Monday, June 8, 2009

On Luck

JAN: When I was in what was then called Junior High, my best friend Karen had the most incredible social luck in the world. We’d be bored out of our minds on a hot summer day, and she’d turn and say, wouldn’t’ it be great if Jimmy came by and asked us all to go swimming in his pool? Within ten minutes, Jimmy would swing by with the invitation. Or if she wanted it to be Billy inviting us to a barbeque, Billy would appear. Okay, she was good looking and the boys loved her. Still, the specific nature in which her desires were met was uncanny.

My friend Bob has the same kind of parking luck. If he’s driving and we're headed to Fenway park, a completely legal parking spot will suddenly appear before him in Kenmore Square. This happens no matter where we are and how crowded it is.

Personally, I have good luck at cards and have been unusually (even for a baby boomer) lucky at real estate.

In his bestselling book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell attributes this kind of thing to some sort of intuitive form of intelligence. But I think it’s more fun to think of it as luck. So do you have any special kind of luck? (And be specific, no running on about how wonderful life is in general). And do you really think it's luck? Or is there another explanation?

HANK: Oh, I think this is one on the most interesting topics ever. Luck. I wonder about it all the time. Let's see. Is it--coincidence? All the things in the universe that can happen, and the one that helps you (we're talkin' good luck here) just occurs. Or the person you need. Or the thing you wished for.

I think Malcolm Gladwell was getting at--perception. Even subconscious perception. Which I think is brilliant.

But luck. I'm kind of partial to the: if you really open your mind, the thing will happen. On a practical and quotidian level, there WILL be a parking place. If you really need it. The size skirt you need but can't find is there, but mixed in with the other sizes. You just have to look. On a larger scale: The idea will come to you--but only when it's time.

I think three fast things about luck: You have to be open to it. You have to deserve it. And sometimes, you get what you need.

RO: Oh dear...if I really thought I had any special luck, I doubt that I would say so for fear of losing it.

JAN: Yes, but if it's card-playing luck, (and you aren't a gambler in the old west or a a poker star competiting in Las Vegas) the loss isn't all that great...

HALLIE: Here's the thing -- you have to be LOOKING for **a parking space** (or fill in the blank with anything else you might be looking for) in order to get lucky about finding one. Conversely, if you're looking for a reason to be miserable, you won't have too hard a time finding it, either.

JAN: Yes, I agree. In principle. But I'm often earnestly looking for a parking space, and I never find one. I always end up in the garage paying a fortune.

ROBERTA: I like two of Hank's 3 things about luck--being open to it, and getting what you need rather than what you might have believed you wanted. Not so sure about the deserving it part. Because there's a corollary I don't like--do folks who are unlucky deserve that? Maybe sometimes they've cultivated it, but most often not. I just try to be very grateful when it appears some luck has swung my way.

As for lucky me, I'm not in real estate. Most times when you sell a house, you get paid. Not me, having bought at the peak and selling in desperation in a trough, I had to bring a check to the closing:). So I will rely on my husband's luck in that arena!

JAN: I like Hank's philosophy on luck, it's so optimistic, but I also think in some instances, there's something unsual going on -- whether it's magic or heightened perception, I'm not entirely sure. But I'm leaning toward magic.
How about you?


  1. When it comes to luck, I usually rely on two sayings:

    "The harder I work, the luckier I get."


    "If it wasn't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all."

    Which saying I go with depends on what's just happened!

  2. I didn't get in on this discussion on time because I'm on the road between Canada and USA, experiencing a day of bad luck!
    First we drive to a border crossing that is CLOSED, because of some dispute between native people and the federal government. We therfore have to drive 50 miles the wrong way and 50 miles back to get to where we wanted to be.
    Then we were driving through the Adirondacks on a completely deserted road, not a car in sight, when a state trooper emerged from the woods and pulled us over. We were doing over 60 miles an hour on a 55 speed limit! While we were parked cars kept going over the double yellow line at exactly the same speeds we were doing and the state trooper didn't blink. (We had out of state plates)

    I used to think that there were two sorts of days, jelly-side up and jelly-side down based on a falling slice of toast. On jelly-side up days everything goes right. I think we're lucky if we get a good measure of both.

    I've been lucky in real estate, and in my writing career, which we all know requires a lot of luck as well as talent. I've been lucky with my husband and kids and parents and my health so I really have no complaints. Sometimes I watch a horrible tragedy on the news and I find myself thinking "why not me? Why have I had a good life?
    Sorry, I'm waxinf philosophical...

  3. Genealogy, no question. Years ago I had a friend looking into his Irish ancestors, and we often ended up working with the same resources, side by side. He was truly serious: he'd even argued with the Irish government about historical boundary lines--and won.

    I was a bit less manic, but I was the one who would find a one-page deed that listed not only which of my ancestors had owned the land and who he had inherited it from, but also who all his neighbors were and who their parents were. Used to drive my friend nuts.

    But it is selective, isn't it? I can't play poker to save my life. And I can't find parking spaces.

  4. My DH is the one with "luck" but then his great grandmother was medicine woman so I wonder how much of that is actually magic...

    I lean more toward the idea of "God winks". As described by SQuire Rushnell, these are seemingly random events (coincidences) set in our path to helps us successfully navigate our way, whether in career, relationships, or life. It's happened enough in my life that I have to wonder...

    May you all find your luck today!

  5. So, Alan...were you born under a bad sign...?

  6. Yes, Jan, I agree there is a little "magic" or something. And I think that's so fascinating. SOmetimes things just work. Why is that?

    Alan, you're not really that glum. But you're right about the work, I think.

    Rhys--I'll be thinking about jelly-sides all day!

    And Ro, as for the "deserve." I think you have to remember the Zen story about the farmer and his soldier son. You don't know what's "good" and what's "bad" until later.

    And sometimes, when things look bleak, that can really help. (Not so much for parking spaces--but what if you found the space--and then that's just where the tree fell?)

  7. Luck? Ha.. ha.. ha.. ha... my version of laughing.

    I haven't been able to follow my favorite people at Junglered for several weeks now. Then, I check in today and what to my eyes appears.. my favorite topic, one in which I am expert in....

    Always say you saw it first here in Junglered!!!! Okay, here goes...

    There is no luck. There is only "attention" and where you place "your attention".

    I could write a book about where our lives come from and why they are as they are (and I may).

    Random events in our life.. hardly. IF you pay attention you can always connect the dots.

    For instance, I can't wait to play poker with Shiela. I love to win. Her attention is on "I can't play poker". What would you think would happen in a game? AND, for sure I don't want to be looking for a parking place with her..

    It's all about our conversations and how those conversations originate in us to give access to our emotional state.

    Look at your thoughts, they are creating constantly or giving access to your "life force"... Waive your hand.. act like Obi- Wan Kenobie ... "these are not the droids you're looking for.." Life responds in kind... these are not droids we are looking for... that was not just some fiction in Star Wars!

    As you apporoach a busy area you need to park at, what is your internal conversation.. what are your fears.. THAT is what generates the "possibility" space for the parking place to exist. For the individual it feels like "emotional energy". THAT very energy is the "stuff" of your life. Be aware of it and shift it and your life comes under your control.

    That's exactly what Obi-Wan does.

    When you watch your words, you have access to your being... that is where "luck" is generated. Most of us are afraid to know who we truly are...

    "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
    Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
    It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us."

    Marianne Williamson

    Jan, whatever happened to Karen?

    And Hank, you are luck incarnate!!!

    And Rhys, to go a step further, the "reason" YOU were stopped by the trooper is that your energy had been affected by all the difficulty you had crossing the border. In effect you were all in a "bummer" emotional state. So, now If I had bummer energy to give out in the form of a ticket and there were several cars, guess who I would pick!!! Oh, yeah and out of state no less... bonus!!!

    Love you all!!!


  8. I'm laughing at all this. Especially that inspired tree that didn't fall on you when you pulled into the parking spot. I can find LOTS of luck that way.

    The swine flu I didn't catch on the 23-hour plane trip back from Australia. The ray that didn't sting me when I swan in the Great Barrier Reef. The bus that didn't hit me when I looked the wrong way and then crossed the street.

    Lucky lucky me. And I'm PAYING attention!

  9. Rosemary,

    You "cream"ed me, all right.

  10. Mike,
    Karen got married at like, 19-years old, and is still happily married to the same man. Figure that!

    I don't talk to her that often, (she still lives in NJ), but I'm certain that she remains an incredible source of positive energy -- much like Hank.

    I agree that much of luck is internally generated and that it's often a matter of "attention," but I guess I'm mostly with Silver James on this -- I think luck is sometimes a bit of destiny shoving you one way or another.

    (This must be my Irish perspective.)

  11. Most of the time, our luck is in how we see it. Sometimes I am so lucky and catch green light after green light. Sometimes it is not my day and I catch every red light. But perhaps I could have changed my bad luck to good if I had just changed my speed.

    Straight From Hel

  12. But Helen, maybe having the red light is better. You just don't know that, or why.

    So either way, it could be lucky.

  13. What does Shakespeare say?
    The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves that we are underlings.

    And so much truth in not knowing what is good and bad until later. Several people I used to admire, even envy, ended up with rotten kids, being sued, losing property and all the things I escaped by not having wealth or property in the first place.

  14. My Gran always said, "Unlucky at cards means you'll be lucky at love."

  15. Like MTV said "attention" though I would say "intention". Parking spaces: On my way to Walmart I visualize and expect a parking spot along side the building where I like to park. It always works. If I doubt it, I've sabotaged it and it won't happen.

  16. Wow, excellent article.
    Let's add a bit of science to the mix.
    Professor of psychology, Richard Wiseman carried out some very detailed research into 'luck'.
    The first luck project of this kind was originally conceived over ten years ago to scientifically explore the differences between people who considered themselves lucky and unlucky.
    The results reveal a radical new way of looking at luck (especially for @MTV on this comments page).
    In short, luck is very real. There are four simple behavioral techniques that are scientifically proven to help anybody attract good fortune.
    Unlucky people become lucky, and lucky people even luckier!
    As luck would have it, I stumbled across this research and have picked up where some of it left off.
    Consequently this month I am launching Australia's first known Luck School where learning to be lucky is fun.
    Those who would like to learn more can visit my Luck School
    Best of luck to you all . . .
    The Lucky Living Project

  17. Hi Michael,
    Awesome website. The video is fascinating, and basically validates everything Hank says!!

  18. I'm laughing. SO hard. There's a video that validates everything I say? Got to love that.

    Can someone tell Jonathan that? And there are lots of other people who should definitely be aware of it...

  19. After viewing the website I maintain my assertion.. there is no "luck". Just the natural consequences of our actions, whether mental or physical.

    We are only talking semantics here...

    The people in the video do not "become" lucky they merely embrace the possibility that things can be different. The people who are "unlucky" do not embrace these possibilites.

    AND, it's all about attention...even the examples are about attention.

    Which was embodied in the principle... about noticing oppotunities... isn't that paying attention?

    And body language... everything about you is telling a story about why things are the way they are for you... if you are paying attention you will notice that. AND, that gives access to your emotional state if you are unable to connect with what you are experiencing.

    And, finally, what happens to the people getting "lucky" they finally embrace the conversation...
    I am lucky... I know that for sure... I learned that in "lucky school"... and more importantly, I've expereinced it in my life.

    Oh... and before I forget... there is no "Science". The Heisenberg Theory of Uncertainty almost guarantees it. The more you know about certain aspects of something... the less you know about others... So, if that is true science itself has disproved itself... and anyone who tells you otherwise is called a "scientist".

    Miracles happen when people escape from science!! They are not bound by the absurd proofs that science gives for the existence of anything... We are just coming out of the dark ages of science and beginning to embrace .... magic!!!

    Some call it luck... I call it fun...


  20. Good heavens - this is getting too metaphysical for me. So was Judge Sonia Sottamayor lucky or unlucky when she sprained her ankle?

  21. Hallie -

    That question reminds me of a Bhuddist Koan:

    Spoken in broken english -

    "How you know your Bhuddist nature from sound of cricket?"

    or the great one:

    If a tree falls in the woods does it make a sound...

    It's all relative, isn't it?

    Thanks for the grounding comment...