Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire is a luck expert: In numerous surveys and experiments he has researched what luck actually is and he has published various books and publications in which he advocates that luck is merely an attitude. Those people, who classify themselves as blessed with no luck, get exactly what they expect: hard luck.
The outcome of the research shows that people who describe themselves as lucky share one common characteristic: they are all exceptionally good at looking for and recognising opportunities. Wiseman’s luck strategies are actually banal: maximise random chances, listen to intuition, have confidence in your future, recognise luck in misfortune.
One explanation as to why some people are less lucky (less successful) than others can be found in an experiment carried out by Wiseman in 2003. His experiment follows that of Stanley Milgram Small World Experiment which suggests that each human (social member of society) is connected to every other human in the world by a surprisingly short chain of acquaintances.
Wiseman’s experiment began with Internet posts inviting the general public to participate and some 500 people applied. 100 were then randomly selected and handed a package with the task of forwarding it to ‘Katie’, a 27-year-old student of art and history at Manchester University, who once worked in public relations in London, and enjoys cycling.
All the initial volunteers and subsequent recipients were asked to send the parcel only to someone they knew on first-name terms. Ten per cent of the parcels eventually reached Katie and amazingly, there were just four people in total linking the initial volunteers with Katie.
The tiny number of people linking the volunteers to Katie supports the idea that humans may indeed all be linked to one another via a remarkably short human chain. ‘The Luck Factor’, published in 2004 by Richard Wiseman, reveals that lucky people frequently experience the ‘small-world’ phenomenon, and that such lucky meetings have a dramatic and positive effect on their lives. In contrast, unlucky people rarely report small-world experiences.
However, in his experiment approximately 20% of the volunteers did not forward their parcels at all, guaranteeing that their packages would never reach Katie. These volunteers had gone to considerable lengths to ensure that they participated in the study, but had then dropped out at the very first stage. Interestingly, the vast majority of these people had previously rated themselves as unlucky. These people hadn’t even tried to achieve success and had given up at the first opportunity (here is the complete description of the experiment).
The conclusion of this experiment is that luck and success depend on taking opportunities and that people who are not shy in creating and seizing opportunities seem to be more successful.