Get Lucky

Two years ago, we were looking for a new office. Our old office building had been sold and the new landlords were … well, let’s just say we needed a new office and fast. We signed a lease on garage space and were scheduled to begin moving in the next day when I woke up in a sweat and realized the space would not work. There was no parking and no storage. It was too small. Trucks would never be able to make deliveries. It was dark and it was going to be a disaster. We couldn’t move in there.

I was panicked.

After a sleepless night, I got up, got dressed, got in my car and drove to a street that we had always believed would be the perfect location for our office. I went door to door, building to building asking if anyone had 1,000 square feet to rent.

As I pulled into what the parking area of THE building we most wanted to move into, I saw a man locking the door of one of the offices. I hopped out of my car.

“Excuse me,” I said. “We are looking for an office here and I wondered if you know of anyone who might be moving out.”

The man stopped mid-turn of his key and looked at me. “Wow,” he said. “I really need to move out of this space but I have a lease. The landlord said she’d let me out if I could find someone to take it.”

We moved in 60 days later. We were so lucky.

Or were we?

Many years ago, I read about a study about luck. Or, I should say, about what people believe about their own “luckiness” and how that impacts the way in which they move through the world.

I don’t remember the details, but it went something like this. The researchers selected two groups of people, one group that self-identified themselves as “lucky” and one group that self-identified themselves as “unlucky.” They put the two groups in identical situations in the “real world.” For instance, seated next to them in a diner was a person who could have been extremely helpful to their career. Later, the researchers placed a $5 bill in their path.

And here’s what they learned. The people who believed that they were lucky discovered the helpful coincidence of the person sitting beside them in the diner and found the $5 laying their path while those who considered themselves unlucky, didn’t.

What I recall of that study I read comports with the findings of Richard Wiseman who is credited with taking on the largest academic research project into luck which he aptly named “The Luck Project.” Years of research with hundreds of participants led to insights into how people “create” their own luck. He observed four tendencies of “lucky” people.

First, “lucky” people tend to embrace chance encounters, like the lucky woman at the lunch counter who struck up a conversation with the woman sitting next to her or the chance that I took when I approached the man outside that office.

Second, “lucky” people are open to new experiences, expanding their horizons and trying new things. They deliberately take steps to introduce new experiences into their lives, sometimes by such simple things as varying their route to work.

Third, “lucky” people anticipate positive outcomes -- they tend to be more optimistic.

Fourth, “lucky” people tend to look up and not down, literally and figuratively. They keep a broad horizon and are open to people, information and opportunities that might not be what they thought they were looking for.

Sure, no amount of keeping your eyes open or anticipating a positive outcome will help you win the lottery. But research suggests that a tremendous part of your “luck” comes from your willingness to keep your eyes and options open. To believe that it is a world of opportunities, not roadblocks. To connect with those around you. To believe in yourself, your abilities and the possibility of your good fortune.