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“Luck plays a large role in every story
of success; it is almost always easy to identify
a small change in the story that would have
turned a remarkable achievement into
a mediocre outcome.”

—Daniel Kahneman, Ph.D.,
Psychologist & Nobel Prize winner

My Luck Story

I grew up riding a John Deere tractor on a dusty, windswept farm in the flatlands of the Texas Panhandle. It lay some eighty miles nearly due south of Amarillo. Mother Nature ran the place, we merely farmed it.

Life teaches you fast when you’re working the dirt. You learn that luck is largely its own self.

Luck calls the shots on your farming success or failure from one season to the next, regardless of how smart you are or how hard you work. Maybe you get rain at just the right times, or maybe your crops burn up in the Panhandle’s relentless wind and blistering summer sun. Sometimes you’re looking at a promising harvest but a wicked hailstorm wipes you out in ten minutes. Sometimes prices crater and the market for your crops is a bust. Every year is a gamble.

Win or lose, Mother Nature insists that you take new risks every spring.

You plow the ground and get ready to plant. You spend money on fuel, seed, insecticide, herbicide, and labor. Maybe irrigation and fertilizer, too. It’s a long-shot bet and it gets expensive. But Mother Nature demands that you ante up before you even get to see your cards. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes you break even.

But you can work the odds.

On the farm, in business, or in your personal life, you can lay the groundwork so you’ll have the best chance for a winning season whether or not luck is on your side. The best you can do is control the controllables. And that comes down to how you manage you.

I left the farm after high school and luck followed. I got a doctorate degree in psychology, then served as a psychologist in military intelligence during my army days at the Pentagon. Since that time I’ve spent five decades consulting to major corporations, advising top executives as they wrestled with the challenges of mergers and organizational change.

The years have taught me that wherever you are and whatever you do, luck always plays into the equation. Always. And it will carry enormous influence over how your future unfolds.

Question is, do you know how to access its power?

To get really good at that—to become an ace at attracting luck—you need to understand the psychology of the game. You need to know the insider secrets from behavioral research and neuroscience.

Let’s stack the deck in your favor.

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Introduction

This phantom we call luck is an invisible agent you can recruit to help you achieve your ambitions. It’s a quirky phenomenon, wild and free, too unpredictable to count on yet too important for you to ignore.

Luck is like a butterfly—it’s hard to know when it might float by or where it will land. It isn’t something you can make happen, but you certainly can invite this positive force into your life. You can do things to increase the odds that good fortune comes your way.

Most people adopt a que será, será attitude and leave luck entirely to chance. But do you want to spend your life relying on the luck of the draw?

Sure, somewhere along the way you’ll probably experience some lucky breaks without any deliberate effort on your part. But why gamble like that when you can influence your level of luckiness?

There is a better way to bet.

This handbook offers twelve high-powered practices that can increase your luckiness on life’s journey. This isn’t saying they’ll help you win at the poker table, a roulette wheel, or the slot machines. These practices aren’t about mathematical calculations and probability theory. Neither are they about some loopy superstitions or wishful thinking. They’re research-based practices that engineer luckiness in general.

These are guidelines you should gamble on.

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1. Know what you want.

Unless you have a specific goal in mind, you may fail to recognize luck when it presents itself.

Good fortune may flirt with you. Unforeseen opportunities may dance across your path. But lucky breaks get disregarded when you have no clear sense of direction. As the saying goes, “Resources gravitate toward clear goals.” And luckiness is a glorious resource when you’re pursuing a challenging ambition.

It may seem counterintuitive, but research indicates that larger goals—even epic ambitions—work better than small goals. Astro Teller, the head of Google’s X team for building moonshot ideas, states, “It’s often easier to make something 10 times better than it is to make it 10% better.” Don’t be afraid to swing for the fences! You can set smaller intermediate objectives to serve as milestones that you’ll reach along the way.

Choose a big goal you’re excited and passionate about, because your level of enthusiasm and commitment will influence how the rest of the world reacts. Fierce desire and active pursuit of your dream are like magnets that pull luck in your direction.

So take a few minutes and write down your goal. Spell out in detail precisely what you want to achieve. Most people carry their big dreams or ambitions in their head and may consider themselves goal-directed. But you should go one step further with your goal. Write. It. Down. A study by psychologist Gail Matthews found that the simple act of writing it down increases your chances of reaching the goal by 42%.

Next, you need to keep the goal front of mind. Read it every day. Romance it in your thinking. Sleep with it, shower with it, and take it to work. This signals to your brain that the goal is important, alerting the subconscious search engine in your skull to be on the lookout for things that can help you advance toward the goal. If you let the goal fade out of your awareness, so will your perception of lucky opportunities.

You need to know, though, that luck has a mind of its own.

Sometimes a lucky break presents itself and teases you to take a detour, tempting you with surprising and better possibilities than you had imagined. Be open to the unexpected! Novelist Ann Patchett writes, “Never be so focused on what you’re looking for that you overlook the thing you actually find.”

Luck may have even bigger plans for you.

“The truth is, most of us
discover where we’re headed
when we arrive.

—SCOTT BARRY KAUFMAN, PH.D.,
AUTHOR & HOST OF
THE PSYCHOLOGY PODCAST

“The truth is, most of us discover where we’re headed when we arrive.

—SCOTT BARRY KAUFMAN, PH.D.,
AUTHOR & HOST OF
THE PSYCHOLOGY PODCAST

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