The staff room was already crowded by the time I got there, so I squeezed into a small spot at the end of the room and tuned into the conversation. There was a buzz of excitement around the table. One of the music teachers had won a trip to Hawaii for two from calling into a radio station competition. This was many years ago when I was still teaching in schools, and we could still travel aborad pre-pandemic.
‘Oh my god! How exciting!’ I said ‘Who are you going to take???’
‘My mum… my boyfriend will be away for work.’ She replied.
As the conversation continued, our competition winner revealed that this was not a rare occurrence for her. It was the second overseas trip she’d won in her lifetime. She’d also won a car several years earlier as well as countless hampers, vouchers, meat trays and bottles of wine.
I quizzed her. ‘Are you just like a super lucky person?’
She shook her head. ‘Nope. I just enter a lot of competitions.’
When I was 13 years old, I entered every single Dolly Magazine prize contest, and I won almost all of them. They were supposedly a game of skill where you had to provide 25-word answers to a question like ‘Which Friends character are you most like and why?’ to which I’d patch together a lame response that was clean enough to publish in the magazine and I’d send it off in a stamped envelope. I won HEAPS of shit. The full first season of Friends on VHS (did the stamped envelope not tip you off that this was a LONG time ago?), make-up, two swimsuits, a door-sized poster of Leonardo DiCaprio in Romeo + Juliet and endless skincare products. I also sent away for every free sample of tampons and pads I found. My mum didn’t have to buy me sanitary products for years with the free Libra Fleur swag I got sent in the mail.
Since then? I haven’t won any prize-based competitions. Because I haven’t been entering any prize-based competitions. You see where this is going, right?
I don’t want to be a dickhead and suggest you can just click your fingers and luck will come at you like a toddler who just heard you open a packet of biscuits. It’s not how it works. It’s also not available to everyone. A $2 raffle ticket might not seem like much. Still, for some people, that’s the difference between eating or not eating that day – just a quick little privilege check before we continue.
The question is – can we really improve our own luck? And the answer is… yeah. We can.
In the book ‘The Luck Factor’, Dr Wiseman says that people aren’t born lucky or unlucky (except being born into privilege of course), it’s about having the right attitude. In his 10 years of research interviewing people from different socio-economic backgrounds, he says –
“Lucky people just try stuff. Unlucky people suffered from paralysis by analysis. They wouldn’t do anything until they walked through every single angle and by then the world had moved on. They don’t gain the benefits of learning through doing. I’m a big fan of starting small, trying lots of projects, seeing what works and what doesn’t, and iterating based on feedback.” – Richard Wiseman.
I’ve been lucky and unlucky at different times throughout my life, and I can say with confidence that during my ‘lucky’ periods, I was more proactive. I had a better attitude, I was doing more stuff. During my ‘unlucky’ periods I wasn’t unhappy or sad by any means, it’s just that less stuff seemed to be happening. Because less stuff WAS happening… because I was doing less stuff.
If you’re feeling a bit blah and you want to kick your luck up a notch, here are some things you should try.
1. Put yourself out there
So you’ve almost definitely heard this before, but that doesn’t stop it being true. According to Dr Wiseman, the number of lucky breaks you get is directly related to how many interpersonal experiences you have. So that means the more social you are, the more opportunities you have to be lucky. You are far more likely to be offered your dream job/meet your next lover/get your book published if you go to that conference/party with people you don’t know/book signing with your writer friends.
Of course in the current climate with COVID 19, we’re far less likely to be leaving our houses, but you can still get involved. Join that online quiz your friends invited you to, have Friday night work drinks online with that client and her colleagues, join the social distancing book group your neighbour organised.
You don’t want to do that though, do you?
I totally get where you’re coming from. You get invited to a socially distanced block party in your street, and your first reaction is to nope the hell out of there. You imagine yourself sitting like a chump on a folding chair that’s about to collapse from a rusty decade spent leaning up against the garage wall, shouting to people you barely know across a busy street. Sounds dreadful.
But… what if it’s NOT dreadful? What if you meet your neighbours properly for the first time? What if that sleek woman from next door is actually a book publisher interested in Young Adult Fiction… and you just happen to have a finished manuscript in your office? What if the lovely bloke you wave at a few times a week has invited his brother/sister and they’re just about the cutest damn thing you’ve ever seen, and you hit it off and have lots of sex and babies? What if one of your neighbours is a very lovely person who will feed your cat when you go away and check your mail?
Doing nothing is easy and lovely. It’s even easier and lovelier when most of us aren’t legally allowed to leave our homes at the moment. There’s also nothing wrong with doing nothing… but if you want something, you’re going to have to DO something. So try saying yes a bit more.
2. Take (calculated) risks
Not the kind of risk where you transfer your life savings into an offshore account because a mysterious Prince says you’re the heir of his fortune and you have to give him money for some stupid reason. Don’t do that. I’m talking about little, scary risks. Like asking someone out on a date. Emailing your dream publisher. Going up to your idol at a conference and asking them the question you’ve been dying to ask. Applying for a job you’re almost (but not entirely) qualified for. Just for some fun inspiration here are some calculated risks I’ve taken that have REALLY paid off.
- I asked my partner (then friend) out on a date a very long time ago. He said yes. He is awesome, we’ve been together for 14 years. We have a rather excellent doofus child together. He could have said no, and if he did, I would have been fine. I mean I would definitely have gotten drunk and bitched to all my girlfriends about him and then snogged a rando at a bar, but THEN I would have been fine. I often think about the sliding doors scenario where I chicken out and didn’t go for it. It genuinely scares me.
- I sent my blog stats and rates card to an agent a few years after I started blogging and got signed. I then repeated that action every few years with different agencies, and I’ve been a professionally represented blogger for over a decade.
- I turned down many full time/permanent teaching positions to remain a casual so I could be free to do freelance writing work/my own projects when they cropped up. After about 6 years of juggling both, I was able to go full time with my freelance writing/copywriting career.
- One of my mates Styling You was working with Allianz insurance, and I was like ‘They’d be a great fit for me!’ so I boldly emailed to ask if she’d mind if I approached them. Nikki gave me her contact (because she’s rad) and I pitched and secured an awesome campaign with them.
- Lots and lots similar to point 4.
If I didn’t go after those things, none of them would have happened.
And look, I’m no Brene Brown or anything, but I write stuff, and some people don’t hate it. I’ve built a decent business and following, and I’m genuinely very happy/satisfied with my life. That’s mainly because I went after the things I wanted. I wonder if I REALLY went after the things I wanted if I COULD be the next Brene Brown? Isn’t that a fabulous thought?
That’s not to say I haven’t had a shit load of rejections. I’ve sent articles to every magazine under the sun and heard nothing back. I applied for every writer’s job that was advertised from 2009 to 2015 when my freelance writing career finally stabilised. I’ve entered the Frankie Business awards several times and got nothing. I’ve entered writing competitions and never got so much as a Thank You For Submitting email. I’ve auditioned for parts in plays and not even got a callback. I’ve pitched for dozens of campaigns and been told I don’t have a big enough following. I won’t say getting rejected is easy, but you get better and better at it. And without failure, you don’t get success, and I really like succeeding. So it’s worth it.
3. Be optimistic
I know it’s easier said than done but being optimistic can not only legitimately increase your overall health and wellbeing, but it also increases your chances of success. It also stops you from being a miserable cow who no one wants to invite to their pool party. This study at Duke University shows that optimists make more money and are more likely to be promoted.
Choosing optimism is free and it appears as though you get a pretty decent return on your investment.
If you want to buy a crystal, chant, start doing daily mantras to increase your optimism – go for it. The result is the same. By changing the way you respond to the world, you change the way the world responds to you.
You also don’t have be continually hustling for your slice of lucky. That’s going to get really tiring. Take a break every now and then. Personally, I’m using the COVID-19 imposed break to stop hustling. I’m just chugging along right now. I’m not trying to push business growth, book ideas, online course creation or any of that jazz. It doesn’t mean I’m done, it just means I’m chilling for the moment.
But I’m starting to get a little itchy, and I’m feeling the need to get lucky…
I think we can safely say that most of us are feeling low at the moment, so can I propose that we all try to be luckier this week? It might mean sending an email to a previous client to see if they’d like to hire you again. It could be saying yes to an invitation you’re not particularly excited about. It might even be calling into a radio station to win a prize.
What have you got to lose? Let’s get lucky.