How to Create Your Own Luck: The Luck Lab

A New York Times best-selling author (Janice Kaplan) and an expert on risk taking (Barnaby Marsh) walk into a lab. The Luck Lab that is (at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton).

They spend a year researching, looking at fascinating studies and interviewing world-class academics and famous people in an effort to understand how much of seemingly random events are actually under our control.

Quite a lot, as they reveal in their newly released book, How Luck Happens: Using the Science of Luck to Transform Work, Love, and Life.”

“In the book, we describe luck as being the intersection of random chance, talent, and hard work. Once you understand the principles of luck, you can bring them into your own daily experiences – work, love, life and more – in a positive way,” Kaplan told us.

Here are some tips on making your own luck in three key areas of your life:

1. To Land Your Dream Job

The chapter “How To Get a Job at Goldman Sachs (Or Anywhere You Want)” should probably become a standalone book. In it, Kaplan and Marsh walk readers through an almost fullproof guide on scoring a job; no matter how coveted. When applying for a job, they explain, you “can focus on the elements that are in your control.” Here are three:

  • Connect with someone in the field: Make sure to tell everyone about your desired position, especially to your hairdresser and personal trainer who work with an array of professionals.

    Chances are, someone knows someone who can put in a good word. The authors also advise leveraging the power of LinkedIn and your college alumni directory.

  • Say yes to unexpected – and scary – opportunities: Say you already have a job and get an offer out of the blue.

    Go ahead and weight in the risks, but don’t hesitate too much. Taking that leap might turn out to be the best thing you can do for your career.

  • Make up your own position: This strategy is perfect for those risk-takers out there, who are willing to drop out of college to start their own company.

2.  To Survive Disaster

Can you luck-proof yourself against airplane crashes, fires, earthquakes, hurricanes or tsunamis? Maybe not 100%, but, again, there’s a lot you can do to significantly increase your chances of surviving a catastrophic event:

  • When alarms go off, don’t hesitate: Whether it’s a fire alarm in your building or your house alarm, drop everything and seek help. Don’t assume it’s just another false alarm.

  • Believe there’s a way out: “Part of the process of righting yourself in an emergency is believing that it’s possible,” points out Laurence Gonzales.

  • Know the facts: You’re more likely to get killed by the germ you pick up on an airplane than die in a plane crash. Don’t believe it? Kaplan suggests checking out an app called Am I Going Down? to see what are the odds of your plane crashing.

  • Don’t be scared, be prepared: Don’t rely on wishful thinking either. Kaplan points out that in the midst of a crisis, the most dangerous thing to do is telling yourself that “nothing bad can happen, because it hasn’t before.”
How luck happens cover
“How Luck Happens” is a new book filled to the brim with ideas and advice on how to create your own luck in a variety of situations.

3. To Win the Love Lottery

“If you’re single, finding the right person to marry can seems like an endless minefield,” says Kaplan. Here’s how to make things easier for you:

  • Purposely limit your romantic options: Helen Fisher, one of the world’s experts on love and chief scientific advisor for, told Kaplan that while browsing online apps, people should check out five to nine potential matches, then stop and focus on one.

  • Do something scary on your first date: Like hopping on a roller coaster! Kaplan’s research shows that our brains get mixed up about what’s causing you to feel exhilarated; the ride or the person next to you.

For married couples, probably the most important ingredient of a “luckily” ever after relationship is…

  • Deciding that you’ll stay together no matter what: Unless you’re in an abusive partnership, “a relationship gets better when you invest in it,” according to Duke psychologist and behavioral economist Dan Ariely.

Snack On This:

Celebrity health guru Dr. Deepak Chopra makes an important appearance in the book. Watch him talking about life being unpredictable rather than random.


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