Monday, 12 March 2012

Feeling Lucky?

Finally that spark of motivation and positivity I felt when the clocks struck 2012 returned this weekend, thanks to being in the company of inspirational writers at the Scottish Association of Writers conference, and also due to spending most of my day off yesterday reading the wonderful book, 'The Luck Factor' written by (my new hero) Dr Richard Wiseman. This book has helped me make sense of training I've been delivering in my job the past few months and also reminded me not to give up on sending my novel out and to make the most of any opportunity placed in my way!

In 'The Luck Factor' Dr. Wiseman presents his results of eight years of scientific research into the concept of luck - ultimately trying to determine if there is more to luck than just chance...

I don't want to plagarise his book on here as you should really all go out and buy it (or I'll give you a loan of it.) I discovered this book in a round-about way. I never talk about my day job on here, so for those of you not in the know, I'm a careers adviser. For the past few months as part of my job I've been delivering training to my fellow careers adviser colleagues, focusing on a 'Coaching Approach to Guidance'. Part of the training involves revising career theories such as 'Planned Happenstance'.

Planned Happenstance theory recognises that a lot of people end up in a career due to chance encounters/opportunites, rather than giving a lot of logical thought to their career choice. When you delver deeper into the theory it explains that opportunities rarely happen by mere 'chance'- you have to be an active agent and remain open to them, get off the sofa and actually actively look for things... One of my fellow trainers then told us about Derren Brown's 'Experiment Series', recommending we watch 'The Secret of Luck'(which makes interesting viewing. If you find this post remotely interesting then you'll probably enjoy it too). This episode draws on the research of Dr Wiseman. When I mentioned this to a careers adviser I was delivering training to she said she had a copy of Wiseman's book, 'The Luck Factor' so she brought it in for me to read and very kindly told me to keep it. I now want to recommend all of my clients read this book as seriously if everyone adopted a 'lucky' attitude it would make my job so much easier... (on another note I am now convinced that Derren Brown is actually a tv persona of Dr. Wiseman himself as he seems to be borrowing a lot of his techniques/experiements/studies to display on his shows...)

Ok so I'm sure you're all dying to know what 'the secret of luck' is. This is a very basic summary of what Wiseman found (for a deeper understanding you will have to read the book for yourself! Or ask me about it the next time you see me)

Wiseman found that Luck is a State of Mind and there are four principles of Luck (with Twelve sub principles).

Lucky people tend to be more extrovert, less anxious, are good at listening to their intuition and acting upon it (also tend to notice and act upon opportunities), are open to new experiences, think postively about the future and have positive expecations of others...a lot of them also engage in positive visualisation.

The section talking about positive visualisation, or 'dream wishing' as one of his research particpants called it, reminded me a lot of the concept of 'Cosmic Ordering'; where you visualise something positive happening in some part of your life and then through positive thinking and visualisation you manifest it. I've read a lot of real life articles featuring people who have 'cosmic ordered' their perfect partner or their perfect house... but thinking back to those stories none of them were passive in their approaches - they actively placed themselves in situations/places which enhanced the possibility of the positive thing occuring. (so that relates to Wiseman's point about lucky people being open to new experiences and acting upon any opportunties placed in their way...)

Wiseman also found lucky people have the ability to find the good in bad situations. To quote: they will, 'find...a solution rather than fixate...on the problem.' (pg. 167).

In the closing sections of his book Wiseman introduces his 'Luck School' where he invites the reader to try out practical techniques he has devised to enhance luck. This is supposed to be conducted over a monthly period so starting from next week (seeing as we are now on Tuesday) I'm going to try this out. Once my month has ended I'll update you on here and let you know if my life has improved miraculously!! (I should point out that I don't necessarily consider myself to be an unlucky person but I'm sure there are lots of things I could be doing to become more lucky).

At the writing weekend, which I referred to at the start of this post, the fantastic children's author, Cathy MacPhail, talked about how she gets ideas for her books and again this ties in with the whole 'lucky' way of thinking as this is a lady who has her eyes and ears open to opportunities that come her way. One of her stories mirrors one of Wiseman's 'lucky' participants, in that they both pay close attention to radio broadcasts and have acted upon things they heard leading on to good things. Cathy mentioned how one radio broadcast led her to enter a short story competition which she won, then it got expanded into a radio series, and then was commissioned for a TV series. She said she often picks up ideas for stories from broadcasts, from newspapers, from people she meets, things she sees. She is a great example of someone being an active agent in creating and responding to chance opportunities.

I also got talking to another children's author, Nicola Morgan,at the weekend who told me to go to a writing festival which takes place down in York, one which looks fantastic (giving attendees one on one time with agents). I'd never heard of this before so I'm thinking this is a chance opportunity being flung my way that I should act upon...

I'll leave you with a funny thing that happened yesterday. Every once in a while I check out the teenage fiction section of bookshops to see what's current and who's publishing what. A book I picked up yesterday was published by Chicken House; it looked like it had a bit of a darker edge, like my current YA novel which is doing the rounds, and I thought, bah, Chicken House are closed to unsolicited submissions so I can't submit to them. Before starting to write this blog post I tried to look up Wiseman's luck factor website (which is no longer at the address published in the 2003 edition of his book I've got) and in my search bar it brought up Chicken House's website instead as it was in my history (their website happens to be! haha). So I went on to their site and discovered that they are about to open their 2013 Children's Book Competition, asking for children's or teenage novel submissions. Needless to say I am going to enter. And I will be sure to do lots of 'Dream Wishing' along the way...

Here's a link to Wiseman's blog


  1. I believe that life is what you make it. If you want something to happen, you do all you can to make it so, so that is probably like Dr Wiseman's positive visualisation, whilst taking advantage of all the opportunities that come your way. For example, I decided to self-publish because I couldn't get a mainstream publisher to take on my novel, and that very morning, I saw a post about someone who was setting out to design book covers. I got in touch and she made me a cover beyond my wildest dreams which has certainly helped to sell my book.

  2. This is a fascinating post, Vikki. Many thanks.
    I have seen the Derren Brown programme you mention and it is truly inspirational. In fact, we're going to see him live on stage in May and I can't wait.
    I believe greater slices of luck are handed out to those who keep their minds open and their attitudes positive. I've rarely come across a cloud that hasn't had a silver lining. There is always something good to be extracted, even when a situation appears hopeless. My husband is very good at evaluating any circumstance in which we find ourselves and pointing out the (sometimes half-hidden) benefits. And I'm sure our good luck is achieved from this forward-looking approach.
    I have always thought of myself as very lucky. Blessed, in fact. I've always accepted that things are not often perfect. But they can still be as wonderful as you choose to make them.

  3. Wow - a very interesting, thought-provoking post, Vikki. I attended a class along those lines at Swanwick one summer where we had to visualise being successful. At the end of that year, I won my biggest writing competition so far. It really made me think - and I'd love to read that book.

  4. Definitely life is what you make it Jean and the self publishing idea is interesting, in that you are totally creating your own opportunities. And that was great that you found your perfect cover. Good luck with the novel!

    Hi Joanna, you and your husband both sound like you have positive mindsets like the 'lucky' participants in the study! It definitely makes you think about how that can help put a positive spin on anything life throws your way. Hope you have fun seeing Derren Brown.

    I remember you telling me about that experience, Mum, and that was going through my head when typing the post. Glad you mentioned it! I'll lend you the book too.

  5. That is incredible Vicki! I stumbled upon this blog while going through the Weegie pages and had never heard of anything so obscure...but the more I thought about it the more I realised this has happened to me.
    Every job I have ever had has been through word of mouth or knowing someone that knows someone (I've never actually set foot in a job centre...or a careers office for that matter :P) More surprisingly though is that up until several years ago I was never particularly passionate about writing, if it had not been for a happenstance encounter (on the train of all places) I may never have given it a go and might not have been in the place I am now!

    Funny how big an influence the little things in life can have... :D

    Thought provoking stuff Vicki! Great Blog!

  6. Thanks for dropping by and commenting, SB. It's really interesting to hear about your 'happenstance' encounter (One of Wiseman's participants describes a chance encounter he had on a train one day talking to a stranger which transformed his whole life).
    I'm probably in danger of making myself redundant when people catch onto this whole 'luck' and happenstance thing but actually I'm finding through desribing this to clients it's making them finally understand the importance of them being pro-active (and not relying on me waving a magic careers wand and magicing up a job!)

  7. Vikki, there's lots of food for thought in your post. I was once told by a person I would describe as lucky: 'there's no such thing as luck - you make your own luck in this world.' I wonder if he had read Wiseman's book?

  8. Hi Joan, perhaps he had! It's a good motto for life that one

  9. Hey Vicki, great to meet you at the SAW conference and a really interesting post. Have you read the sci-fi novel 'ringworld'? In that there's a girl who is genetically predisposed towards good luck. You might find it interesting, plus it's a great book. Good luck (natch) with Chicken House anyway! x

  10. Hi Charlotte, thanks for stopping by and great to meet you too. That sounds like an interesting book, will need to check it out! x

  11. It sounds like an interesting book! I do believe we play a big role in how lucky we are, because we tend to notice things, people and opportunities based on the frame of mind we're in and the knowledge and insights we have acquired.

    However, this doesn't automatically mean that people who seem to be out of luck, have caused it for themselves.

    1. It is a very interesting book, K.C, and you're right people will find themselves in 'unlucky' situations at points throughout their life through no fault of their own. It was interesting to read the chapter which focused on how 'lucky' minded people had dealt with any bad situations in their life and most of them had consciously tried to find solutions to problems and tried to find a positive in any situation. Definitely made me think!

  12. I loved The Luck Factor. Your post has inspired me to dig it out and have another read.

  13. Thanks for dropping by Suzanne. I'm still working my way through the 'Luck School' section of the book!