Life without hope, dreams or illusions, which is what luck is, would be an emotional blackhole. We all want to feel desire and ultimately satisfaction. How we get there is a matter of culture or personal choice.
1. Blind luck
This classic book came to my attention via a Twitter thread from writer and entrepreneur Sahil Bloom that explains the four types of luck outlined in Austin’s book. Bloom kicks off the discussion with the type of luck that most people mean when they use the word–blind luck. This is just what it sounds like, successes or failures that happen due to complete chance.
This is the kind of luck that operates when you are dealt an exceptional poker hand or win the genetic lottery with a genius-level talent. You can’t do much of anything to influence it.
2. Luck from motion
But Bloom goes on to explain that blind luck is only one of four types of luck. The next type, luck from motion, is much more under our control. This type of luck occurs when you’re “creating motion and collisions through hustle and energy,” he tweets. “You increase your luck surface area through simple movement.”
In the networking example in the introduction, it may be blind luck that you and your dream client both decided to attend that same event on the same day. But there’s another kind of luck in play, too. The more such events you go to–the more you’re in motion–the more likely you are to stumble onto valuable connections.
This kind of luck from motion can be increased by physical movement–meeting more people, going to more places–but it can also be about putting yourself out there virtually. Engineer Aaron Francis has convincingly argued that one of the best ways to increase your luck is to write publicly about your work more often. You might be sitting in your office chair, but your ideas are in motion and more likely to knock into someone who can make a difference in your career.
3. Luck from awareness
The classic study that first showed luck had a lot to do with behavior, not just chance, went like this: Researchers gave volunteers a newspaper and asked them to count the total number of pictures in it. Those who considered themselves lucky tended to complete the task in seconds while the unlucky plugged along for ages.
What was the difference? The researchers had sneakily inserted a box on page two that read, “This paper has 43 images. You can stop reading now.” People who considered themselves lucky were much more likely to notice this box and spare themselves a lot of page flipping.
What the lucky group had and the unlucky volunteers lacked was the second type of luck Bloom outlines, luck from awareness. If you have awareness, you can “spot luck from a mile away,” he claims. Through some combination of openness, curiosity, optimism, and experience, you’re more likely to recognize luck when it appears. Cultivating these traits therefore will make you luckier.
4. Luck from uniqueness
“[This type] favors those with distinctive, if not eccentric hobbies, personal lifestyles, and motor behaviors,” writes Austen in his book. It’s an idea Steve Jobs understood well. In a 1982 talk, the Apple founder advised those looking to increase their intelligence and success to cultivate weird hobbies and unusual interests.
“You have to not have the same bag of experiences as everyone else does, or else you’re gonna make the same connections and you won’t be innovative,” he said. “You might want to think about going to Paris and being a poet for a few years. Or you might want to go to a third-world country–I’d highly advise that. Falling in love with two people at once. Walt Disney took LSD.”
The point isn’t that psychedelics or polyamory specifically make you luckier. It’s that offering the world an unusual combination of skills, experiences, and interests makes you more likely to stand out and attract opportunities. Uniqueness doesn’t just make you interesting–it will also make you luckier.
Reverse engineer yourself some more luck
Austin’s taxonomy of luck adds interesting complexity to an everyday concept most of us use without much reflection. But breaking luck down into types isn’t just an academic exercise or topic for cocktail party chatter. If you understand exactly what goes into the concept of luck, you’ll be much better placed to engineer more luck for yourself. And who among us couldn’t use a few more lucky breaks in life?
Understanding the 4 Types of Luck Will Make You Instantly Luckier
“ The Happiness Hypothesis” by Jonathan Haidt.