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The Key to Good Luck Is an Open Mind (nautil.us)
396 points by dnetesn on Mar 26, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 138 comments

This is actually a very interesting article. And with the risk of attracting the wrath on internet haters, let me propose something that personally helped me a lot and which seems like a very narrow application of the principles described in the article: meeting romantic partners.

I tend to be more open in talking to strangers and that has opened up worlds of opportunities to me. But the biggest benefit has certainly been in meeting people that I would liked to date. And what I realized (or read somewhere) is that if you live in a large city, you literally run into a lot of people just in the course of your day. e.g. waiting in line at starbucks, taking the train, at concerts/shows etc. And all that is really required is for one party to initiate conversation.

Let me qualify this by saying that I do not condone pestering strangers; that is borderline harassment (especially for women). But when both parties are interested/responsive, it can lead to adventures that you wouldn't have ever expected ....

Chatting up a stranger is not 'borderline harassment'. Harassment is harassment. There's a correct way to approach someone in a non-threatening manner, and more men should take the time to learn how to respectfully strike up conversation with strangers (in both romantic and non-romantic contexts)

Given the cultural norms around dating require men to initiate the conversation 95%+ of the time, there's a real risk of demonizing men's efforts to initiate conversation. If nobody approaches, then a lot of great connections never get formed.

> Given the cultural norms around dating require men to initiate the conversation 95%+ of the time

If that is your impression it may say more about you than the world around you. But of course I don't know where you live.

> there's a real risk of demonizing men's efforts to initiate conversation.

I doubt the species will die out. Perhaps some of those reticent women you know will have to make more of an effort!

This is what they call "Game" and it too is learnable. Being relaxed is a big part of it.

Sadly I believe this term has a misogynist undertone. I learned about talking to women like that and while it had enormous benefits, they also didn't really teach what was appropriate and had to learn them as well as un-learn a few bad habits.

“Game” is not misogynistic. If you think that then I don’t think you quite understand it. It is about a reduction in ego via self acceptance. Self confidence and self worth through emotional intelligence. Basically if you understand the teachings on Daniel Goleman, you will end up with “Game”. I think you think I mean a “player” which I totally agree with you on.

> Let me qualify this by saying that I do not condone pestering strangers; that is borderline harassment (especially for women).

There is really no way to know in advance whether initiating a conversation with a stranger is welcome or not, the only way to find out is to try. It's unreasonable to place the burden of a person to signal "don't impose yourself on me" when you could simply leave them alone and not take the risk of being an inconvenience

I guess it depends on what version of the social contact you think we're all operating with. I'd say the quite minor inconvenience of someone ahead of you in line trying to start a conversation is part of what you sign up for when you go out in public. That is, as long as the initiator is prepared to take the hint when it's clear you don't want to talk.

I take it as a design question. Do we want a society designed for people who like to interact or do we want to design it after the desire for limiting interaction as much as possible?

One time, on a crowded train, an elderly lady just started talking about her visit to her lovely grandchildren and what they had been up to since her last visit. It wasn't a short story and to her it was the most fascinating experience in the world. While telling it she turned her head towards anyone who wasn't looking at her. She had quite the powerful gaze. She wasn't screaming but had a loud voice.

Eventually someone rudely interrupted her to ask her if she could stop talking. She just bluntly told him to go sit some place else. "The train is full of people silently gazing out of the window, people who forgot how to talk with others. What are you waiting for? Off you go?"

At that point the laughter made it apparent that people sitting really far away were also listening to her. She kept staring at him and kept telling him to just go away, go be miserable some place else, don't expect us to share your misery. Being made the center of attention everyone else was also looking at him. Eventually he just got up and left (producing even more laughter)

The moment he got up she continued her story exactly where she left of with a tone of voice as if the entire incident never happened.

The most interesting thing I took from the experience was how confident she was that a person who doesn't like to talk with strangers also doesn't talk back when ordered to piss off. Her involving 30 random strangers in her monologue also ruled out any physical retaliation.

After the story about her visit to the grandchildren she told us she always talked to strangers, she did this her entire life and wasn't about to stop. She got to know many nice people. She didn't like how the last few decades this made her the center of attention but felt obligated to remind us things weren't always like this.

We shouldn't let people like the guy who just left force us to stop talking. They are overstepping the bounds. It isn't for them to decide who you can or cant talk to. "Who does he think he is being so disrespectful to an elderly lady?" When she grew up one would listen to what older people had to say. They've been around, you might learn something.

It was a hilarious experience. I've been talking to random strangers ever since. At times you run into introvert people who obviously didn't talk with anyone for years. Without saying anything they reinforce the idea we should keep doing this.

Trust me, you can PM anyone you like on irc. If they say you can't do that you just tell them you just did.

The funniest resolve for the protesters you inevitably run into when doing this has to be....


> Do we want a society designed for people who like to interact or do we want to design it after the desire for limiting interaction as much as possible?

Personally I would prefer the first one. Like most of people in here, I'd risk a guess.

On the other hand I don't think it's good to have people like your "elderly lady" just casually imposing themselves on a train full of others.

There's a balance in everything.

The point of the story was that she wasn't actually imposing. It's just that the kid she told off was acting like he was representing the other 30 people. The rest of them were probably either indifferent or were entertained by her which is how most people are when you actually talk to them like human beings.

Setting the standard that telling people about your day or telling them about yourself is "imposing" is exactly the kind of thinking that's producing our society where nobody ever has a real conversation unless it's via introduction by a third party and an app first.

This is why when I go out in general (I've lived in Boston, NYC and now Jakarta), I've just wore my head phones. I'm a somewhat tall-ish black guy, so people don't usually want to have a random conversation with me, and if they do (or anyone else is particularly loud about something I could care less about) I can choose to ignore or (dis)engage more easily with an acceptable excuse without becoming annoyed.

>Setting the standard that telling people about your day or telling them about yourself is "imposing" is exactly the kind of thinking that's producing our society where nobody ever has a real conversation unless it's via introduction by a third party and an app first.

Does "real conversation" have to happen in any particular medium, or is it the case that some prefer other mediums for "real conversation" over others?

That is a good question; I will admit that for many people, online conversations are much more meaningful and comfortable than ones "in the flesh". But what I personally like about real conversations (as opposed to virtual) is essentially that you communicate a lot of things i.e. its both verbal and non-verbal. So I think real conversations make more sense to me in only that I understand another human being a lot better than if it were just text on a screen.

Also, real conversations can lead to real friendships and such; I've found that hard to do virtually.

> Do we want a society designed for people who like to interact or do we want to design it after the desire for limiting interaction as much as possible?

How about a society designed to allow people to choose the level of interaction they want dynamically?

>Do we want a society designed for people who like to interact or do we want to design it after the desire for limiting interaction as much as possible?

Second of course. People should interact only if both of them want/need this.

That was a lovely story. It really resonated with me. Thanks for sharing!

I one time walked into a bar and took the seat on the other side of the corner from the only guy sitting there.

I told him about my day. He looked angry at me with very large eyes and a big frown. I just continued my story as if nothing happened. He kept the face on for the first 2 minutes of it. I order a beer and one for my friend here. The added rage in his facial expression was hilarious. I continued talking about my day while drinking the beer. He looked at the glass for a few seconds and decided to drink from it.

The new facial expression was tired but slightly impressed by the way I continued to talk to him completely undisturbed.

Eventually, after 3 beers, the story about my day came to visiting a bar with only one other guest who apparently went to a public place expecting not to be talked to.

He laughed really hard. I said, hey, you got to work with what you have.

He then told the story of the very shitty day he was having. I forgot the details but it was truly a shit day.

> She kept staring at him and kept telling him to just go away, go be miserable some place else, don't expect us to share your misery

From my experience it’s females are more likely to use this argumentation to marginalize the enemy - “nobody wants you, you are alone, go away loser”, etc. Someone might not want to share your misery some time in the future, elderly lady.

Yes, those pesky "females" always ruining the good times of people who just want them to shut the hell up.

My god, what will they do next? Start wearing clothes?

I've signed that part of the contract.

Other people haven't, but if they're irked or just shy, stuff happens.

There's no good way to be sure.

Maybe we could employ some sort of thing we could all wear if we're ok with a random conversation or something?

> Maybe we could employ some sort of thing we could all wear if we're ok with a random conversation or something?

It's called a smile.


Germany is the nation of not smiling. I still strike up conversations and 70% are receptive (and then start smiling). Smiling is not universal.

friendly conversation, sure, but there's enough people who refuse to take a hint that their romantic overture is unwanted. they might even retaliate with really aggressive, angry behavior.

this is rare, but i think it has poisoned the well in some places -- especially for women, these unusual but very frightening situations can make the whole thing have a negative expected value.

The initial interaction is the point for that, not just never speaking to any one. If they politely or brusquely brush you off, it's harassment if you continue. Not for the initial interaction.

There's also loads of non-verbal cues which guide you to who's open to talking to or not. I don't talk to random people much, but I do get asked for directions all the time, even though I'm a 6'2 guy. I think mainly because I'll happily make eye contact and smile at random people who look as if they're a bit confused or lost. I deliver the non-verbal cue that I'm happy to help if they want it. That triggers people in need to ask for help.

If someone struggles picking up on those cues, it might be worth practising at places where people are supposed to be meeting other people. Meetups, networking events, etc.

> I don't talk to random people much, but I do get asked for directions all the time, even though I'm a 6'2 guy.

Same for me (Even when I'm in a city for the first time). My theory was that there is a primate instinct to look for tall males for leadership — I'm calling it Silverback Syndrome.

Weird. I'm a 6 foot tall male, and I also get asked for directions a lot. The most recent absurdity was in Paris Now, I have spent a total of maybe two weeks in Paris in twenty years, I can get by in french, but it must sound like nails on a chalkboard to a native speaker, and I'm pretty obviously american once I open my mouth. Even so, the lady who asked my advice stayed right there while I looked up the address on my phone and attempted (with limited success) to work it out.

I wonder if it really is the height.

http://professormarkvanvugt.com/images/files/heighlteadeship... is a good summary of this well-accepted effect. There are strong correlations between height and income, military rank, likelihood to be a manager, etc.

Could just be a learned behavior; Humans are born short and all the adults are tall.

One of the incredible things about the time I spent living in India is that in Indian society there were far more excuses to talk to people.

For example, to ask for directions (Google maps often not great), or to ask if a restaurant is any good (online reviews often sparse). As a result people are much more likely to talk to each other in regular day-to-day life, and are much more equipped to handle conversations with strangers. I saw strangers talking to each other on trains all the time, and rarely was anyone seen as an "inconvenience"

True... Anyone who have traveled in train or bus in India would know. Personally I have some good experiences in talking to strangers.

Last day I was talking to one person who is working in marketing of medical instruments. I learned some new stuffs about that.

FWIW I find that NYC culture is like this too, at least relative to the USA's interior.

> There is really no way to know in advance whether initiating a conversation with a stranger is welcome or not, the only way to find out is to try.

I am just massively inhibited in this regard; I don't want to intrude and is it really worth it to them? Not just in line, but even before a talk (i.e. a "networking event") or at a party.

I had a colleague who was the opposite: he could not only strike up a conversation with any random person he happened to be next to, but those often turned into real conversations (e.g. repeated email, contained talking, etc). I could never get the hang of it. (Sad to say this was his only redeeming quality).

Practice makes perfect. If you're at a networking event then everyone there is probably there to network. I think the hardest part is starting the conversation, but as soon as you start the conversation, it usually gets a lot easier.

I find it easiest to begin conversations near food or drinks because most of the time I'll pause, scout the room, and see whether I know anyone or how I have no one to talk to, and usually there will be another person doing the exact same thing. So it becomes very easy to open with one questions from the following like: Hey what do you think of the event so far? Are you excited for the event? What do you do? How do you like the food? How'd you hear about this event, etc. Pick one and see where it goes from there. You'll be able to tell whether they're interested in continuing the conversation or not, if they're not, maybe they're super hungry and they don't want to talk, or they actually need to talk to someone else. Don't take it personally but recognize social cues of when people don't want to talk to you. You can also tell when people are looking for someone or someone to talk to by how they're not talking to anyone and looking around the room. Opening a conversation with someone like that will usually be appreciated because most of the time you'll be saving them from that super awkward feeling when you know no one at a networking event.

It's interesting to see this discussion in parallel with the front-page post about being diagnosed with autism as adults [1].

One of the interviewees describes herself as "being born with the social skills of a used teabag"—I wonder how folks like this factor into the calculus about starting discussions with strangers. What might seem totally fine to some could come off as tone-deaf, inappropriate, or even borderline harassment to others.

1: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16679469

I have to admit, the latter part certainly worries me given the witch hunting obsession society seems to have with perceived harassment and creepiness nowadays. I'm definitely a tad fearful than somewhat on the autistic spectrum (or with various other neurological differences) could end up with their life destroyed by a social media mob due to something they couldn't understand.

And I suspect in many cases, that may stop those with those conditions even trying to attempt conversations with others, since they've heard the horror stories and fear their already tough situation could unintentionally end up becoming even tougher.

It's also unreasonable to place the burden of a person to signal "please connect with me" when you could simply reach out tho them alone and not take the risk of increasing their loneliness.

  Step One: Eye contact (sustained)
  Step Two: "Hello!"
  Step Three: <customize in situ>

Step one is crucial if you can’t take rejections lightly. However, a lot of people are shy and they tend to look away. I’d say just man up and skip it. But do know when to stop if the other party isn’t reciprocating either through lack of interest or body language.

No, don't skip it, particularly in random situations.

If someone isn't making _actual_ eye contact with you, they're not open to being talked to. Simple as that.

If you're good enough at reading body language and talking to random people that this advice doesn't seem true.... this is probably not advice that you need. If you're like me and couldn't figure out how to determine this through other means - or are rather fearful of intruding - well, it's a real handy rubric.

Well, it's pretty obvious when you shouldn't approach. For example, they may be walking quickly possibly deeply preoccupied with something. Basically if you have to step out of your way to introduce yourself, it's probably not the best time.

But in certain situations like waiting in line at starbucks, people nearby don't usually make eye contact. It's a bit too close and uncomfortable to even begin making eye contact unless they're at least 5-8 peoples away. People seem to glance away more often in close proximity, and it's harder to look back (just my experience when I try to make eye contact with someone). And if you find them mindlessly on their phone or staring at nothing in particular, it doesn't hurt to start a conversation.

It's really important that you shouldn't have to look like you're trying to start a conversation. It should just flow and be effortless. Having said that, I have the deepest respect for people who have gone out of their way to talk to strangers and getting rejected. I always thought it was stupid, but once you have seen it in person, it's a different story. They know they have a small chance, but they play their cards anyway. Most people don't have the confidence to do this, like me.

This is totally reasonable. I feel like "Step One: Eye Contact" was a very, very good starting point on a journey for me.

You may find adhering to it confidence-building in situ long enough to develop more personalized (to you) skills.

I'd move "sustained" to after the Hello", otherwise it's creepy staring.

Staring != sustained, although defining that is hard.

What you're trying to do is establish that the eye contact is not incidental; "solid" may be a better word that "sustained".

If someone is unwilling to hold eye contact with you, they are unwilling to talk. That's the test you're trying to run.

I don't know about that. There are a lot of non verbal cues like body language, eye contact, etc. Then there are a lot of different ways to start verbal communication that are less strong than other ways.

Yeah, it's usually fine to initiate a conversation (politely), it's more about knowing whether or not you should continue it.

I’m extremely introverted, but spent a few months backpacking which really forced me out of my comfort zone. I met my wife at a hostel on that trip and we have two kids together. I’d never had ordinarily talked to her, but I was lonely and we were the only Americans there. I don’t think we’ve been apart for more than a few days since we both got back to the US.

That's why i refuse introvert or extrovert titles. I can be different in varied situations.

What do you mean by adventures?

Life experiences and personal growth. Opening yourself up to others (especially interesting others!) and entering their world is about the only way I've seen humans reliably grow and change as individuals.

Something I wish I would have learned and internalized at a much younger age!

Oh ok. Thanks for clearing that up. I thought you meant stuff like skydiving.

Can you give an example of "personal growth"? (I'm not sure what exactly that is, but I think I need lots of that.)

Maybe learning new things by hearing others' perspectives and experiences? I often need to remind myself to think more about how others feel and think since I'm accustomed to staying in my own head. Talking with somebody even briefly often enlightens me to interesting things

In my head I had an image of him twirling the end of his mustache as he said that.

STD and scabies mostly

He said "open mind", not "empty head"! :-)

Still, that's a risk, yes.

This has been a tough year over here with a lot of un-fun life events. So this morning when trying to get out for a run I was looking for this one and only long sleeve workout shirt I have. And I couldn't find it. It's trivial, I know, but I started blowing up. Emptying out drawers, rummaging through the entire closet. I can't take yet another thing not working right. Where the f*&^% is this shirt!?

But I took a few deep breaths. Opened my eyes and the shirt was literally in front of me hanging in the closet.

It's a tiny example but this research rings very true. Being pissed off at life is a downward spiral where you stop noticing great opportunities to get you out of the spiral.

Ah if it isn’t my friend the anecdata. Blowing a fuse over trivialities probably means you’re stressed out. I sure am. It’s just modern tech society.

Anecdotes are a problem only if someone is using them to arrive at generality/scientific explanation out of it.

In this case - the research is already done, people are just identifying with that.

I'm skeptical of a definition of luck where you can be trained to be lucky. That's not luck, that's skill. There is no skill to luck by definition.

But let's take what we've got here and engage with it:

>She came up with a few basic strategies for parents to teach their kids, including being open to new experiences, learning to relax, maintaining social connections, and (yes) talking to strangers. All of these techniques had one theme in common—being more open to your environment both physically and emotionally.

Okay but this is still luck, we've just moved it further down the chain. Now these are kids who are lucky enough to be born into a family which is concerned enough with these things to train them. Heck even prior to this training what is it that a kid needs to become an adult who has 'learned to relax'? Probably a safe environment, one where relaxing won't be punished. Same goes for 'talking to strangers', even more traditional concepts of luck being related to hard work, these all rely on growing up in an environment where these traits are present and are rewarded frequently enough for a kid to draw the connection. That is luck and I don't think these articles with the implicit message: Skill is the real luck, ever do a very good job, they just smuggle the luck away into some other unaddressed reality of our environment.

Seems very similar to the classic, "Luck favors the prepared".

I was at a board game conference this weekend and someone was kind of looking at my game prototype but hadn't engaged me. So I just started explaining how it worked and what was unique about it. Turns out he is also a designer and a publisher had previously asked him if he was interested in designing a game like X. He didn't have the time or interest but that is exactly what my game is. I now have a hot lead to get this game published because I got lucky. If I hadn't talked to this guy or even gone to the conference, I could never have gotten "lucky".

The harder I work the luckier I am.

That saying is really what this article is getting at. There are a lot of opportunities that happen in life. What people CALL luck is highly dependent upon taking action when an opportunity is presented. What the article is saying is that the people we consider lucky are more likely to take advantage of an opportunity. Maybe some people are more lucky than others (I mean stats would suggest that this is likely true), but they may not be the people we generally consider lucky.

But that's what I'm saying in my comment, I even directly address the issue of hard work. To be a hard worker implies all sorts of luck on its own. If you're a hard worker you've probably grown up in an environment where either the value of hard work was present and its importance was impressed on you explicitly or you've learned implicitly by having contact with hard workers and contact with not hard workers where the hard workers were rewarded and the not hard workers weren't (which btw does not happen all the time). Both of those situations take a lot of luck! You're a hard worker, I totally believe that, but that doesn't eliminate or even reduce the role of luck in your life, it masks it, the luck is just further back, playing a role in the development of a hard-work attitude in the first place.

e: So maybe instead of thinking of it like "I'm lucky because I work hard" perhaps we should think of it like "I work hard because I'm lucky."

It's more like "Seek and you shall find". Or "the last place you look is the first place you find."

You might be lucky enough to be born on top of a geyser of bubbling crude. If not, you need to go prospecting, not sit and wait for it to come to you.

This type of "seeking" behavior is easier to justify when you can afford to take more risks. Consider the stock market adage "Never invest what you can't afford to lose."

Travel the farthest afield when you have nothing left to lose.

But isn't luck is being in the right place at the right time? If so, a sensible approach is to find the right place and just hang around...

(Unless the right time was last week, in which case you're out of luck.)

I think the most important part of the article: "You lose your peripheral vision the more anxious you are because your flight-or-fight mechanism creates binocular vision."

Kids growing up in chaotic situations are likely to be very anxious, and will have so much more to worry about. So I think you are right to an extent, that the real luck is growing up in a more stable situation.

What makes it worse, is that being taught how to relax in chaotic situations is so dang helpful in all areas of life, but only those given the opportunity to relax in the first place will discover that. You're otherwise stuck in a downward spiral.

Anxiety and fear make us retreat to safety. This means we do what we can to reduce risk. Less risk = less reward. There is the "luck".

You're not really arguing with the original article, which is talking about perceived or perhaps realized luck. You're talking about the absolute or objective amount of luck which a person has. What the original article is really saying, isn't that you can train yourself to have the kind of luck that causes people to be born with a silver spoon in their mouths; rather, that you can become subjectively luckier by learning (i.e. a skill) to eliminate the mental barriers which cause you to underappreciate or underperceive the amount of absolute/objective luck which you have to work with.

It's a rhetorical shortcut.

A more complete description might be:

> The Key to this thing that is commonly assumed to be Good Luck Is actually a skill, an Open Mind which is something that can be learned.

Yes! See also the AI Effect: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AI_effect

I look as environment (and privilege) as an equivalency group. If all other factors are the same, then evaluate this as advice with that cohort.

You can be trained to be lucky, and it is a simple problem of exposing yourself to more and more. Try more things, spend more time, be open to new ideas.

I would love to hear more about this if you have more thoughts.

I was thinking "skill" is best measured relative to a benchmark cohort (ie. a control group). In other words, _given_ your education, upbringing, connections, etc., where did you end up relative to the average person in your cohort?

I'd like to think _that_ difference could be explained by skill.

But this falls short for many reasons, including:

1. You could simply be a statistical anomaly, and where you ended up reflects nothing about your skill. If you were to "repeat the trial" (or your life), you may end up average or below average.

2. The more narrow your control group (eg. controlling for parents, beliefs, what TV shows you watched, which friends you had), the sample size becomes smaller and smaller, which means it's hard to find a statistically meaningful cohort. At the other end, too broad a control group and you risk not controlling for the factors which by mere chance highly influence life outcomes.

That's basically it; control for economic situation, race, etc and then evaluate advice and tips based on that.

1. Statistical anomaly is interesting, and it is where I spend time reflecting on advice I give people that I mentor. Is given advice wise? or just bragging? or just flat out bad.

For the article, I think it is good advice. Open minds see more possibilities and can see more things to try. However, you need resources to try multiple things.

I think a more reasonable takeaway is despite your upstream odds, being more open to things increases the number of trials you expose yourself to which increases the chance you realize your underlying odds in the first place.

So there’s a balance, and at extremes, a well-off person can sabotage themselves by not trying, while an entirely disenfranchised person will be screwed no matter how hard he tries.

"I'm skeptical of a definition of luck where you can be trained to be lucky. That's not luck, that's skill. There is no skill to luck by definition."

On the other hand, by that definition, no one can be luckier than anyone else. And yet, some people seem to have an easier time navigating reality than others.

>On the other hand, by that definition, no one can be luckier than anyone else.

Huh? That doesn't follow at all. Luck could be described as 'beneficial acts of god', there's no connection there to everyone having the same amount of those acts befall them.

You can't inherently be luckier than another person, but you can certainly have a luckier outcome.

serendipity = preparation + luck.

The combined force is greater than either alone.

I remember a book I read years ago called The Luck Factor. It is a pop psychology book, and outlines the principles of luck and goes in-depth about it. I internalized most of the principles a little bit.

One time I was in London and lost my bus ticket to Amsterdam. I really needed some luck. So I asked myself "what would the author of the book do?" I sought out the highest manager I could find, which eventually was the bus driver himself and he listened to my story and said "we have a spare seat, so you can take that."

And with that the book had paid for itself!

There are more situations in which I used those principles and they work quite well. It changed my whole outlook on how lucky I am. I feel a lot more lucky nowadays then I used to as a kid, where I always felt I would never be lucky. You can debate to what extent I am nowadays more lucky on an objective sense, but I feel using the principles from that book (of which being open to new things is one of them) helped me a lot.

I am not affiliated with that book. I just love a good pop psychology book (another good one is Man's Search for Meaning, for example, which is to be fair a lot more than only pop psychology).

Richard Wiseman, mentioned in the article, wrote that book.

I recommend the American Life episode about Alex Zharov, stranded on a desert island in New York City.

It really gives a vivid insight on how some people find themselves lucky when others do not.


I think the key to good luck is mainly to be lucky and also to have good judgement. When I was younger I was very open minded, pursued a lot of things but I didn't have good judgement in what I did and who I did it with. So in the end a lot of things I did turned out to be big mistakes.

Luckly as you get older your judgment improves.

Note. It doesn't mean older people have better judgment. It only means you have better judgment than your younger self.

If you have failed a lot you probably know better when to say "No" but it's still hard to say "Yes" because you don't know what works. You only know what doesn't work. Again, the key to good luck is often luck.

One of the experiments in the post mentions that in order to claim the prize, you could either count the number of photographs or easily discover the message "you can stop counting, there are 43 photographs on here." What I wonder is if there are negative correlations here as well - for example if lucky people are better at (and more open to) discovering things, does that also mean they're more likely to blindly follow directions and lack critical thinking? The first thing I thought when I saw that was "what if they're lying or they made a mistake and there weren't exactly 43 photographs?"

I would personally be more worried about not doing any deep thought. At least I know for myself when I'm in deep thought on some subject, I don't notice anything around me. I walked past my own wife on the street while she was trying to get my attention. That seems very detrimental to the kind of luck the researcher was testing. Maybe my best bet is to try to switch between being present and thinking.

Yep, it's a weak methodology. A better one would be "Take a break from counting, and show this frobnozzle to the administrator for a special bonus prize!" That rewards the "openness" they are looking for without making it into a relatively high-stakes gamble with a pre-fabricated outcome.

I liked reading this, the experiment with the 20 dollar bill is fascinating (although it didn't seem super scientific). You can't control life, but there are opportunities in abundance around us - we just have to walk through the world with an open eye and mind.

In order to get lucky with something you have to give luck a chance. There is no way to win a lottery when you don't buy a ticket in the first place. The more tickets you buy (the more involved you are), the greater the chance you'll win (luck). What's more to it?

Btw, what is luck? Some things that make you happy in the short term can easily destroy everything that's dear to you in the long term.

A long time ago I was inspired by a comment on HN which put this in terms of "increasing your luck surface area". The phrasing stuck with me and I've applied it to my life ever since.

Good book for you: Luck Factor. It talks a lot about this.


...by Richard Wiseman, mentioned in the article.

Seems to go back to 2010 in the HN context:


Eh, I see how having an open mind could help with finding opportunities in life and make someone 'luckier' in a certain sense, but at the same time I also feel that there's still a huge portion of success that's down to things well outside of someone's control.

I mean, I often write about underrated creators on sites like YouTube, and while there's definitely some semblance of a correlation between marketing effort and success, it's very much a minor one overshadowed by a lot of other things. I know plenty of people who worked far harder than I ever could, and ended up struggling with only a few followers as well as people who seemingly just lucked into success purely from one random friend having existing popularity.

And I suspect it's similar outside of the internet too. There's a correlation between open mindedness and trying hard and promoting yourself and success, but it's not an absolute one and often overshadowed by a lot of other things.

Speaking from experience, I can say that typecasting problems are a striking example of this process from a different perspective. In that case, you're given lots of opportunities, but not the ones you're looking for, for reasons that have to do with others but not yourself.

A lot of what we discuss isn't luck at all but social dynamics and others' perceptions. Sometimes that involves skill; sometimes it involves luck, and sometimes it involves something systematic but ultimately outside the control of the individual.

I've always wondered about the role that the reticular activating system plays in being lucky.

If you are expecting to find good opportunities you may spot them more. I have seen many typical people blunder blindly past once-in-a-lifetime-opportunities.

Many people just don't pay attention to massive opportunities. They just don't notice them or seem to not care when these things are right in front of their noses.

Could you give some examples?

Like the other poster mentioned crypto currencies. I've hit many jackpots like this in my life. I have also seen big opportunities that are specific to another person, asked why they don't pursue X or Y, and the responses are quite often non-responses.

I literally begged several of my friends to just put $10 into a specific crypto that went up nearly 500 times. I did put about $100 myself into that one, and of course 20 similar parcels of money into about 20 others.

Of course just citing one example like crypto is not helpful. I had another idea for a totally passive income business, that I for whatever reason didn't feel like pursuing, I tried to convince others of the merits of doing this things. Eventually after about 2 years of failing to convince anyone else to try it, I did it, and made really lucrative money that came in like clockwork with about 2 hrs of effort per month. That thing ran for quite a while and eventually the market changed to not make it work anymore.

I have had some other successes too. I also lost of lot of thr easy money made along the way, but now I am wizer, and my latest money maker (post early crypto buying) I have taken a serious amount of thought about not ever letting it dissapate. I have also had many failures because I have tried many things. But some things really are no brainers.

Another example is buying massive bargains when shopping second hand. The trick to capitalise on a bargain is just 2 steps - step 1 make sure there is no catch (or a sufficient margin of safety) - step 2 - pull the trigger FAST - exceptional bargains don't hang around indefinitely.

> step 2 - pull the trigger FAST - exceptional bargains don't hang around indefinitely.

I find this interesting because I have a friend get bargains that saved him the equivalent to large percentages of his income on deals that were simply unbelievable. He is seemingly average tradesman...

I have been trying to train myself to get better at finding/creating and then jumping on great bargains, to understand his skill and the skills of others.

However there is a lot lot more depth to it than the two sentences you added to the bottom of your comment ;)

My family has always made jokes about or accused me of being unusually lucky. I didn't really believe that was the case; over time, my standard response to these suggestions is that we can manufacture luck. That wasn't based on any actual research, though, so it's refreshing to see some data back me up.

Ok I am gonna be really open minded that we get into YC Summer 2018 :)

When I had tough times, reading this lifted me up big time: http://www.jamesaltucher.com/2013/12/the-ultimate-cheat-shee...

Some of these ideas seem a very close cousin to the 'curiosity conversations' from Brian Grazer's 'A Curious Mind.'

The psychological trait of openness is often associated with creativity. Creating something from nothing seems very lucky indeed.

Isn't openness part of the big five (OCEAN) that can't be changed much later in life?

You only become less and less open later in life.

This is different, it's not about bring conceptually open and interested in new ideas, its about openennes of attention.

Really? I saw a few psychologist talk about creativity and they said it was about openness (O in OCEAN) and intelligence.

So it seemed to me that this openness was in fact about being conceptually open to new ideas

I want to know the correlation of people who like this article and consider themselves a lucky person.

"The strategies included using meditation to enhance intuition, relaxation, visualizing good fortune, and talking to at least one new person every week."

These are basic techniques that have been taught by almost every spiritual system for thousands of years. Unfortunately for all of my atheist-materialist friends, you have to change your metaphysical views to employ these techniques.

Atheist-materialist here. Also meditator, and visualiser.

It's just psychology. No need to invoke deities.

It's not about deities, it's about whether there are ways to use consciousness to manipulate the material universe. Are there laws of the universe that are knowable through experience and intuition that do not yet have a scientific explanation? The traditions I mention say "yes", I would imagine an atheist-materialist would say "no". I would have said "no" up until just a few months ago.

I think they all seem to have a pretty scientific explanation. Don't we see research on meditation pop up here almost every other week?

I guess I'm pretty firmly in the atheist-materialist camp here. If you don't mind me asking, what happened to you to convince you otherwise?

Thanks for asking. Here is a grab bag in rough order of events. (Spent years 1-20 as Catholic, and years 21-39 as an atheist)

* Leaving my third "failed" startup, post YC. (For the record, my awesome co-founders sold to Cisco after I had left)

* Working with a coach to find and clearly define my deepest values

* Leaving San Francisco to align my life with those values

* Deciding to search for the meaning of life

* Truly realizing that the meaning of life isn't accumulation of money or stuff, and that my identity needn't be tied to those goals

* Wrestling with my ego and deciding it does not deserve primacy

* Donating many of my possessions

* Fasting (many 2-3 day water fasts, 5 day as peak)

* Reading 20-30 books on different spiritual traditions

* Watching hundreds of hours of lectures on esoteric systems and spiritual traditions

* Researching Tarot, Kaballah, Freemasonry, and other ancients systems of enlightenment

* Studying Zen and Taoism

* Learning about [Natural Law](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASUHN3gNxWo) and allowing myself to honestly imagine if that is the way that the universe works

* Experimenting with psychedelics

* Practicing Transcendental Meditation twice daily

* Getting out in nature and learning about plants

* Explicitly working to balance my left and right brain by beginning to trust my intuition

* Keeping a diary of synchronicities and searching for deeper connections than I previously allowed myself to believe could exist

* Opening myself up to the possibility that there is more to the universe than that which has been explained by science

* Learning the eight-circuit model of consciousness

* Researching state of the art physics

* Refactoring, uninstalling or rewriting the legacy operating system and long ago installed background processes that were my subconscious

* Buying a house

* Taking guitar lessons

* Teaching myself to draw

* Releasing fear and deciding to love everyone and everything

* Adopting an amor fati attitude

* Living for the present moment

* Finding my higher self and living out of it on a daily basis

Holy shit. I'd rather be unenlightened than do all that.

I would have thought so, too--it just sort of happened :)

I mean no offense but just want to note that a lot of these are things you can and maybe should do in your twenties. Excluding buying house of course.

Traveling, meeting new and sometimes weird people, trying drugs, etc. So maybe spending your 20s heads down in the startup world isn't great for everyone.

The Wikipedia page for the eight-circuit model of consciousness explained what it was pretty well but presented no evidence or arguments in favor of it.

Do you know of any sources that that give such arguments?

I am also curious as to how state of the art physics fits into the rest of your list. I assume it's related to the eight-circuit model and opening yourself up to the possibility that there is more to the universe than that which has been explained by science, due to it's placement in the list, but I would be interested in knowing how those concepts relate in your mind.

Like most things that involve consciousness, the evidence is personal and experiential (Which is why people use the term psuedo-science for much of the information in this domain. Ironically, I now use that label as a signal for further research as opposed to something that I would reject out of hand). In my case, when I found the 8-circuit model, it was the best framework that I had found to explain the changes to my consciousness that I was experiencing. Like anything else that purports to describe reality, it's a model (the map), it's not truth (the territory).

In terms of physics, you pretty much got it. Coming to understand that reality is much weirder and less understood than the Newtonian, mechanistic mental models that I grew up with was a revelation. I don't have actionable insights other than the relaxing of the assumption that there were authorities out there that had it all figured out.

I agree that models based on personal experiences can be helpful. The first five circuits in the eight-circuit model seem to be pretty standard psychological/philosophical thought to me, although I am not really trained in either of those disciplines.

However, things kind of go off the rails when the sixth circuit directly claims that LSD enables telepathic communication. At this point the map enters the territory of things that are scientifically testable and as far as I know, telepathy has been tested many times and never proven.

Circuit eight is similar with it's claims of non-local awareness at the human conciousness level.

I am in favor of relaxing the assumption that everything has been figured out but this model instead appears to be throwing out the scientific method. I understand that it's a map used to describe the territory of consciousness but I don't see how it's a very useful map unless you're already assuming that consciousness is not 100% in the physical brain.

Such an assumption runs counter to the current (majority) scientific thought which, as you say, is not necessarily a bad thing. However, without any evidence presented that give reason to think the assumption might be true, I see no reason to follow this model more than I see a reason to follow a model that says God created the universe in seven days or that a race of sentient super-intelligent Beavers chewed the universe out of the fabric of the space time continuum.

pseudo-science is deceptive promotion of falsehoods. Under-informed speculation is more "quasi-science"

...and somehow missed the most important thing of the humanity: have some children, raise them as proper humans and pass them your knowledge and wisdom.

All the above points have their share of being somewhat important, and certainly help to live a life as close to reality as possible, but children tops everything out.

This is a great point. I started that list with leaving SF, but you're absolutely right that having kids is truly what started turning my ship in a whole different direction.

Why do you need to believe in Thor (or whatever) in order to relax, talk to new people etc.?

You don't, but relaxing and talking are also not going to change your luck according to the ancient mystery traditions. Visualization, vibration, meditation are some keys, but most atheist-materialists view the belief that one can use those to impact reality the same way they view Thor--as hogwash.

I personally believe all personifications of esoteric laws are man-made and should not be taken literally, so I'm not a big Thor guy, myself.

which is also the key to bad luck.

i don’t like articles like this because it discounts the effect of actual luck. An open mind isn’t going to help you if a family member is sick and you have to take care of them instead of going to college.

So for me definition of luck would be:

The ability to recognize and pursue opportunities

If you can go to "luck school", you're privileged. What a scam

So you'd rather remain unlucky than acquire anything that could reek of privilege?

Maybe those unlucky people you have in mind, once they make it out of their misery, will wonder what to do, and find themselves interested in going to luck school.

Ultimately, it sounds as if when you are not privileged, under no circumstances should you try anything that could change your luck. If it would work, it would prove that you were never underprivileged to begin with, which is a big no no. Self defeating logic at its best.

Luck, but definition, is something outside of your control. Any time you have influence over your luck, it's no longer luck, it's ability. Maybe this school teaches people to recognize the opportunities in their life (still a privileged position), but luck by its definition is success or failure outside of one's control.

The idea that one chooses to be lucky or remain unlucky is about as sensible as theology.

Most wanted hackernews feature: auto hide all stories from certain domains

nautil.us and aeon.co are the two that commenters tend not to like, right?

anyways it would probably be pretty easy to write a browser extension to do this for you. you could even make a show HN when you're done! :)

Yeah all those dumb kids who are dying of diseases in poverty should be more open minded.

It's almost like you read the article: “On the academic side of things, I’ve always been sort of skeptical of any concept related to luck,” says Carter. “Because as a sociologist, it’s like, Oh, so all those children in Darfur are just not lucky? We know that there are other things there.”

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