A good friend of mine has now joined our team at Able Ventures. We got around talking the other day. And this is what she said, “Sheer luck that we go together in that party after so many years and absolute luck that we are actually working together now.”
Though we had known each other for more than a decade, it was only when we met at a party six months back, that we realised that we had a lot more in common. And in the conversation, we got an inkling that we would make a great team. Was it just luck or coincidence that we talked that day?
We could consider ourselves fortunate – but what are the chances that we would meet, sit together, talk and listen to each other. Our open-mindedness turned a normal moment into a lucky break. The conversation with her – got me into doing some research around luck. Psychologists around the world are trying to figure this magical thing called “luck”. Their insights can help us lead luckier lives!!
Elizabeth Nutt Williams, a psychology professor at St. Mary’s College in Maryland, found that chance was a significant factor in shaping the career paths of thirteen professional women she studied. Women who take advantage of luck /coincidence have competence, self – confidence, and the ability to take risks. They also have a strong support system.
Richard Wiseman, a psychologist from the University of Hertfordshire and author of The Luck Factor, spent a decade researching people’s perceptions of their luck. He found that those who call themselves lucky score higher on the personality factor of extraversion. That means that they are more likely to have a fortuitous encounter because they meet lots of new people and keep in touch with a large group of friends and acquaintances. These advantaged souls also score higher in openness, and lower in neuroticism – the tendency to experience negative emotional states like anxiety, anger, guilt and depression.
Wiseman conducted an experiment in which he placed the same chance opportunities—money on the ground and a potential encounter with a connected businessman—in the paths of two different people; one who claimed he was an unlucky person, the other who said things always seemed to work out well for her.
The “lucky” girl immediately noticed the money on the ground and pocketed it, then struck up a conversation with the businessman in the coffee shop where he’d been planted. The “unlucky” man, meanwhile, stepped right over the cash, and sipped his coffee without saying a word to the same businessman.
Serendipity smiles upon people who have a more relaxed approach to life. They have clarified their long-term goals but don’t worry too much about the details. Rather than aiming to become the top cardiac surgeon in the country, they vow to be a doctor who helps save lives. Once they’ve pinpointed the ultimate destination, they believe there are many ways to get there. This requires openness to life’s surprising twists and turns as well as cognitive and behavioural flexibility.
An open person heads to the PTA meeting thinking he might encounter a potential new friend or client or business partner. A closed person sees only other parents. “Don’t classify people and situations in advance,” advises Wiseman. “Wait until you know what’s in front of you.”
Anxiety gives us tunnel vision; while we’re focusing on a potential danger, we end up missing a lot of extraneous but potentially beneficial information. In another experiment, people were offered a large financial reward to carefully watch a dot on a computer screen. Occasional large dots were flashed along the edges of the screen, but the participants missed them. When they looked hard, they saw less.
In fact, Wiseman’s work around Big 5 personality theory and luck is very interesting. It is now “not so difficult” for me to spot ‘lucky’ people. I would be happy to share more details with you.
At Able Ventures, we have been conducting assessments and trainings for more than a decade now. And we have deployed Big 5 personality theory in many assessments. Armed with more information and knowledge, now, we can predict how “lucky” you are!
Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org – would love to hear your point of view.