Luck plays a significant role in the life of any successful person.
Hard work is essential, but a little good fortune goes a long way in being successful.
Everyone’s gotten a lucky break or two, but people don’t like to admit this for two big reasons:
- People believe it takes away from the effort they put in. After all, even people who are OBVIOUSLY lucky don’t like to hear that’s why they have a good life. If you reduce all success to being in the “right place at the right time,” how are you supposed to teach someone how to be successful seriously?
- They severely misunderstand what luck is. Most think it’s picking the correct numbers or winning the “genetic lottery.” These things help you excel, but they don’t really matter
Dealing with the first misunderstanding is a natural result of dealing with the second.
Before I define luck, let me warn you: it will probably differ from whatever’s in Webster’s dictionary. If you’re satisfied with your level of luck, read theirs instead.
Ed Latimore’s Definition Of Luck: Let “n” be an intended or predicted outcome. Let k be any events that occur because of “n.” The unintended n+k order of effects of an action is luck.
We aim to increase the amount of good luck and decrease the bad we experience. To accomplish this task, we must first understand the difference between the two.
You benefit from good luck and suffer because of bad. This statement might seem obvious, but notice how it compares to my earlier definition of luck. When speaking of luck, without a modifying adjective, it’s an impersonal observation of how the world works. Things happen and as a result of those intended things, other unintended things happen, the sum of which is luck.
When we start talking about “good” and “bad” luck, it becomes a personal experience. Because of the personal nature of good/luck, three factors about every person determine whether an unintended event is a case of good or bad luck.
- Position: For some industries, artificial intelligence is a boon. For others, it spells the end of their livelihood. A company merger simultaneously deems some positions worthless and others so significant that they’re paid more.
- Preparation: When artificial intelligence of the company merger takes your job, a decent amount of savings prevents worry. Furthermore, it allows you to take your time to find a better opportunity or develop skills to do something else. If you were living paycheck-to-paycheck, this is an awful stroke of luck that will put you into an uncomfortable situation.
- Perspective: Your position and preparation will influence your perspective on the events. Your perspective is influenced by other factors, such as timing and your general disposition (pessimistic vs. optimistic).
This idea gives a glimpse into what it takes to have more good luck in our lives, but first, let’s talk about decreasing bad luck. We must discuss how to stop being unlucky because filling a bucket is easier once you patch up the leaks. In other words, it doesn’t matter how fortunate you are if misfortune wipes it out.
Luck is the result of the higher-order effects of your actions. It works like this:
You do something, intending to get one outcome. Because your actions don’t exist in a vacuum, everything you do causes other things to happen. Or, the things you’ve done in the past set you up to be able to do things in the present.
The quality of your actions determines the type of luck you’ll experience.
Purposeful, constructive actions create good luck.
Aimless, overly indulgent actions create bad luck.
Another way to look at this is to say that the directionality of your luck depends on the direction of your first actions. Useful actions create useful ripples. Destructive actions create destructive waves.
The easiest way to reduce your misfortune is to stop doing things with an objectively negative outcome. Emphasis on “objective.” Most of the misery you experience can be avoided if you simply learn to delay gratification, plan for the future, and how to be uncomfortable.
Fortunately, the list of ways to reduce bad luck is straightforward. Stop doing any of the following:
- Hard drugs. Don’t do anything you can’t buy from a legal source. Doing so means you’re more likely to get arrested or deal with people operating outside the law.
- Smoking. Smoking dramatically increases the likelihood that you’ll die early from *something*. And whatever kills you, it won’t take you out quickly or peacefully.
- Drinking heavily. Nothing improves, and no one makes better decisions when intoxicated. You don’t even need to do this one consistently. One night of heavy drinking can ruin your entire life.
- Spending money you don’t have. Living above your means is the surest way to guarantee that you’ll never make moves. It also means any surprise or emergency will ruin you.
- Spending time with anyone who has done any of the previous activities. The old saying is, “If you spend enough time in the barbershop, eventually you’ll get a haircut.” Or you may be more familiar with “you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time around,”
- Spending time with people who make you feel bad. Your decision-making abilities are compromised when you’re in a bad mood or feeling stressed. A compromised mental state makes it more likely that you’ll behave in a way that brings you bad luck. No company is better than a bad company.
If you stopped doing these six things, your quality of life would skyrocket, and you would eliminate almost every avenue where bad luck can enter your life. You would no longer:
- Spend time in environments where bad things are more likely to randomly happen to you (drug houses, bars, on the streets after dark, etc.)
- Suffer from many health ailments that simultaneously cost you money to fix and reduce your earning capacity.
- On the few occasions when bad luck strikes you, you’ll have more resources (money and the ability to earn more) to fix them.
There is one last thing you need to stop doing if you want to reduce your chances of encountering bad luck to zero: exercise sexual discipline. This means:
- Don’t have sex with people you’ve only known for a short amount of time
- Don’t have sex with a lot of people.
- Don’t have unprotected sex outside of a committed relationship
- Don’t have sex with someone when you’re already in a relationship.
I saved this point for two reasons:
- It required its list of negatives.
- Because it’s the one people will most likely have pushback on, I needed to establish how other things ruin your life as a preamble to how this one can.
Here are all the ways lacking sexual discipline can increase the likelihood of you experiencing adverse luck.
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Aside from the embarrassing trip to the clinic and the pharmacy, many STDs are not curable. And the curable ones are becoming more resistant to antibiotics.
- Children you didn’t want. The only birth control method that’s 100% is abstinence. Every time you fornicate with someone, you take a chance where you might become the exception to the rule. If it’s with someone you don’t know well or when you’re already in a relationship, the next 20 years of your life will be full of bad luck. Even if the child is aborted, that’s an unexpected financial burden, not to mention the potential emotional distress you’ll suffer.
- Scornful wrath. If you take someone to bed too quickly, you may find yourself in a terrible love triangle. You definitely shouldn’t sleep with anyone in a relationship (or outside of your own) because you never know how crazy people can get. I wrote a Twitter thread about this.
- General problems. You may be dealing with someone with many bad traits that can take an unpredictable toll on your emotional health. Remember, don’t spend time with those who make you feel bad because it will lead you to make worse decisions than if you were of a clear and sound mind. Anyone who’s ever dealt with stalkers and abusers knows exactly what I’m saying.
I always warn people to be respectful and cool because you never know who doesn't give a fuck about going to jail.— Ed Latimore (@EdLatimore) July 7, 2022
Well, the same thing applies to cheating in a relationship:
You never know who doesn't give a shit about going to prison–or worse...
Of course, it doesn’t always turn out like this, but this is about giving yourself the best chance to have good things happen to you. Trying to manifest good luck while actively engaging in bad habits is like trying to drive a car with the emergency brake on.
You can do it, but you’ll be slower, less efficient, and damage the vehicle irreparably.
Now that we’ve covered patching the holes, let’s start covering how we can fill the bucket.
Have a goal
Trying to accomplish something makes you more likely to get lucky by at least a factor of ten.
I just made that number up, but you must act to create your own luck. You need an initial event to ripple the pond of life so that it sends the waves of luck reverberating around you.
I’ll put this point another way: you can’t win if you don’t play. You can’t get lucky sitting on the sidelines.
When someone complains about bad luck, I know they live without purpose. These are the people who go through the motions of life. Coincidentally, they have the worst luck.
When you take action toward a goal, you automatically do two crucial things to improve your luck: you increase your number of constructive decisions and decrease your number of destructive decisions.
When it comes to getting lucky, not doing things that take you off track is just as important as staying on track.
Always be ready to take advantage of opportunities
“Luck is when opportunity meets preparation.”
Once you select a goal, you must work relentlessly on achieving it. This ensures that you are ready whenever you get an opportunity to advance on it.
Imagine being a writer, waiting for your big break. You meet an agent who has an excellent opportunity for you IF you have a finished manuscript. Meeting this agent may be a random encounter. It may be a result of you putting the first principle into action. Regardless, you’ve wasted an opportunity because you weren’t prepared.
Preparation is a result of dedication to your craft. By constantly improving, you will always be ready for any opportunity.
Change your perspective on hardship
There is always a way to see hardship as an opportunity.
The old saying is that “luck is where preparation meets opportunity.” The saying is true, but what is often forgotten is that opportunity is in the eye of the beholder.
Where the unlucky person sees a setback, the other sees a setup.
Where the unlucky person sees a tragedy, the other sees an opportunity to triumph.
The beautiful thing about sudden hardship is that it’s often the only way to force growth in areas where you’ve become comfortable. Your weak traits, inadequate abilities, and insufficient resources are exposed for the first time.
Changing your perspective about the event that appears to be bad luck doesn’t turn it into something you’d consider good luck. However, it allows you to see it as an opportunity to fix something that will improve you.
Take more chances
If your batting average is .400 in major league baseball, apparently, this is excellent (please forgive me, baseball fans. I don’t know the game well at all). This means that if you got up to bat ten times, you’d hit the ball four times.
We don’t know which of those four hits will be home runs or base hits. You still have to swing to make something happen.
Your “batting average” is–more or less–fixed. Since you’ve maxed out on skill and preparation, the only way to get more opportunities is to swing more often. Instead of 10 times, get up to bat 100 times.
There’s a MUCH greater chance that one of the 40 hits will be a homerun compared to just the 4.
The luckiest people are always looking for a way to show off what they can do.
Having skills is one thing, but marketing and selling them is another. You must find every way to display who you are and what you can do.
Help people when it costs little or nothing to do so
We do things without awareness of how far our actions will reach–in time or space. While we don’t know what they will affect, we know there will be reactions.
In many ways, this is just another phrasing of the concept of luck that I gave earlier.
The best way to take advantage of this is to protect yourself from the consequences of abusing it. You don’t have to bend over backward to help people. However, if it only costs you a small amount of time/money to make a disproportionately large difference, do it.
You never know when or how this person may be able to help you. It should also go without saying that kicking people while they’re down is entirely unacceptable.
Helping others makes you luckier and makes you a better person. Seriously, the reward for helping is the feeling of being helpful.
An unintended benefit (the “k” in the “n+k” formula) is that it makes people more likely to help you. It also makes it less likely that they will try to set you back.
No one is saying to be a brown nose, but don’t underestimate the power of likability.
If you know how to make people like you, it’s amazing how much luck you’ll have and the trouble you’ll avoid.
When people like you, they want you to like them. My experience has been that no one is immune to this rule of human interaction. They will give you more opportunities to gain your approval and prevent others from taking yours. Not only will you get more tries at bat, but a benefit of likability is that it “shortens the field.”
People are more likely to make exceptions, give you bonus points, or help you succeed despite yourself.
You still have your name when you don’t have anything to your name. Make sure it’s worth a damn. In some circles, your reputation is the only currency accepted.
Understanding this idea is an excellent base for building any number of skills. When you have a solid reputation, you will get opportunities to be around people. With this exposure, you can build networks and build your value in a variety of ways.
If you’re only good at one thing, don’t worry about it. You’ll use this thing to leverage your money and time. The better you are at your skill, the more ways you can leverage it into money and manpower.
People never consider this a way to get lucky, but it always pays off. You can take advantage of trade and acquire resources when you’re good at something. Employment is nothing more than an exchange of skills or time for money.
Take calculated risks
The safest path is the surest path. It’s the one most people go down, and it’s the reason most people, almost by definition, aren’t lucky. They do not expose themselves to volatile events, preferring a life with little chance to mess up but little opportunity to excel.
Lucky people always take risks. Unlucky people don’t.
One of the things that I love about entrepreneurship is the thrill of betting on myself and my abilities. Some people feel it’s too risky to live like this, but taking calculated risks is a defining trait of entrepreneurs.
We make calculated moves but still don’t have a guaranteed positive outcome. We do things that most people shy away from, so we end up with chances that most people never get.
This isn’t doing what’s difficult so much as it’s doing something where there’s a chance you can lose big. A basic example is someone who starts a business. Getting a job is safer and easier, but there is also less reward (with less freedom).
To increase your luck, learn to eat a healthy amount of risk.
Nurture your relationships
People are the most important thing.
Being likable with the public is important, but your friends require a higher degree of authenticity. They’ll be there with you through thick and thin and want to see you win.
This is, of course, assuming you pick the right friends. Selecting the right friends is beyond this article, but know that doing so makes you incredibly lucky. They will come through for you when you need it and least expect it.
The basic idea is simple:
Stop doing stuff that initiates bad luck. Do more of the stuff that generates good luck.
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I’m a former heavyweight pro-boxer (13-1-1) and alcoholic (Sobriety date 12/23/13), current writer, and aspiring chess master. I was raised in the projects by a single mom and failed high school, but I eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in Physics.
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