Learn how to develop good hunches: Being lucky isn’t always an accident

Feb 4, 2017 | 9 comments

You can learn to model lucky behaviors that will give you an edge in life, without resorting to astronomy or carrying a rabbit’s foot. It’s better to be lucky than good.

The large, impersonal forces that shape the economy, political movements, and ultimately the lives of citizens may seem haphazard. Yet you will find folks who remain consistently lucky, even as confusing and chaotic events buffet their lives and businesses.

Luck, it turns out, has little to do with chance, and is less about karma than about calculation.  In the same way that a sailor tacks into a headwind, or a student of judo learns to redirect the force of an opponent, “lucky” individuals learn to interact with the uncontrollable elements in the environment to achieve consistent success.

Luck can be learned.

The popular writer Max Gunther studied the lives of seemingly lucky individuals, and observed a set of five behaviors that almost all lucky folks share, and the unlucky ones don’t. In my interaction with highly successful individuals, I have come to the same conclusion. These behaviors assure success more often than education or even an inheritance.

Lucky people have many friends and acquaintances in all levels of life, from business networks, to family, and community ties. We call it networking, but for the lucky, it goes beyond lunches at the Chamber of Commerce, to a lifestyle of constant contact and relationship building that offers many opportunities to learn about emerging trends, and avoid or exploit them, and to encounter lucky opportunities.

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Lucky people listen closely to facts and opinions, and watch how things turn out for others to cultivate a “hunching skill,” or the ability to come to an early conclusion on opportunity, based on facts gathered and analyzed, deliberately or intuitively.

Lucky people act boldly (not impulsively), when they have a hunch, they don’t hesitate to take financial, social or personal risks.

Lucky people don’t always succeed, and when they see that an opportunity will not pan out, they have no trouble letting go. This is perhaps the most difficult thing for the entrepreneur, attached to an idea or the years spent building a business. Gunther calls this skill, the ratchet effect, to get out of bad situations quickly. The businessmen that I know that have experienced extraordinary success after the Great Recession, did so, in part, because they got out and never even tried to paddle against the Typhoon.

Lucky people keep their eyes open, and never underestimate the downside. They remain pessimistic, even as they pursue opportunity with gusto. This is one of the very few virtues of ageing. With time, your luck gets tested, and you know that worst-case scenarios do, and will come true if you’re in business long enough.

Although it won’t help you win the lottery, the behavioral paradigm described by Gunther can improve your luck in life. As an old friend and mentor once told me, “I’d rather be lucky than good.”

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