Turning Clients' Bad Luck Into Good

Book review by Barry Davis

Book Review:
Dr. Richard Wiseman. The Luck Factor: Changing Your Luck, Changing Your Life - The Four Essential Principles (2003, Hyperion). $16.29.

This fascinating little book of just over 200 pages was written by a British psychologist who conducted a scientific survey of "lucky" and "unlucky" people to try to determine why certain individuals appeared to have significantly more luck than others.

Initially investigating if these individuals might perhaps be brighter or in possession of some extraordinary psychic ability, his research supported neither hypothesis. Nonetheless, Wiseman was intrigued by the fact that certain people seemed to have an expectation that they would be lucky, an expectation that more often than not proved accurate. What was their secret? Can one actually learn to be lucky?

Numerous stories of lucky and unlucky people are included in the book to provide practical insights into what Wiseman calls the "Four Essential Principles" of luck. He maintains that these principles can be learned and applied by anyone. Here are the basic tenets of his research, with some accompanying corollaries:

1. Lucky people create, notice and act upon the chance opportunities in their lives. They pro-actively build and maintain strong networks. They have a relaxed attitude towards life's uncertainties and are open to new experiences in their lives.

2. Lucky people make successful decisions by using their intuition and gut feelings. They listen to their "inner voice" and take steps to boost their intuitive sense through techniques like meditation, getting away, etc.

3. Lucky people's expectations about the future help them fulfill their dreams and ambitions. They expect good luck. They attempt to achieve their goals, even if their chances of success seem slim, and continue to persevere even in the face of failure, expecting their interactions with others to be lucky and successful.

4. Lucky people are able to transform their bad luck into good fortune. They see the positive side of even bad luck experiences. Convinced that any ill fortune in their lives will, in the long run, work out for the best, they do not dwell on ill fortune, but do take constructive steps to prevent more bad luck in the future.

The book closes with stories about Wiseman's "Luck School," a program he devised to improve such phenomena for both unlucky and lucky people. His results were amazing: 80% of his students realized an increase in their "luck." His conclusion: Luck can be learned.

One more fascinating finding of his research was that three of the "big five" personality factors - extroversion, neuroticism and openness - were closely related to increased luck. He found "lucky people" to be more extroverted, more open, and less neurotic. They speak to more people, keep their options open, and are not paralyzed by "what if?" thinking. As a result, they simply act in a manner that creates more opportunities.

These insights are exceptional tools to add to the career coach's bag of tricks. Teaching your client how to be "luckier," whether investigating vocational options or launching a successful job search campaign, can yield extraordinary dividends.

Allow me to provide a good-luck "war story" from my own experience:

I once had a client who was struggling with consideration of a career change. His career path had been in banking, but he had been released in a corporate restructuring. In reviewing his work history and his most satisfying work experiences, it became clear that he had been wasting his talents in a back office position with a financial institution.

In investigating options, he continued to look in the "obvious" directions of sales and marketing. Nothing wrong with that, but I encouraged him to be a bit less linear in his approach, opening up his investigation to other areas that might not necessarily connect with his past all that logically.

A networking contact of his was encouraging him to investigate a growing company that needed help in both marketing and operations. This company is a nationwide supplier of high-end custom footwear for marching bands. My client initially determined that such a direction for his career did not "make sense." After all, he was used to dressing up for work, having banker's hours and enjoying the prestige of being a member of the financial services industry.

His contact kept pressing him to investigate this alternative, as did I, encouraging him to practice a technique I developed called "The Why Not? Rule." Simply stated, the rule says, "Until you can say you know enough to say 'no' to an opportunity, say 'yes' to taking one more step forward."

The result: He is now the Operations Manager for a growing organization where he can continue to develop his marketing and management expertise, utilizing his entrepreneurial style without taking on the risk of starting a new business. He created his own "luck" by being open enough to consider an alternative that really did not make sense at first. He took advantage of a serendipitous opportunity that came his way. And he also practiced a significant degree of openness by keeping his options broader than the obvious alternatives before him.

The Luck Factor is a quick and insightful read that can equip you with practical suggestions and techniques to assist that client who is "just not lucky" when it comes to the job hunt. To quote Wayne Gretzky, "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take." This small but powerful book can assist you in helping that discouraged client to keep swinging.

Barry L. Davis
(MS, CTC), a founding member of LMA Systems, with over 20 years of experience in career counseling, business consulting, outplacement and performance training, has designed and implemented career and personal development programs for over 1,800 clients. He also works with companies in talent management, helping organizations ensure that the right people are in the right positions for maximum performance and satisfaction. Barry developed "Career Online," LMA's specialized Internet site for career clients providing 24/7 access to information, insight and support. Always looking for another good book to read, Barry can be reached at: bdavis@lmaconsulting.cc; visit his website at www.lmaconsulting.cc.

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