The Smart, the Talented and the Lucky

The fickle randomness of the phenomenon called luck fascinates me.  I wonder why luck seems to so often reward people who don’t seem to deserve its favor and punish those who are good and hardworking people.  Luck is maddeningly capricious.  Who among us has not worked and planned and calculated the possibility for the success of a certain project, only to have it fall through and at another time, be amazed at the success of another project that has been given only casual thought and little effort?

I know quite a few people who’ve been very, very lucky in life.  Some have made the most of their good luck and others have squandered it (but they still do sort of OK, because they are lucky).  I’ve noticed that other than a man with whom I worked for a number of years, who was often very lucky and acknowledged his good fortune, people who are lucky do not believe in luck.  They actually believe that they can make all sorts of wonderful things happen all by their lonesome.  Some tell me that they pray and their chosen Deity answers their prayers.  Some tell me that they visualize what they want to happen and so it is given to them.  Still others claim that they always plan carefully and their plans yield the expected results, nearly always.  Riiiiight!

What my fortunate friends do not realize is that the answer to a prayer can be “No,” that plans can fall apart because they often depend upon certain critical factors falling into place, that is, good luck is an unacknowledged ingredient of the plan; and that one can visualize a future that seems fully attainable, not at all grandiose and yet the process can yield nothing but daydreams and disappointment.

My lucky pals are as clueless as The Fool pictured above, because they can afford to be.  I have seen certain of them (metaphorically) ready to step off a cliff when the ground somehow rises up to meet them so they do not stumble.  In my life, when in a similar circumstance, I’ve been thrilled to see a nice bridge appear to rescue me, only to be horrified when it turns out to have been built by the folks who engineered the amazing bridge at Florida International University.  Sigh.

In a 2017 study conducted at the University of Catania in Sicily (Sicilians absolutely believe in luck and if you are Sicilian or Italian—yes, they are different!— you will know this to be true).  Alessio Biondo, Alessandro Pluchino and Andrea Rapisarda created a computer model of 1000 virtual people.  Some of the virtual subjects were given more intelligence, talent, or money and others less, in an attempt to simulate real life.  During a 40-year “career,” certain virtual subjects received “lucky events,” i.e., opportunities to boost their careers that their intelligence or talent could help them exploit.  But some were made to suffer “unlucky events” that took away some of their career advancement and money.  At the end of the 40-year “career,” the scientists examined the characteristics of the wealthiest virtual people.

The results showed that while intelligence, talent and wealth play a role in the achievement of success, those who rose to the top were almost always the recipients of “lucky events.” Lead researcher Alessandro Pluchino wrote, ” It is evident that the most successful individuals are also the luckiest ones and the less successful individuals are also the unluckiest ones.” The study also reinforced the validity of the Pareto Principle, known as the 80/20 Rule, meaning that 80% of the wealth in the virtual society wound up in the hands of 20% of the population, as it does in real-world societies.

That 80/20 distribution does not correspond with the distribution of intelligence and talent. “The maximum success never coincides with the maximum talent and vice versa,” noted the researchers. “Our simulation clearly shows that such a factor is just pure luck.”  Pluchino and his team showed this by ranking the virtual subjects by the number of lucky and unlucky events each experienced in their simulated careers.  The most successful individuals had the most good luck and the least successful had the most bad luck.

So now what? Do those who are short-changed by good luck just roll with the punches? I mean, these findings, although most likely accurate, run counter to the American can-do, Horatio Alger spirit.  One must take charge of life and never knuckle under to unfortunate events or unsavory people.

I suggest that the best way to bring good luck, or at least minimize bad luck, is to introduce Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese system, into your home and office.  Eight years ago, I wrote about exploring Feng Shui.  You can play catch-up here.

In short, start by cleaning and organizing your home and office.  De-clutter and organize because qi, good energy, likes order.  Give yourself a harmonious environment and you are almost guaranteed to feel more relaxed, less frazzled and more confident.  Because you will become more calm and centered, you’ll function more effectively in your professional and personal lives.  I think it could be successfully argued that you’ll be positioned to more easily recognize both potentially good and bad events along your path.  You can then gravitate to the former and avoid, or at least mitigate, the latter.

Feng Shui will probably not replace an overabundance of bad luck with good fortune, but you’ll most likely be able to grab whatever good luck crumbs come your way and that’ll be about as good as it’s going to get.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Image: The Fool, from the ancient tarot card deck. In a tarot card reading, The Fool represents one’s potential and abilities and also new beginnings.  He is young, lucky, light-hearted and blissfully unaware of potential limitations and danger.

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Power Through Stress

There are two types of people in this world—those who make things happen and those who allow things to happen to them.  Reader friend,  I know that you are the first type,  a mover & shaker take-charge Freelance professional who knows how to make good things happen.

But every once in a while,  I also know that the best-laid plans will not produce the expected outcome.  Other times, responsibilities and obligations pile on to a distressing level.  Such events might cause even a high-performing Freelance consultant to feel helpless and overwhelmed and as a result, stressed.

University of Florida psychologist Timothy Judge and colleagues encourage us to give ourselves a pep talk during challenging times, to promote the feeling that we are still able to exert control over the levers of our life and business (occasional slips of the grip notwithstanding), because his team’s research quite clearly indicates that those who feel confident in their abilities and in control of their lives are much better at managing stress and getting themselves positioned to capitalize on opportunities and dismantling or avoiding obstacles that block success.

Those who feel as if they are in control of their life and work can simultaneously feel very intense stress and anxiety from time to time.  However, their resilience equips them to manage those feelings differently from the passive types.  The powerful get busy when adversity strikes, while the passive are inclined to accept negative circumstances as inevitable and conclude that there is no recourse. They give up.

The ability to manage emotions and remain calm under intense pressure has a direct link to performance and the ability to perform well has a direct link to success.  Luck plays a role (let us not arrogantly deny that force of the universe),  but we are sometimes able to summon good luck into our lives.  It is often said that fortune favors the prepared.

As regards defeating or minimizing adversity,  realism makes us more resilient.  Prepare yourself for change by accepting that ups and downs are inevitable and the good times will not roll forever.  When billable hours are abundant and additional cash is available,  create short- and long-term savings and investment goals.  If nothing else, add more money to your retirement fund.  Whatever happens good or bad, money will be useful.  Think also of Plan B and even Plan C  alternatives that you could pivot into should unfortunate occurrences darken your door.

If you are presently in the clutches of challenging circumstances, you have my deepest sympathy.  Moreover I can empathize, because I’ve been there and I’m terrified of returning.  Respectfully,  I suggest that you take steps to shift your perspective to adopt the viewpoint of power and gain the confidence to take the reins. There may be aspects of your dilemma that are beyond your control,  but you are capable of controlling your response to it.  Long-term wallowing in self-pity is not useful.

Stress and anxiety can put us into a choke-hold.  To slip out, take action to build up your body’s hormonal stress-busters,  endorphins and serotonin,  with some regular exercise.  Any kind will do,  so long as you partake three or four times each week for a minimum of 30 minutes.  Please see my post from December 22, 2015. https://freelancetheconsultantsdiary.wordpress.com/2015/12/22/exercise-leadership-in-the-new-year

Once you peel away a few layers of stress and anxiety,  you’ll be able to apply your renewed confidence to identifying corrective strategies.  It may take a while to engineer your repackaging or pivot,  but the time to begin the transformation  from passive to powerful is now.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

 

The Luck of the Freelancer

St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated on March 17 and in Suffolk County,   St. Paddy’s  Day is a very big deal.  There is a huge parade,  bakeries sell Irish soda bread throughout the month  (it’s great toasted and slathered with lots of butter),  bars sell green beer and some grocery stores even sell green bagels.  The city declares a holiday  (officially called Evacuation Day)  and the parking meters are off.

So it got me thinking about four-leaf clovers and good luck and all of that.  Like most people,   I am convinced that success in life and business is impacted by luck.   Being born to a wealthy and influential family,  having loving and supportive parents,  being exceptionally talented in science or with languages,  getting seated next to a potential client at a dinner party—that’s all random good luck that no one can control.

A  recent LinkedIn survey of 7,000 of their members found that 84%  believe in career luck.   Both Napoleon Bonaparte and former U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower were quoted as saying they preferred a lucky general to a smart one.   I mean,  why is it that some people always manage to be in the right place at the right time?

Some experts claim that we have a hand in creating our luck,  good or bad.   A recent study by Richard Wiseman,  Professor of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK,  demonstrated that simply believing that one is lucky can create positive outcomes.   Wiseman studied two groups of people: one group whose members considered themselves to be  “lucky”  and another group whose members considered themselves to be  “unlucky”.

He gave participants in each group a newspaper and instructed all to as quickly as possible,  go through the paper and report how many photographs were to be found within.   The results were interesting.   The  “lucky”  study subjects reported back their  (correct)  answers within seconds,  much faster than the  “unlucky”  subjects reported back their  (often incorrect)  answers.   What accounted for the difference?  On page two of the paper there appeared an advertisement with this message:  “Stop counting.  There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.”

Wiseman concluded that the   “unlucky”  study subjects were blind to their opportunity to succeed because they became too focused on looking for exactly what they were looking for,  to the exclusion of what would help them achieve their goal.   For example,  perhaps  “unlucky”  Freelancers attend networking events in search of their idealized version of the perfect client and as a result ignore others in the room who might also be potential clients.

“Lucky”  people,  on the other hand,  are much more relaxed and open,  willing and able to see what resources lie in their path—like the ad on page two of the newspaper that gave them the winning advantage.  Furthermore,   a strong work ethic is said to increase our chances to create and/or take advantage of good fortune.   Bill Gates got lucky for sure,  but he and Paul Allen also shut themselves up in a room,  rolled up their sleeves and worked very long hours to put themselves in a position to grab the brass ring when it came around.   They also had great faith in the marketability of their ideas,   which is said to be another magnet for good luck.

“Nevertheless,  since our free will must not be denied,  I estimate that even if fortune is the arbiter of half our actions,  she still allows us to control the other half,  or thereabouts.”   Niccolo Machiavelli,  in a 1513 letter to Lorenzo de’Medici

So how can we attract a healthy chunk of  the good fortune that floats through the atmosphere?  Listen to Machiavelli and Professor Wiseman,   Paul Allen and Bill Gates.   Once you know in your gut that your product,  service or idea has good potential to find a client base,  trust your instincts and vigorously pursue and promote what you’ve got.   Work hard and be ready when the good fortune rolls around,  as Machiavelli advised his patron Lorenzo de’Medici.   Most of all,  take off the blinders and see the gold nuggets that may lie within your reach,  as Wiseman’s study demonstrated.   Maybe look for a four-leaf clover and have some soda bread too,   just for good measure.

Good luck to you and thanks for reading,

Kim