Summary: The Luck Factor by Richard Wiseman

1.If an unlucky man sold umbrellas, it would stop raining; if he sold candles, the sun would never set; and if he made coffins, people would stop dying. - Yiddish saying

2. Throw a lucky man in the sea and he will come up with a fish in his mouth. - Arab proverb

3.People are not born lucky. Instead, lucky people are, without realising it, using four basic principles to create good fortune in their lives.

4. People who were lucky in their financial lives also reported being lucky in their home lives, and people who were unlucky in their careers were also unlucky in their relationships. 

5. Luck could not simply be the outcome of chance events. There were too many people consistently experiencing good and bad luck for it all to be chance. Instead, there must be something causing things to work out consistently well for some people and consistently badly for others.

6. There are four main differences between the lives of lucky and unlucky people:

  • Lucky people constantly encounter chance opportunities. They accidentally meet people who have a very beneficial effect on their lives and come across interesting opportunities in newspapers and magazines.

  • Lucky people also make good decisions without knowing why

  • Lucky people’s dreams, ambitions and goals have an uncanny knack of coming true.

  • Lucky people also have an ability to turn their bad luck into good fortune.

7. The results indicated that luck wasn’t due to psychic ability.

8. Lucky people are far more satisfied with all areas of their life than unlucky and neutral people. The unlucky people were consistently the most dissatisfied.

9. The results of the experiment were clear – being lucky and unlucky is not related to intelligence. 

10. Lucky people’s expectations of winning were more than twice that of unlucky people.

11. When it comes to random events like the lottery, such expectations count for little. Someone with a high expectation of winning will do as well as someone with a low expectation.

12. However, life is not like a lottery. Often, our expectations make a difference. They make a difference to whether we try something, how hard we persist in the face of failure, how we interact with others and how others interact with us.

13. Principle: Lucky people create, notice and act upon the chance opportunities in their life

14. . I discovered that being in the right place at the right time is actually all about being in the right state of mind.

15. What is behind Lynne, Wendy and Joe’s winning ways? Their secret is surprisingly simple. They all enter a very large number of competitions. Each week, Wendy enters about sixty postal competitions, and about seventy Internet-based competitions.

16. Likewise, both Lynne and Joe enter about fifty competitions a week, and their chances of winning are increased with each and every entry. All three of them were well aware that their lucky winning ways are, in reality, due to the large number of competitions they enter. As Wendy explained, ‘I am a lucky person, but luck is what you make it. I win a lot of competitions

17. After years of research, most psychologists agree that there are only five underlying dimensions to our personalities: five dimensions on which we all vary. These dimensions have been found in both the young and old, in men and women and across many

18. These dimensions are often referred to as Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Neuroticism and Openness.

19. Interestingly, lucky people scored no higher on Agreeableness than unlucky people.

20. But once again, there was very little difference in the Conscientiousness scores of lucky and unlucky people.

21. The groups did, however, obtain very different scores on the remaining three personality dimensions – Extroversion, Neuroticism and Openness.

22. There are  three ways in which lucky people’s extroversion significantly increases the likelihood of them having a lucky chance encounter – meeting a large number of people, being a ‘social magnet’, and keeping in contact with people.

23. First, in the same way that Lynne, Joe and Wendy increase their chances of winning prizes by entering lots of competitions, so lucky people dramatically increase the possibility of a lucky chance encounter by meeting a large number of people in their daily lives. The concept is simple. The more people they meet, the greater opportunity they have of running into someone who has a positive effect on their lives.

24. ‘Social magnets’ exhibit the types of body language and facial expressions that other people find attractive and inviting.

25. The lucky people smiled twice as much as unlucky people and engaged in far more eye contact.

26. However, perhaps the biggest differences emerged when we examined the degree to which they engaged in ‘open’ or ‘closed’ body language. People exhibit ‘closed’ body language when they cross their arms and legs, and orient themselves away from the person they are speaking to. ‘Open’ body language is exactly the opposite. People point their bodies towards the person that they are speaking to, uncross their arms and legs and often make gestures that involve them displaying open palms.

27. Lucky people tended to engage in three times as much ‘open’ body language as unlucky people.

28. Lucky people are effective at building secure, and long lasting, attachments with the people that they meet. They are easy to get to know and most people like them. They tend to be trusting and form close friendships with others. As a result, they often keep in touch with a much larger number of friends and colleagues than unlucky people, and time and time again, this network of friends helps promote opportunity in their lives.

29. Neuroticism. People who obtain a low score on this dimension are generally calm and relaxed, whilst people who obtain a high score are more tense and anxious.

30. Because lucky people tend to be more relaxed than most, they are more likely to notice chance opportunities.

31. Exactly the same principle applies when they meet and chat with other people. They do not go to parties and meetings trying hard to find their dream partners or someone who will offer them their perfect job. Instead, they are simply relaxed and therefore more attuned to the opportunities around them. They go to parties and listen to people. Lucky people see what is there, rather than trying to find what they want to see.

32. These centre around another important dimension of their personalities referred to as ‘Openness’. People who obtain a high score on this dimension like to have a great deal of variety and novelty in their lives. They love trying new experiences, new kinds of food and new ways of doing things. They tend not to be bound by convention and they like the notion of unpredictability.

33. People who obtain a low score on openness tend to be much more conventional. They tend to like to do things the way that they have been done in the past.

34. Lucky people have much higher openness scores on the personality test than unlucky people.

35. To help disrupt this routine, and make life more fun, he thinks of a colour before he arrives at the party and then chooses to speak only to people wearing that colour of clothing!

36. It is exactly the same with luck. It is easy to exhaust the opportunities in your life: keep on talking to the same people in the same way; keep taking the same route to and from work; keep going to the same places on holiday. But new or even random experiences introduce the potential for new opportunities.

37. Smile when you see someone you know or someone that you would like to make contact with. Don’t try to fake it by putting on a false smile. Instead, think about how you genuinely feel. Also, force yourself to adopt an ‘open’ posture. Uncross your arms and legs, and keep your hands away from your face.

38. Suggested Exercise: Each week for the next month, I would like you to strike up a conversation with at least one person who you don’t know very well, or don’t know at all.

39. Do not try to chat to people who make you feel uncomfortable – instead, only try to initiate a conversation with people who look friendly and approachable.

40. Try to avoid making your opening gambit look artificial and contrived. Instead, capitalise on a naturally occurring situation, such as when you find yourself standing next to someone in a line, or happen to be in the same section of a bookshop as them, or you sit next to them on a train or aeroplane.

41. To break the ice, ask the person for information or help. In a store you might ask them if they know when the store closes, in the street you might ask them for directions or whether they know a good place to eat. Alternatively, find something about the person that you like, or find interesting, and comment on it.

42. Most important of all – don’t be afraid of rejection. Your first few attempts may simply involve a brief interaction and nothing more. Don’t take it personally – perhaps the person was busy or just didn’t feel like chatting – instead, keep on going.

43. Suggested Exercise: Play the contact game Each week, I would like you to make contact with one person who you haven’t been in touch with for a while. Many people find this difficult. Here are some ideas about how to do it: Look through your address book and make a list of the names and telephone numbers of everyone that you haven’t spoken to for a while. Go back over your past school, work and community connections. Make the list as long as possible. Then, each week play the ‘ten-minute contact game’. Give yourself ten minutes to talk to someone that you haven’t spoken to for a while.

44. Be open to new experiences in your life. Many lucky people maximise the likelihood of encountering chance opportunities by being open to new experiences. Many people regularly try different routes to and from work, and sometimes even have fun by making random decisions using dice.

45. Principle: Lucky people make successful decisions by using their intuition

46. The results were fascinating. As you can see in the graph on page 75, a very large percentage of lucky people used their intuition when making decisions in two of the four areas mentioned on the questionnaire. Almost 90% of lucky people said that they trusted their intuition when it came to their personal relationships, and almost 80% said that it played a vital role in their career choices.