Six years ago I was out at a bar with a girlfriend. I was there under the guise of being her lesbian partner, a roadblock against the advances of another girl my friend had unwittingly led on. Unfortunately I didn’t play my role especially well, as I couldn’t help but take notice of a handsome young man who’d just entered the venue. To make use of a cliche, we locked eyes across the room…and I felt that jolt that I’d always thought was the preserve of romance novels (or buildings with terrible wiring).
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before my friend and I had to make our escape (we had failed quite miserably at pretending to be lovers, and the other girl was, understandably enough, not especially pleased about our shenanigans, but we were young[er] and silly[ier], so do forgive me). I left without speaking to the guy who’d floored me with that glance.
My friend and I winged our way from venue to venue, finally ending up at some scuzzy downstairs bar where we caught up with some other friends. I was making a dash to the bar to dilute the gin in my system with some much-needed water when I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, a handsome young man enter the venue. That same handsome young man, as it were.
I am a tremendously lucky person. I invariably happen across dropped coins; the same is true of free events. I win so many prizes and competitions that I’m probably single-handedly putting the entertainment industry out of business. I’m very petite, which means that I can snap up clothing and jewellery bargains. I have never actually had to apply for a job, as employers seem to find me rather than the other way around (do ping me if you need a feature writer, by the way).
Serendipity and happenstance are two enormous forces in my life, so it was apt that I’d been musing about luck and fortune when I came across The Luck Factor in the dusty depths of our shelves (I don’t typically venture into the non-fiction sections of our library, but this one had been mis-shelved among the fiction titles). In this slim, upbeat little volume, psychologist Richard Wiseman looks at why some people seem to be luckier than others, and whether unlucky people might be able to improve their luck by incorporating into their lives some of the habits of typically lucky people.
Admittedly, the book suffers from an awkward “workbook” type structure, incorporating a whole bunch of self-assessment forms that I largely skimmed over, but the anecdotal stuff that forms its main argument is quite fascinating. Wiseman interviews habitually lucky and unlucky people about their life experiences, and finds that lucky people tend to be open and friendly, persistent and proactive, tend to listen to their gut instincts, and have a tendency to see the good in the bad.
One of the more interesting points covered in the book is how people respond to bad situations. After all, no one sails through life without any issues at all. Just yesterday, for example, I managed to drop my office pass and keys down the lift shaft. Oops. Fortunately the day before I’d had some extra keys copied; I also checked to see how much it would cost to replace the pass as opposed to have it collected from the lift shaft. The former turned out to be a third of the price. So no, it wasn’t a great situation, but it could have been a lot worse. (I could have been that guy who dropped his iPhone down the lift shaft, for example.) And then there was the time that I left my laptop on a bench outside the State Library. Fortunately I’d left a business card inside it, so that the nice person who picked it up was able to contact me so that I could get it back.
Obviously there are areas where I’d like to improve my “luck”, and Wiseman does touch on the ways in which this might be achieved. I’m naturally very shy, introverted person, and this isn’t something that’s conducive to opening up opportunities. But introverts like me now have the wonderful mediator that is social media at their fingertips, and it’s far easier now to break the ice with strangers over email, Twitter and so on. So, this past month I’ve taken Wiseman’s “go and meet people!” command to heart, and the results have been a good deal of fun. I’ve met up with some lovely blogger friends; all sorts of publishing people; some US journalists visiting for the Food and Wine festival; and some brilliant tango dancers from Argentina.
Wiseman’s take on the whole “luck” idea is that good fortune is less about the universe aligning in your favour and more about preparation, expectation, and giving things a shot in the first place.
Sometimes, however, it’s about recognising missed opportunities and trying to remedy them.
Believe me, there was no way I was going to miss out on speaking to that handsome man at the bar a second time. Oh, and about him? We’ll be celebrating our first wedding anniversary tomorrow.
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Other books by Richard Wiseman: