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You probably know lucky and unlucky people, and maybe you even place yourself in one or the other category. But given that the things we call luck (good or bad) are unpredictable events, is there a way you can choose to be luckier?
The research says yes!
Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire, and the author of “The Luck Factor,” spent years studying the differences in the thinking and behavior of people classified as “lucky” or “unlucky.” Then he set up a a “luck school,” in which students did “luck exercises” for a month. Wiseman says:
“The results were dramatic. Eighty percent of people were now happier, more satisfied with their lives, and, perhaps most important of all, luckier. Unlucky people had become lucky, and lucky people had become even luckier.”
Wiseman and other researchers have discovered that lucky people generate their good luck according to some basic principles, like noticing and creating chance opportunities and having the right attitude.
Of course, you can apply those principles to any area of life, but to get more specific, how do you get lucky with money? Try the following strategies.
1. Open Your Mind to Find Financial Opportunities
Wiseman did an experiment in which he gave people a newspaper and asked them to count all of the advertisements. Those who were unlucky took two minutes, while lucky people finished in seconds.
How did they do it so fast? They noticed the giant message on page two, which said, “Stop counting – There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” Apparently unlucky people focus too narrowly. Wiseman says:
“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 type 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.”
To become more open to opportunities Wiseman suggests meditation and other techniques for achieving a more relaxed state.
You can also open your mind to financial opportunities by making it a habit to look for them. Start by writing down possible personal opportunities when you hear new money-related news.
For example, if a friend says he’s looking for a job, list the possible ways you might benefit. Maybe your employer will hire him and give you a recruitment bonus. Maybe, if he finds a great job, you can get hired there too. Maybe you can help him create a great resume, and then turn that experience into a paying side gig.
Write these lists for a few weeks and your mind will develop the habit of looking for those opportunities.
To further open your mind to the financial possibilities, try any (or all) of these suggestions:
- Research ways to make money that are new to you.
- Regularly ask people about all the ways they’ve made money.
- Make it a habit to ask “how can I use this information to make money?”
- Try a new way to make or save money.
- Look for a “money angle” in non-financial situations.
2. Have Money Saved
Wiseman says you should “maximize chance opportunities” to have more luck. One way to do that is to always keep some money set aside for unexpected opportunities.
Consider the following scenario: You love classic old motorcycles and, one day you see one worth $4,500 that’s being sold for $1,800. You could easily resell it for a nice profit. Now, the only thing that makes this random event into a “bad luck” or “good luck” story is whether you have $1,800 to invest, right?
If you arrange your lifestyle and budget so you always have some money saved, you’ll not only feel luckier, but you’ll actually have more lucky opportunities available to you.
3. Have Time Saved
Just as having money in the bank sets you up to take advantage of opportunities, so does having free time. If every minute of every day is planned out and committed, how can you spend an afternoon investigating a possible new investment, or spend an hour talking to a potential new employer?
Being too busy does not leave enough time to look for or create opportunities. Hard work helps create the conditions for good luck, but working smarter helps too, and for that you need time to think and experiment. Schedule loosely.
4. Expect the Best
Wiseman says lucky people prepare for the worst, but expect good things to happen. He notes that “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.”
So what can you do to develop this attitude? Keep a “luck journal.” says Wiseman. In it you’ll write down any lucky breaks or fortunate things that happen to you. In the process of doing this you’ll train your mind to look for luck, find it, expect it, and then create the right conditions and attitude to have more good luck.
To apply this more directly to financial matters, write down every time you find something on sale, get overtime pay unexpectedly, or even find a coin on the sidewalk.
You should also imagine a luckier financial future, and how you’ll get there, because doing so motivates you to do what’s necessary. Explaining your vision aloud helps too. Even a habitual pessimist will feel more motivated after explaining how he might achieve success.
Attitude is not something we’re born with. In large part it’s a mechanical process that comes from habitually choosing certain patterns of thought.
5. Talk to New People
In a study published by the University of Chicago Press, sociologist Mark Granovetter found that when people get a new job through other people, they’re 58% more likely to do so through “weak ties” than “strong ties.” In other words, acquaintances may be more useful to you than your friends.
It makes sense; You already share much of the same background knowledge as your friends, while people you barely know travel in different circles, and so they have more new information. Talk to acquaintances about jobs, investments, business, and other financial matters.
You can go one step further. To avoid the possibility of talking to too many acquaintances who have a similar background to you, talk to random strangers.
For example, one of the lucky people in Wiseman’s studies wanted to avoid always talking to the same types of people. So, when he went to parties, he first chose a color, and then talked to people wearing that particular color. This effectively “randomized” his choice of conversational partners, exposing him to new ideas and stories.
6. Talk to More People
Whether you are looking for a house to buy and flip for a profit, a business to start, a new job, or a way to save on your next car purchase, the more people you talk to the more likely you are to get lucky. This is just a matter of playing the odds.
Of course, you also have a great resource that didn’t exist a dozen years ago; social media. In less than a minute you can broadcast your financial desires to hundreds of people who might be able to help you out.
7. Learn to Use Your Intuition Correctly
Steve Jobs, cofounder of Apple, said intuition is “more powerful than intellect.” Many people, including luck researcher Richard Wiseman, agree that our “gut feelings” can be useful.
But Wiseman skeptical of paranormal phenomena. He approaches intuition as a simple matter of using information at a subconscious level. An intuitive hunch about a business deal can be explained, for example, as coming from things you previously heard or saw, but which you can’t consciously recall at the moment.
Of course, a hunch can be wrong too, produced by incorrect or irrelevant internal data. For example, it can be based on a fear that you’re not consciously recognizing.
So how do you make your intuition more useful?
Observe it, for starters, and try to figure out where it comes from. With practice you can more easily screen out feelings and hunces which are coming from irrational fears or the influences of irrelevant past events.
Focusing on intuition (or anything else) lets the reticular activating system in your brain classify it as important. That helps you notice it in the future. Just as when you start looking for red cars you suddenly see more than you ever did before (try it), when you start looking for and watching your useful intuitive hunches, you’ll find you have more of them.
And relax. Wiseman says, “…research has shown that anxiety disrupts people’s ability to notice the unexpected.”
8. Make Bad Luck Into a Financial Opportunity
Wiseman says, “Lucky people employ various psychological techniques to cope with, and often even thrive upon, the ill fortune that comes their way.” In other words, they take bad luck and make it into something good.
There is a great example of this in Richard Branson’s book, “Screw It, Let’s Do It.” Branson and his wife were at an airport in the Virgin Islands when their flight to Puerto Rico was cancelled, with no more flights that day.
Bad luck? That depends on what you do with the situation…
Branson found a plane to charter for $2,000, and on a chalkboard he wrote “Virgin Airways.” Then he began collecting $39 each from anyone who wanted to get to Puerto Rico that day.
That bit of “bad luck,” and Branson’s response to it, was the inspiration for Virgin Atlantic, the airline he started a few years later. That, and his other businesses, eventually made him a billionaire, according to Forbes.
Wiseman reports that lucky people don’t dwell on bad luck, but look for ways to take control of the situation. But, interestingly, they do often imagine how things could be worse, as a way to avoid being paralyzed by hopelessness.
So, when you have financial bad luck, remember that it could have been worse, but it also can be better. Just start looking for the opportunities that might be hiding in that unlucky situation.
You have probably read the quote, “I’m a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the luckier I get.” It has been ascribed to Thomas Jefferson and others, but regardless of who said it first, it makes immediate intuitive sense.
Yes there are unlucky people who work hard every day, and lucky lazy people. There are no guarantees for any of the strategies here, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve the odds of having good luck.
For example, who is more likely to “get lucky” in Hollywood, an actor who auditions at every opportunity, or one who makes excuses to stay home?
A lot of well-known people worked hard for years before they get their lucky break and then become an “overnight success.” Not so many slept in for years and then got lucky.
If you don’t want to work hard at least work smart. And that can mean working in the area where you hope to get lucky.
For example, if you want to get lucky at a casino, don’t work hard at your job all week and then throw your money away at the blackjack tables. Do the work necessary to become a card counter and put the odds in your favor.
If you want to get lucky in the stock market start studying! If you want to get rich from a new invention, start building it!
And stick with it! Consider the long list of famous people who failed (often many times) before getting lucky.
10. Drop the Superstitions
Wiseman says of his decade of research into luck:
“The project has also demonstrated how skepticism can play a positive role in people’s lives. The research is not simply about debunking superstitious thinking and behavior. Instead, it is about encouraging people to move away from a magical way of thinking and toward a more rational view of luck.”
He notes that there is no evidence for the effectiveness of “lucky charms” (he tested this) or other superstitions. More than that, superstition puts control outside of ourselves, which is the opposite of what’s needed to become more lucky.
Challenge superstitious beliefs or feelings you have, and drop them. Then choose thoughts and behaviors that will help you get lucky with money. The strategies found here will get you started.
If you have your own examples of how you generate good luck with money, please share them below … and keep on frugaling!