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How to be lucky. An introductory guide.

How to be lucky. An introductory guide.

A 5-minute read on the basics to creating ‘business development’ luck.

Johnny 'Bob' Spence
March 30, 2021

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(A 5-minute read on the basics to creating ‘business development’ luck).

Ever wondered why some people appear to have all the luck? Our society has been trying to improve its luck for centuries. Consider that amulets, talisman and lucky charms have appeared in virtually every known recorded civilisation.

Our culture is obsessed with exploring the impact of luck on success. If we can prove that luck matters deeply, it means we can wait for it to find us. If we fail, then we can say luck was against us.

This is typified by the belief that future good or bad luck can be influenced by such things as: actions that one might do deliberately (blowing out all the candles of a birthday cake) or accidently (breaking a mirror) or that happen nearby (witnessing a black cat) or even by abstract associations (the number 13) or possession of talismanic objects. For example, early European civilisation believed iron had special qualities. This is the source of why hanging a horseshoe in your house was meant to ward off spirits.

Touching or ‘knocking on wood’ is said to date back to Celtic rituals that were designed to arouse the tree gods and call upon their protection. (Also the source of a classic Stax recording too).

It is valid to state that most of us can recognise that good and bad luck can transform lives.

  • A few seconds of bad luck can overturn years of hard work.
  • A moment of good luck can save years of striving.

The behavioural follow through on superstition, be it horseshoe, knocking on wood, the rubbing of a ‘rabbit’s foot’ or searching for a ‘four-leaf clover’ all represent attempts to improve and control ‘luck’.

Many of these beliefs and behaviours are still with us. In 1996, the Gallup Organization engaged with 1,000 Americans on the subject of superstition:

  • 53% of people said that they were at least a little superstitious.
  • 25% admitted to being somewhat or very superstitious.
  • 72% of the respondants said they possessed at least one good luck charm.

I reference Psychologist Professor Richard J. Wiseman. Prof. Wiseman studied the principles of good and bad luck over a 10-year period. He placed advertisements in national newspapers and magazines, asking for people who considered themselves either exceptionally lucky or unlucky to contact him. Over the period, 400 volunteered to participate in this research; the youngest 18, a student, the oldest 84, a retired accountant. They were drawn from all walks of life – businessmen, factory workers, teachers, housewives, doctors, secretaries, and salespeople. All committed to this piece of research. He published the results within the self-help book: ‘The Luck Factor’. This showed it was possible that both good and bad luck result from measurable habits.

In one experiment Prof Wiseman asked respondents to look through a newspaper and count the number of photographs inside. On average it took the people who thought of themselves as unlucky around two minutes. People who considered themselves lucky, on the other hand, took a few seconds?


On the second page there was text, in large font, with the statement: ‘Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper’. The ‘lucky people’ it seemed, were more open to possibilities other than the ones they were searching for. They read this text. The ‘unlucky people’ were only looking to count photographs.

I think we would all accept that there is truth that if you train hard you are more likely to win a sporting event. The harder you cram for an examination the more you increase your chance of the best result you are capable of.

I think it is also correct to point out the bad news. No amount of positivity, work or preparation will reduce the chance of say; being kept awake by a noisy neighbour the night before an examination or slipping on a wet patch as you run during a race.

What can we learn from this in terms of business development? Well. There are four main thought processes separating the behviour of the lucky from the unlucky:

ONE: The first process is that lucky people are more open to opportunities, spotting them and making the most of them.

‘The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity’. Peter Drucker

It is a thinking process that considers that opportunity is everywhere and the key is to develop and maintain the vision to see it and search for it. Arguably if you are more open minded you may become luckier.

TWO: The second process is the lucky tend to think as optimists. This in itself has the ability to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. A self-fulfilling prophecy is the phenomenon of someone being able to predict or expect something and this prediction or expectation comes true. The reason for this is because the person believes in this prediction and their resulting behaviour aligns by taking positive action to fulfil the belief.

You may even consider that they push on in their expectation of the best outcome. This thinking has a cousin referred to as the Pygmalion effect. This is another type of self-fulfilling prophecy stating:  the way you behave towards someone else has a direct impact on how that person reacts. If another person thinks something will happen too, they may consciously or unconsciously also try to make it happen through their own actions compounding the likelihood.

THREE: The third process is a difference in terms of thinking round the concept of intuition. Lucky people tend to have lucky hunches and trust their intuition.

Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else’s. Billy Wilder

This is not risk taking but using all your experiences and expertise to qualify a course of action when not all the facts and variable are available.

Trust your hunches… Hunches are usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level. Joyce Brothers

Sometimes this is considered as some type of commercial 6th sense. A 6th sense is just that, an extrasensory perception beyond our 5 commonly recognised senses: hearing, taste, sight, smell and touch. This use of the term refers to our ability to perceive something that is not visible using only facts. Such as when you get a sense that a deal is going to go ahead even though nothing has been signed.

FOUR: The fourth thinking is to stick at things and that is being resilient. This is vital when bad things happen. When bad things happen, the lucky turn that bad luck into good fortune. There is a big difference in the way they think and in the way that they behave. Psychological resilience is the ability to mentally or emotionally cope with a crisis or to return to a pre-crisis status quickly. Resilience exists when the person uses mental processes and behaviours in reminding themselves of their personal assets: skills, previous successes, reputation etc. and this protects them from the potential negative effects of a setback.

In terms of business development and the science of rainmaking it is reasonable to suggest that you may not be in charge of your luck but you can at least be in charge of how you think.

Johnny 'Bob' Spence

Bob is the Rainmaker Coach for Wilkinson Read & Partners established in 1993 who specialise in enhancing the fee earning performance of legal firms. Bob is a trainer, networking coach & writer. Educated at L. S. E. & Wits University. ‘$1,000,000 Round Table’ sales qualifier. Author ILM accredited: ‘Executive Programme in Professional & Business Networking’. Rainmaking experience in RSA, UK, France, Finland, Austria, Belgium, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Dubai, Poland, Germany, Slovak Republic & the USA.