something to do with which parts of the brain are active while making the decisions.

Another thing. I checked out the author online, and it seems like he’s one of those pop psychologist guys who are all too keen to popularize their “scientific research”. Also, he’s only written one paper (it was a conference paper, not a published one) on the stuff he was writing about in this article. Most of his research has to do with the psychology of paranormal beliefs, and not the psychology of luck. Well, I guess I shouldn’t scrutinize a newspaper article all too much.

Ok, this post was pretty incoherent. It’s 6AM. I should sleep.



  1. hoho or u could be lucky and meet someone awesome who lends you money (e.g. me)

    hm i think in the article u could just replace “lucky” with “optimistic/easygoing” and “unlucky” with “pessimistic/anxious”. in which case we havent learnt anything new from ‘pop psychology’

  2. I disagree with the article. Different people function differently and there is no better or worse method. I think the “lucky” type the writer is describing would be “intuitors” or “perceivers” and you could be “sensor” or “judgers” according to myers-brigg. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be better organized and prepared. There is nothing wrong with making decisions based on hunches or rationality. You are one of the smartest ppl I have seen with a successful college career. I don’t think being “unlucky” according to that article is a bad thing at all.

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