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Secrets of the exceptionally lucky

POSTED: March 9, 2017 8:52 a.m.
Tiffany Gee Lewis/

Is there any rhyme or reason to luck? One researcher says yes.

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When Jessica Robinson was in the second grade, her teacher held a weekly drawing for a small prize.

Although the drawing was completely random, Robinson won so many times her teacher eventually banned her from being included in the drawing.

This kind of luck seemed to follow Robinson all the way to adulthood as she won cakewalks, drawings and raffles, culminating in the ultimate prize: Robinson was the first million-dollar winner on "Deal or No Deal."

I’ve long been fascinated by secrets of the exceptionally lucky. You see, I married one of those lucky winners. No, we’ve never landed the big money, but luck seems to follow my husband wherever he goes. Like to his senior party, where he won a TV by guessing how many jelly beans were crammed into a massive candy jar. The answer was 1,492, and he guessed it right down to the very last jelly bean.

Is luck pure happenstance, as flighty as a rainbow, as elusive as a four-leaf clover? Or do lucky people hold some sort of secret talisman to guide them through life?

Intrigued by those who win, the lucky among us, I sent out a message to my friends on Facebook. I was curious to see who felt lucky and who didn’t.

I got a host of fascinating answers. For one, the people who win things were extremely confident. Most people wrote back immediately: “I’m one of those people,” they wrote. “I win everything.”

Many people admitted to using strategy for things like raffles and tickets: folding a ticket in thirds or in a funny shape makes it easier to grab. To get VIP tickets to concerts or shows, my friend Jason said he waits until the day before or day of the performance, when the tickets are released to the public at a reduced rate. He’s never been turned down for a show.

But others are just lucky. My friend Nuri said she can trace her luck back to a high school carnival with a roulette wheel. The wheel had over a hundred numbers. The grand prize was an enormous stuffed green pig. Nuri was determined to win that pig. She bought a single ticket and stared at the winning number, willing herself to win.

And win she did.

The same thing happened with a windjammer cruise to the Virgin Islands, a raffle for a cellphone, a cooking contest, even the Miami lottery, where she won $54.

“I think energy, positive energy, plays a role in that. I always feel positive when I enter these things,” she said. She also said her luck works both ways. If there is a rare disease or complication, she pays attention, because those one-in-a-million odds usually go to her.

My friend Kristin said her luck comes from having the same initials as John F. Kennedy, only in reverse. This luck has led to job opportunities, writing projects and artistic grants.

Kristin attributes her luck to staying in touch with friends and stating her goals verbally so others are aware of what she wants.

So, what does luck boil down to? In his book “The Luck Factor,” author Richard Wiseman writes about doing a series of experiments with more than 400 self-attributed lucky and unlucky people. Over time, he found that certain patterns emerged with the lucky people.

“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,” he writes.

In one of his many experiments, Wiseman timed his participants as they read through a newspaper and counted the photographs. On average, the unlucky people took two minutes, whereas the lucky people took only a few seconds. That’s because halfway down the second page, there was a message that read, “Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” The unlucky people missed it completely, whereas the lucky ones spotted it right away.

From my very informal survey on Facebook, I found Wiseman’s assessment to be true. Those who described themselves as lucky were quick to seize opportunities, and all admitted to having a positive outlook on life.

Robinson, the million-dollar winner, said she is an unabashed optimist. In fact, she wonders if she is actually lucky or if she only remembers the times she wins.

“The energy you put out comes back to you. If you’re positive, life will be exciting, fun and positive,” she said.

The good news is, according to Wiseman, people can change their luck. Using the four emerging attributes he saw in lucky people, Wiseman coached a series of his unlucky test subjects to change their patterns of behavior and even their thoughts. The results were overwhelming, with more than 80 percent of his testers reporting a happier, more satisfied, lucky life.

So, even if you’re not born with the luck of the Irish, with a little alteration you may still find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or, at the very least, become the winner of one fabulous stuffed green pig.
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