Get Lucky

I’ve always thought of myself as a lucky person. I’ve had a tremendous amount of good fortune in my life; a happy marriage, great kids, a fantastic job, several great partnerships, and lots of financial success.

So it was with interest that I read this post about some research a psychologist named Richard Wiseman did on lucky and unlucky people. Wiseman concludes that luck (and unluck) is a function of state of mind (positive vs negative), being open minded, and trusting your gut.

Here’s the money quote from the post:

My research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.

I have heard similar things over the years and these findings certainly resonate with me. I can’t stress enough the importance of the last point – “a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.” If you always look on the bright side of life, to quote Monty Python, you will have much greater success.

And, of course, it turns out you can learn to be lucky. Wiseman ran a “luck school” and less than a month he turned unlucky people into lucky people. So if you aren’t feeling it, get lucky. You can do it.

#life lessons

Comments (Archived):

  1. Nicolas Wittenborn

    Yes! And every roadblock is another chance to get lucky in retrospect. 🙂

  2. Ed Freyfogle

    From the macro perspecitve we’re all lucky – we were born at the best time in human history (though our descendants will hopefully be able to say the same).

  3. reece

    “luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”

    1. Mac

      So true, Reece. I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to spend an evening visiting and speaking with one of the men who walked on the moon during the Apollo program.In his very humble manner, who spoke of the years of preparation that put him in a position to do, as he described, “the job his country asked him to do.” He also spoke of opportunity and-after viewing Earth from that vantage point-how fortunate he was.

      1. JLM

        .I’ve met several astronauts. They are very special guys. Sometimes people fail to appreciate what great pilots most of them were and are.I remember being at dinner eating a huge steak and someone said: “In the history of mankind, you have had a view–a singular view–that no other human beings have ever had.” Something like that.That’s always stuck in my head. Imagine those guys had a view of Earth that billions of others will never have. Wow! Billions.JLM.

          1. JLM

            .Great stuff. This is the aspiration level of America and what we are missing right now — a great cause. We are underwhelming our place in the world.We are the guys who brought peace to the world and went to the moon. We need to get our mojo back.JLM.

          2. Pete Griffiths

            A friend of mine was one of the producers of the film. He has incredible stories about these guys.(change of pace for my friend – he used to run global delivery for accenture, but has had a lifelong interest in space)nothing rallies a people like a great cause and we are indeed sadly lacking one that people can embrace with conviction – god knows we have enough candidates

          3. sigmaalgebra

            (1) Build safe, efficient, cheap nuke electric generating plants that make electric power “too cheap to meter”.(2) Use some of that electric power to convert coal and water into gasoline, Diesel, and jet fuel to have dirt cheap motor fuel.(3) Use some of the jet fuel for a new super sonic transport.(4) Fully fund, with a lot of political pressure and glory, cancer research.(5) Fully fund, with a lot of political pressure and glory artificial intelligence research.(6) Send a lot of robots to Mars. When they can come and go reliably, send some people.(7) Invent some really strong rope and build a space elevator — put mass into orbit dirt cheap.(8) If we have a decent chance of success, fund the search for dark matter.(9) Engineer and build dirt cheap computer hard/software as general purpose modules for automating everything in sight, with careful attention to security, system administration, system management, with nearly no attention from humans. Then for the economy have that be humans managing computers, managing computers, …, several levels deep, doing the work, all there is to be done, and raising GDP/person by several factors of 10.10? Sure, a couple has two kids, both work, and they make $80 K a year. With a factor of 10, one parent can stay home, the other can cut back from 80 hours a week to 40, and they can still make $200 K a year, and they can spend it.Another factor of 10 will be $2 million a year for a nice house, nice furnishings, nice cars, the best private educations for the kids, and a summer place in the mountains.With another factor of 10, a nicer house, a yacht, nice vacations to, say, Switzerland, Aspen, Tahiti, Australia, etc., savings, and retire after a few years,With another factor of 10, fund some really ambitious projects in art and science.That was 4 factors of 10 or a factor of 10,000 or do in 12 minutes what takes a year now. That’s why we want 4 factors of 10, and the only way to get there is to have the computers doing the work.(10) Crowd source that one!

          4. Mark Essel


          5. JamesHRH

            Have you read Post American World by Fareed Zakaria? Compelling case for a new position in the world for America.

          6. Mac

            Wow! Thanks, Pete. This is very special for me. I had the honor and privilege of being on the Cape the night Gene and Apollo 17 launched. Even more fortunate, I had secured guest passes to watch Apollo 17 from the VIP viewing area beside the Vehicle Assembly Building. An incredible moment when the Saturn 5 lit up the night sky and thundered away from the pad. I could do a very long post on that moment.I also had the good fortune of meeting Gene eight months earlier at the launch of Apollo 16 standing in the same VIP viewing site. Just an awesome experience.

          7. Pete Griffiths

            We should have a whole thread on this. Exceptional moments in human history. Exceptional extraordinary people.

        1. Mac

          Yes. The best of the best…the Right Stuff. It IS amazing the view they had. The historical significance is hard to get your head around when you think about the billions of people that have inhabited this planet and only 10 have stood on the moon’s surface and looked back. We are fortunate to have been around when it happened.One day I hope to have an opportunity to describe to you what it was like to stand by the Vehicle Assembly Building the night Apollo 17 launched. Literally breathtaking. Probably a lot like cruising in BRC.

        2. JamesHRH

          Sat @ dinner this spring w Cmdr Chris Hadfield. Kids saw him speak earlier in the day. They has me ask him what he would have done if he had not become an astronaut: Prof of Aeronautics working w leading test pilots.When he chose to dream to be am astronaut, no one other than Russians & Yanks had been in space. Canada had no space agency either.Pretty unique dude.

    2. kirklove

      This saying hangs in my high school wrestling room. Hated it because it meant more wind sprints 😉

      1. reece

        learn to love it, buddy… it’s exactly what entrepreneurship is all about — the saying, and the sprints 😉

        1. kirklove

          Well we never lost during my four years there (proud of that) So don’t need to, it’s been thoroughly engrained. Trust me. 😉

          1. reece

            love it

          2. awaldstein

            no loss? wow. what weight class may I ask.I never got beyond the regionals myself so you are now my hero!

          3. kirklove

            Ha. I lost. Plenty. Though as a team we were undefeated in my four years. I was small and scrappy and wrestled 119 my senior year. Made it to the quarter finals of states.Great memories and great discipline that set me up well to handle a lot of things in life.

          4. awaldstein

            You and me both. Hyperactive, edgy teen I was found some focus in wrestling. 157 class. Lost a bit, got mono after the regionals and dropped out.Seriously loved the sport and all that it did for me.

    3. Nick Devane

      “Diligence is the mother of luck”

  4. Martin De Saulles

    So perhaps the old saying, “you make your own luck” is true

  5. andyswan

    My grandpa was lucky he made it through droughts. I was lucky I got expelled from Law School. Fred was lucky hia career survived the dot Com crash. Pappy is lucky his bourbon became a hit after decades of disaster.Whether you think of yourself as a cork in the stream or captain of your ship, you’re probably right.

    1. JimHirshfield

      “My grandma was lucky he made it…”#notjudging

      1. pointsnfigures


        1. andyswan

          They were Hoosiers but after hearing her talk about sewing buttons for 9 cents an hour and coming home to chop the chicken’s head off and cook it before Grandpa came in at sundown— I think saying that beautiful lady was more “manly” than most of today’s males is a compliment 🙂

      2. andyswan

        hahaha fixed

      3. LE

        If my bubba had batsim she’d be my grandfather.

  6. LaMarEstaba

    I’m fairly certain that the comments section will become a repository for adages and quotes related to luck.’Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.’ – Henry Ford

  7. Jordan Thaeler

    You can think positively all you want, but the unicorn wins are a function of market timing and that is beyond anyone’s mindset.

  8. jason wright

    time to get technical;…is Wiseman using the right word to describe the factor he’s writing about?

  9. WA

    It’s a world of those who manifest purposefully and those who do not.

  10. RichardF

    damn I thought this was going to be a Daft Punk review….”like the legend of the phoenix”

  11. LIAD

    Luck as a word has connotations of fortune smiling on you and good stuff happening as a result. Absolute garbage.Luck implies passivity and randomness. The antithesis of reality.I’m not sure how to define luck, but I know it’s not sitting on your ass waiting for stars to collide.I forget who said; the harder I worked the luckier I got.

    1. Chimpwithcans

      Gary Player said that about practice and golf 🙂

      1. Mac

        I didn’t remember that. Thanks.

        1. Chimpwithcans

          I remembered it, but my short game is proof of lack of implementation!

          1. Mac

            🙂 Par for me as well.

    2. JimHirshfield

      Agreed. Luck is being used here as a gimmick. More people interested in getting lucky than getting successful; the former sounds easy, the latter sounds hard.

    3. andyswan

      Chance is real, therefore luck is real. Consistent luck (or lack of luck) is not.The house isn’t lucky and the slot player isn’t unlucky.The key is to know that no matter which one you get, it doesn’t mean shit.

    4. marc_h

      I agree with this sentiment completely but at the same time I think there’s another side to “luck” where beneficiaries of it take far too much credit for their own goodfortune. Sometimes a positive outcome is overwhelmingly attributable to something totally random, unforeseeable, and over which the person had zero control or influence. What annoys me is when such an event occurs and the “preparation” required to act on it was miniscule, the results dramatic, and the guy or gal wants to claim all of it as a credit to his or her own brilliance, hard work, etc.I wish people would get over themselves and just say, damn that was lucky.I’ll take “better lucky than good” any time because it’s not an either-or proposition.

  12. John Revay

    saw this tweet by Bill Gurley a few weeks back – watched video this past weekendAwesome way to use an hour @mjmauboussin “The Success Equation: Untangling Skill and Luck” thx @pkedrosky— Bill Gurley (@bgurley) July 24, 2014

  13. Rob Underwood

    James Altucher writes on this topic a lot too, and one of things he insists is that to be lucky, one must exercise. My own experience is that when I started to get serious about exercise, I felt better, looked better, and things generally went better day to day. Could be placebo effect, and there is lots of argument to be had about causality vs. correlation. But generally the days, weeks, and months when I make exercise (in my case CrossFit, powerlifting, and running) a priority, I get more lucky.

    1. andyswan

      no question. better looking people get lucky more often

      1. Rob Underwood

        Well played, Andy

      2. kevando


      3. LE

        I always said I wanted my daughters to be attractive but not so attractive that they end up like one of those girls on “48 Hours” that gets murdered because she got pursued by so many of the wrong type of guys.Being attractive is really important. I think though there is definitely a downside to being to attractive. (Especially if the brains aren’t able to keep up with the attention received..)

    2. ShanaC

      CrossFit makes me nervous.But exercising is not not an option

  14. Scott Barnett

    Luck is also about odds and perception – the more things you try, the more likely one of them will work out the way you like. And people generally only remember the things that worked out.

    1. LE

      the more things you tryA big thing that factors into that is time and whether the serendipity is partly fun to begin with so there is no cost and little pain but maybe even pleasure. [1]For example my dad was a member of a health club for many years. Through the people he met there he did some deals. But he was a member for a long long time and he did it for another reason (to work out). He would always tell me to join because it worked well for him. But he was different. He liked socializing and schmoozing at the club and also he didn’t like to exercise on his own (I guess). So the deals were a bonus but not a reason to join a club and be a member for, say 30 or 40 years because maybe something would happen.[1] It’s one thing to send an email and it’s another thing to attend a trade show or cold call in person. And even more a trade show you have to fly to another city and stay over at and pay for.

  15. Conrad Ross Schulman

    Replace the word Luck with VC. “I’ve always thought of myself as a VC”

  16. Robert Heiblim

    Yes, love the Monty Python reference and of course the only thing we can really control is our attitude.

  17. William Mougayar

    In other words,- “Your Attitude Determines Your Altitude.”There is a great motivational poster with that motto. In work and life.

    1. Ana Milicevic

      William – one of my favorite books this year is “An astronaut’s guide to life on Earth’ by your fellow Candian Cmdr. Chris Hadfield. He explores the topic of attitude, readiness, being prepared and its influence on luck with much joy and panache. If you haven’t read it yet I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

      1. William Mougayar

        Thanks for the recommendation Ana. I will check it out!

  18. timraleigh

    I always feel lucky when I read your posts! Thanks

  19. Tracey Jackson

    There is also a certain amount of personal responsibility in luck. Attitude is huge.I think we learn the most about luck when we find ourselves in the place we are not feeling so lucky.When things go wrong or do not turn out as planned, most people pass the buck and make a lot of excuses as why it has nothing to do with them.It’s the fault of the first VC who didn’t see the potential and invest more sooner. It’s the fault of the engineer who didn’t do it the way I said. It’s the market’s fault. My high school teacher for not skipping me a grade and I would have gotten into the work force sooner. It’s everybody’s fault but ours. Seeing where we need to improve ourselves the next time opportunity arrives is a huge part of luck. In that way we often times we make our own. Or we learn what we do to prevent luck from coming our way.

  20. pointsnfigures

    Sometimes you are lucky, sometimes not. Important not to rely on pure luck. But, if it happens you take advantage of it. When I traded, I used to have losing out trades, and sometimes winning out trades. Fortunately for me, they were never massive losers.

    1. LE

      Curious if as in sales “when you’re hot your hot when not your not” is true with trading?The reason it works in sales is (in part) because when you are hot your mind is more positive and able to make decisions and strategize quicker and with more accuracy. And you are really smarter for an instance. It all just clicks. Additionally when you approach the nth buyer they can sort of feel your positive halo and glow instead of your depressing looser like ness. That goes a long way in convincing someone to agree with what you are saying.I don’t gamble but I would imagine it works the same way with winning streaks at the Poker table. When you are winning your brain is simply high and is working better, more efficiently, and making better betting decisions. That would be my theory, as a non gambler.

      1. pointsnfigures

        sometimes it happens in trading. out trades were the bane of the floor traders existence. they were trades you made that didn’t match up in the morning. the worst ones were where there was a quantity out, a buy vs buy or sell vs sell-or the other trader just didn’t know the trade. You were subject to where the market was the next day from the previous days price. Usually they never worked out……

  21. Teddy D

    Fred – do you think this means startups should (a) fail fast, or (b) survive long enough to get lucky?

  22. Dale Patterson

    That “resilient attitude” bit is definitely the truth.

  23. kevando

    This is fantastic. I am going to put that quote as a requirement in all our job postings..

  24. Alex Wolf

    “I’d rather be lucky than rich” – my mother.

  25. JLM

    .The most important thing in any negotiation is to give yourself a chance to get lucky.You have to be prepared to be lucky.JLM.

    1. bsoist

      You have to be prepared to be lucky.Yes, but you also need to be prepared to be lucky.

    2. Rohan

      I heard a nice one the other day, JLM.It doesn’t matter how smart you are, it matters which train you are on.So, give yourself a chance at being lucky by jumping on a few trains that appear to be going places.

      1. JLM

        .In life, you have to be paying attention. I cannot tell you the fortunate happenstances that have smacked me just because I happened to be awake at the right moment.You must stay alert in life.This is particularly true about meeting people. Like you, my friend.JLM.

        1. BillMcNeely

          Stay alert stay alive

          1. JLM

            .Stay home, stay dry.I went to Recondo school myself.JLM.

        2. Rohan

          Likewise – I got very lucky too.and you are too kind, JLM! :-DThough, you might say there is no such thing as “too kind..” haha

        3. Emily Merkle

          yesssssPay Attention and Listen.

      2. John Revay

        Nice one Rohan…my friend!

        1. Rohan

          Long time no hear John! I hope you are doing good! 🙂

          1. John Revay

            Doing well…just many balls in the air!

  26. Brandon Burns

    I’ve recently learned that I have a weakness: tunnel vision. When I’m working towards a goal, I focus. But I also miss detours that could lead to better destinations. Focus isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Working on that…

    1. Jim Peterson

      Hi Brandon, Deepak calls this the law of detachment. Work toward the goal, but leave a spot open in your brain for an unexpected path to open up.

      1. Brandon Burns

        I love it when I find out that my personal experience is not only not unique, but has been named by someone else. Lol.

      2. Brandon Burns

        I love it when I find out that my personal experience is not only not unique, but has been named by someone else. Lol.

    2. LE

      Focus isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.There is a great deal of survivorship bias with focus and success. Otoh not having focus is a great way to keep yourself open to a Plan B and have other irons in the fire.For example many people who have gone up the corporate ladder have this great focus on their jobs and lack of creativity or curiousity that allows them to just focus focus focus and not get distracted by other stimulating things.But if those people lose their jobs they end up being lost sheep out there not able to really uncover any new possibilities. Other than have a recruiter give them a new opportunity.

      1. Brandon Burns

        In other news, I’m in your country. Vancouver has just become one of my new fav spots.

        1. LE

          I’m not in Canada. (You probably meant to reply to someone else).

          1. Brandon Burns

            For some reason I thought you were apart of the AVC Canadian contingent. Whoops!

      2. Brandon Burns

        In other news, I’m in your country. Vancouver has just become one of my new fav spots.

  27. Mac

    Steve Blank posted a relative comment from Kathryn Gould on his blog today.”Put yourself in the way of success – get in front of an important wave and ride it.”

    1. LE

      I worked for a short period with Steve Blank (early 90’s) back when he was a little bit more aggressive than he is today. It was at a company that was doing fine while tending to the low hanging fruit but went bust after Apple changed their product. Unfortunately quoting things and predicting waves are two different degrees of difficulty. In this case the wave changed and the company had no plan of action. All the marketing was great that Steve executed on as long as the opportunity was there.Personally quotes like that, to me, are near worthless. Kind of close to the one that says “skate to where the puck is going to be”.Anyway I just scanned for that point in the blog. It’s based on the fact that she choose to work at Oracle and the right things happened afterwords. She took a step down and it worked (in this case). Likewise if Larry Ellison had lost his vision or screwed up she would have ended up possibly in a worse situation. It’s a nice survivorship bias story of course.Now of course if someone already is Larry Ellison then the point would be more valid vs. working for Joe Blow. Like if Warren Buffet offers you a job you take the job.

      1. Mac

        I couldn’t agree with you more. Good timing is a wonderful thing. However, I’m now convinced that some people have an instinctive gift for it and others can come out smelling like a rose regardless of the situation. I don’t think I have a talent for either one.

        1. LE

          I’m now convinced that some people have an instinctive gift for itWell one thing about Steve is that he comes across well and definitely talks a good game. Which doesn’t mean he doesn’t know his shit (or some shit )but he definitely has a gift for delivering that shit that he knows and getting people to do what he wants them to do. That’s very important.He is also good at marketing himself and bragging (in some cases humble bragging) about things that he has done. mean look at the picture of his “Ranch” at the top. Have no idea real estate wise how big that is or where it is located or what it cost but it looks impressive. I mean it might be 1.5 million or 3 million but it looks much more impressive than it probably cost. All that is marketing and I don’t think (knowing how Steve operates) that is an accident or an after thought.

  28. lisa hickey

    It’s important to note that attitude isn’t everything. If you look at the ‘money quote’:My research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.Attitude does help with getting past the difficult times — “lucky” people see those hard times only as problems to be solved, the same way there are problems to be solved every day. And yes, that is attitude. But everything else is taking action—not only creating and noticing chance opportunities, but acting on them. And as others have said, intuition comes from analyzing data at a really high level until you internalize it.I would re-phrase that quote into a step-by-step plan:1) Believe all problems are solvable 2) Actively work on your intuition by measuring your results until they become intuitive. 3) Once you are a problem-solving, intuitive person—act on creative/chance opportunities that others are too afraid to act on.That will sure look like luck to outsiders.

  29. Gerald

    And lucky to have Yahoo! continually buy your investments :)(Geocities $3.6B, Tumblr $1B, Flurry $200m)

  30. Aaron Klein

    “The harder I work, the luckier I get. That’s true, but still, don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.”—Abraham Lincoln

    1. ShanaC

      how did lincoln know about the internet

      1. Pete Griffiths

        He was an unusually prescient guy.

      2. Nick Ambrose

        Al Gore told him about it in advance.

      3. James Morcom

        Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

  31. kirklove

    Timely as I head to the Borgata poker room tomorrow for some no-limit. All in!

  32. iggyfanlo

    Wow. I occult agree more. It’s the one skill I’ve tried to teach or pass on to miss you children, but where I have been largely unsuccessful.Any help or insight there would be appreciated

  33. johndodds

    The problem with this is that I see two different types of “luck”. They’re almost equivalent to systematic and non-systematic risk.Wiseman and co are right about attitude to and preparedness for one category of luck, but there’s another random walk type of luck – the only type I think that really warrants the moniker – and I’m not sure there’s anything we can do about that.



    1. jithu

      Reply u face book team don’t play around pls deliver what I required

  35. Mark Essel

    No matter how much good luck comes my way, I’m always open to more fortune and favor. Make it rain.Tools of the luck trade: – rabbits foot, no gross – four leaf clover, “It has been estimated that there are approximately 10,000 three-leaf clovers for every four-leaf clover”. Uhm these grew all over the place when I was a kid. – caged leprechaun this never works out

  36. Chris Phenner

    “Diligence is the mother of good luck.” – Benjamin Franklin

  37. Richard

    When it comes to attitude, less Fuck more Luck.

  38. SubstrateUndertow

    My research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.The real luck comes of having a role model for this stuff in your youth!

  39. Elie Seidman

    In Good to Great, Collins argues that mediocre companies and great ones both experience similar amounts of good and bad luck – the great companies just capitalize on the good luck more effectively and mitigate the impact of the bad luck by not crossing the “death line”.

  40. LE

    If you always look on the bright side of life, to quote Monty Python, you will have much greater success.The inter relationship of the “bright side” to luck the way I see it is this. If you are self doubting you don’t even go down certain roads. Why bother? It probably won’t work the voice inside your head says to you. [1] If you are filled with optimism and maybe even a bit foolish (that’s important btw.) [2], you won’t rule out an iteration you will just give it a shot. And enough iterations and something sticks. As long as they don’t take away from other opportunities. Or take to much time.Recently I sold three things the following ways. I saw an article in the WSJ, got an idea, and sent an email. ($X0,000 sale). Another time I was watching a TV Reality show, got an idea, and sent an email ($X0,000). Another time I got a spam from someone trying to sell me something (that’s right a spam) sent a reply (to the spam) and $X60,000. Now to be clear the amount of times I did something like this that didn’t work is probably 10x or 30x (I don’t track this by % why bother?). But I didn’t give up after it didn’t work I kept doing the same thing. Why? Because it’s easy enough to fire off an email or to make a phone call when the potential outcome is big enough. And it intuitively made sense to me.The take your jack and shove it parable illustrates this.There’s this traveling salesman who gets stuck one night on a lonely country road with a flat tire and no jack. So he starts walking toward a service station about a mile away, and as he walks, he talks to himself. “How much can he charge me for renting a jack?” he thinks. “One dollar, maybe two. But it’s the middle of the night, so maybe there’s an after-hours fee. Probably another five dollars. If he’s anything like my brother-in-law, he’ll figure I got no place else to go for the jack, so he’s cornered the market and has me at his mercy. Ten dollars more.” He goes on walking and thinking, and the price and the anger keep rising. Finally, he gets to the service station and is greeted cheerfully by the owner: “What can I do for you, sir?” But the salesman will have none of it. “You got the nerve to talk to me, you robber,” he says. “You can take your stinkin’ jack and shove it . .”[1] http://williamhorberg.typep…[2] In case anyone ever reading my comments laughs at some of the things I say there is a benefit to that type of thing.

  41. Carl Rahn Griffith

    Love it. I’m embracing this more and more – was my birthday and our wedding anniversary yesterday and whilst I’m not where I expected and hoped to be in life in business terms I’m thankful for things money can’t buy. I even spoke to my father for first time in 16yrs this week and will see him soon. Have a feeling things will get better soon.

    1. JimHirshfield

      Big events. Happy b-day, anniversary, and reunion.

    2. Emily Merkle

      that is awesomesauce, Carl.

    3. Donna Brewington White

      Looks like I’d better get over to Instagram to see your latest. Happy Birthday and congratulations! Glad to hear that you are feeling encouraged.

  42. BillMcNeely

    You don’t have to win every battle you just have to be around when the tide changes and opportunities arise

  43. Donna Brewington White

    I really resonate with the Daft Punk song but not in the way they meant it. Although I think there comes a point where getting enough rest is also an important part of the equation. Which requires working smarter. The luckiest people I know seem to have mastered that balance.

  44. Ryan Blair

    Ed Catmull (of Pixar fame) has some really prescient things to say about the role of luck and chance in success in Creativity, Inc (….He devotes an entire chapter to it called “Change and Randomness.” I think he would agree with the assertion that a resilient attitude can transform bad luck into good. However, he also says (and I’m paraphrasing) that we need to submit to randomness and ensure that we don’t mistakenly attribute success to our own smarts and tenacity without respecting the seemingly infinite number of external factors in our daily lives that contributed to that good outcome.This intellectual modesty, he argues, helps us make better decisions going forward.

  45. Pete Griffiths

    Agree – within reason.

  46. bobmonsour

    I’ve had my share of good luck too. And most of the times when I ended up on the wrong end of things, those were the times when I decided to go against my gut. I rationalized a situation and discounted my gut when it was telling me that something was not right about it. It reminds me of this story of the young man…told to me by a good friend just a week ago yesterday.Young man: “What is the secret to success?”Wise man: “Good judgement.”Young man: “How to I get good judgement?”Wise man: “Experience.”Young man: “How do I get experience?”Wise man: “Bad judgement.”

  47. ShanaC

    I’m an inherently anxious* person, especially about my short term. Yet somehow I believe that one day, I will have the life I want. I’m not sure how I will get there, but that’s part of luck, I suppose.The hard part of it is understanding emotions versus what is in front of you. Dealing is hard. That’s the hardest part of learning luck – it’s not innate. It is one of the least innate things in the world*Anxious – the kind that keeps you up at night. I intellectually understand it for what it is, it doesn’t mean I sleep though.

    1. Emily Merkle

      yeah … <sigh> 🙂

  48. Adrian Meli

    Very interesting article. I am surprised there was a discernible difference in the picture test he performed. I’ll have to pull up more on his studies, but the general premise seems sound. Crossing my fingers right now!

  49. jason

    I’m not trying to start a flame war, but from my perspective this comment section sounds a bit tone deaf. It’s a little too easy for a group of highly successful people to agree that good fortune is generated by a combination of skill, hard work, and character.I feel lucky when I realize that many, many people live in a world where “chance opportunities” and “positive expectations” are very rare indeed.

  50. Joe Marchese

    People’s actions (and outcomes) are correlated with the way they see the future coming toward them. So if you see a positive future, your actions align to make good stuff happen. That’s the essence of self-fulfilling prophecies.When events unfold in a way that thwart your intentions, there’s always a way to turn that around. When you get lemons… go find salt and tequila.

  51. marc_h

    I’d rather be lucky than good. Fortunately, it’s not an either-or proposition.

  52. LE

    Attached image is great marketing by Cloudflare. Showed up when the AVC site timed out earlier today. Very descriptive and a vast improvement over the simple “gateway error” that used to appear.

  53. Alex Dunsdon

    Love this. Makes retrospective sense of our intuitive practices

  54. sigmaalgebra

    “Luck”. Very welcome but tough to count on. I try to count on belt, suspenders, “measure twice, saw once”, trust in mathematical proof and mathematical physics and question everything else, but luck is welcome just the same!Maybe I can get much farther with a kind word and luck than with a kind word alone.Or, maybe working hard and smart with luck than working hard and smart alone.Sounds like working hard and smart is overrated and just wait for luck? Uh, while waiting, try working hard and smart! Or, maybe luck “favors only the prepared mind!”.But, this just in:Good grief. “Brad Burnham from Union Square Ventures”? But maybe OT; still, good grief: Athttp://www.businessinsider….is an interview with CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince withMP: We’ve actually never maximized our valuation. Our last valuation, if it wasn’t the lowest valuation, it was close to it. But we really wanted to have Brad Burnham from Union Square Ventures, because he’s just a really deep thinker on the future of the Internet and how things work. Just maximizing valuation has never really been the primary driver for us than making sure we could find the right people. It’s better to be long-term greedy than short-term greedy.Did I mention good grief? In the words of Darth Vader, “impressive”.When I think about all the things I might to for security for my Web site, soon I think of CloudFlare and then just get back to the things particular to my Web site!

  55. Lachesis Ryder

    I used to think like this and then I got cancer

  56. Kyle Reese

    I actually wanted to reference the post you linked to form 2008 “I Got Lucky.” In it you essentially said that the best way to become a successful VC is to gain operating expertise in a specific industry. My memory might be a bit fuzzy but didn’t Bill Gurley and Peter Fenton have limited experience before entering the VC community? I am sure there are several others that I could list as well (you). Right there you have three of he most successful VC’s in the country. Furthermore aren’t there some benefits of trying to get into venture capital at an earlier age? Particularly because of the steep learning curve (7-10 years) and the fact that the technology world is a young persons game? Wouldn’t you want an person who was well versed in venture capital by the time they are in there mid-30s? I would guess their “luck” would begin to compound over time with experience.I guess I just feel there multiple paths to becoming a great VC. At least thats what I’m hoping.

  57. Jeff Jones

    Skill, talent and luck help you earn success in Monopoly as in life…unless the game is rigged. Fascinating psychology experiment by Paul Piff, social psychologist UC Berkeley, on the impact of wealth on human behavior and how successful people discount the role of luck in their success.

  58. berick

    I agree with the general thrust, but think the self-fulfilling selection of “lucky” people, and the self-definitions, limit the lesson. There is objective “bad luck” – such as suffering a terrible disease, or falling in love with a spouse who appears nearly ideal but later suffers from some problem such as addiction. I have to add, too, that the “Python” song was mocking “always look on the bright side” as a kind of idiocy, though perhaps the only way to survive in that black humor scene.

  59. Mark Birch

    Reminds me of a post I wrote a while back ago. This was the closer:”Luck is what you make yourself and how you turn opportunities into wins.”

  60. Emily Merkle

    It’s intuition, but honestly, you gotta gut it out. Resilience.

  61. Emily Merkle

    Part of “luck”. Sowing seeds, painful though they may be.

  62. Emily Merkle

    oh hey just want to throw this out there – I know I previously bashed Foursquare; have had a change of thinking. 🙂 happens. Join me if you’d like. @MerkleMerkle NYC

  63. harris497

    Of late, I’ve come to realize the information I allow to get my attention affects my mood/state of mind and ergo my luck. Try it for one day, stop listening to the news and surround yourself with positive affirmations, people, and uplifting literature, and you will become happier and perhaps luckier.

  64. Jeffrey Leventhal

    I feel lucky to have read this

  65. Jude

    Fred – I’ve worked for one of your portfolio companies and I really want to work as an associate at a venture fund. However, I want to do it before I’m thirty years old (currently, twenty six) by doing it the following way:- Advise and get some clear big wins for startups in London, whether this be positive pr, help with brand, help with advertising, campaigns etc. This is my speciality- Network and get on the radar of every VC in London. Offer to help their portfolio companies and actually get some results.- After I hit 5-6 solid years of operational experience from the marketing/advertising perspective and get a good track record in the areas I’ve described above apply to be an associate at a fund.Would love to hear your thoughts/feedback on such a strategy if its not too much to ask. In your view would this actually be attractive to a venture fund?

  66. Christian Habermann

    I’m a big believer in having an “attitude of gratitude” which I find helps me to stay grounded, in the moment and positive. I’m also a big believer in grit. Great post,thx!Christian”Lucky” Founder of

  67. Matt Zagaja

    If 100 people are training to become expert coin flippers we’ll expect some of them to be really good at it, some of them to be average, and some of them to be rather poor. The bad coin flippers are likely to become discouraged and take up dice rolling. The average ones will probably be fine, and the lucky ones will achieve fame and fortune. They will then make a whole lot of money selling advice to the average and poor coin flippers that are still trying to be resilient. What good fortune this psychologist has had :).

    1. Emily Merkle

      you make your own luck 😉

  68. Richard

    But there is more…., new theories suggest that your gut is a second brain and bacteria play a role in how it functions.

  69. LE

    The best entrepreneurs I know always know every aspect of their business, from all sides.Agree. Kind of dovetails with my comment regarding focus and how that can be confining. As an entrepreneur you have to have hands in many pots and be able to achieve 85% effectiveness on a wide variety of subjects seat of the pants or able to learn quickly. A little bit of this, a little bit of that and a large portion of at least one thing.

  70. JimHirshfield

    I’m getting hungry

  71. LE

    There is no question that food can help you do deals.Food puts your mind in a happy state and a happy state makes you more likely to be optimistic and think that something can actually happen. [1] You are receptive. You think “yeah that’s possible”.I suspect this is why so many deals are done around food or connections are made when around food (and of course alcohol). Or women. (Of course it’s also people simply parroting what others do to be sure..)Simply because the temporary euphoria causes the brain to be positive and think anything is possible (makes sure get the contract signed of course or at least a commitment.)This probably seems obvious but I’m not sure most people realize the underpinnings of why it actually happens (the happy state of the brain, which is my point). Knowledge of why is important (reason I don’t like pithy sayings you need to be aware of the basis in order to be able to deviate when necessary).Edit: Also will add that the sugar at a certain level sharpens the thought process. As long as it doesn’t end up doing the opposite because of overload.

  72. awaldstein

    Sugar nutritionally sharpens the thought process–I’m all ears.

  73. LE

    My awesome weekend cocktail (I am at the office almost all weekends) is bagel, lox and a little bit of creamcheese along with a Starbucks Mocha (or maybe a Panera Cafe Mocha).God knows I never have a better morning than when I have that and further I can usually avoid eating until dinner so I don’t end up with an afternoon food drag.Along the lines of sugar I’ve also found that fruit in the PM can make me tired sometimes but fruit and whipped cream doesn’t. Apparently has to do with the fat smoothng out the sugar load. (Dark chocolate chips also help with a bit of a caffeine boost).As with everything the titration of all of this is key. Not to little not to much.