True Luck?

Is there such a thing as true luck? That question arrives in my email box quite often. It isn't easy to answer without defining things a bit. After all, different people can mean entirely different things by "good luck."

Now, if you think "true luck" is simple random chance that shows up with really fortunate surprises, then, yes, it exists. Of course things can happen without any identifiable reason, or unexpectedly, and of course those events may be nice. In other words, if there were no special force in the universe and there was a winning lottery ticket among the ones sold, someone would have to randomly get it.

Now, if the expression "true luck" means some sort of magical force within certain people, I have my doubts. I know it can seem like some people get very lucky so consistently, and without any clear reasons why, that they must have some special charm in them. But there is an easy explanation why things can appear this way. I will demonstrate with a hypothetical example.

Let's start by looking at things we can say "happen" to people. I'm referring to the unexpected events and circumstances that are not clearly the outcome of a person's plans or efforts or habits; the surprises. Some of these we would call good luck, like when you discover that the biggest carpet sale ever is happening just when you need your carpeting replaced. Others we would call bad luck, like when you buy a stock the day before the company announces they are losing money.

For the sake of simplicity, let's say that over the long run these "surprise" happenings are half good and half bad. Now let's start watching a group of 20,000 people, and recording the good and bad luck that happens to each person. Just by sheer chance, about half, or 10,000 should have a good luck event as there first surprise, right? Now, by the time we record the second event, again half of these remaining 10,000 should have something good happen. Of the 5,000 who have now had good luck twice, another half should also have something good happen for their third event, and then half of those for the fourth, and half of those for the fifth.

At this point we have 312 people who have had five lucky breaks in a row without a bad luck incident. By the time we are to the seventh recording of surprises, there are still 78 people who have had only good things happen. To outsiders it would have to seem that some force of "true luck" is at work in these people. But it is all in the probabilities.

In fact, to demonstrate how a lack of understanding of probabilities influences how things appear to us, we could simply have 20,000 flip a coin. After seven flips there will be around 78 people who have had the coin come up heads every time. If this seems unlikely, work your way through the process mentally. It would be far stranger is at some point--say, when there are 1,250 left who have come up heads every time--everyone suddenly came up tails.

We can see that what appears as great luck (and we can call it that is we wish) is just a matter of probability. Those seven lucky breaks in a row do not make the person any more likely than the next to have yet another lucky break on incident number eight. That kind of magical "true luck" is almost certainly an illusion.

On the other hand if you do want that eighth lucky break, or you just want what is called good luck to happen to you more often, you can arrange things so the odds are in your favor. You can do the things that make fortunate coincidences more likely. You can choose to be in the right place, with the right people. You can learn to think differently, and develop better habits. In other words, whether it is "true luck" or not, if you want to be lucky you can do all the things explained in Secrets of Lucky People. Use that link to go to the homepage and buy a copy of the e-book (or go to Amazon.com for the paperback version).

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