Jan 15, 2014 - Posts    No Comments

Tenet # 7: Flexibility

(Excerpt from chapter seven of All the Luck: A Guide to Becoming the Luckiest Person You Know)

 

“Like all weak men he laid an exaggerated stress on not changing one’s mind.” – W. Somerset Maugham 

When most people think about getting lucky, they focus on good luck: lucky breaks, happy coincidences, winning big, et cetera. But a huge determinant of how lucky any person will be in their life is how they manage bad luck. Bad luck lands on everyone’s doorstep from time to time. Not everything you try will work out and not every gamble will pay off. Flexibility is critical when handling the fallout. In our culture, flexibility tends to get a bad name. We celebrate those who remain firm in their convictions and “stick to their guns.” But when bad luck comes barreling down towards you, you need to be nimble enough to jump out of its way to escape the worst of its damage. You might not be able to prevent bad luck, but you can prevent bad luck from turning into worse luck.

If the Ship is Sinking, Jump.

“Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.” – George Santayana

Having just read a chapter on the importance of persistence, you might be wondering why I’m telling you to abandon ship. Persistence is a virtue, but only to a point. Persistence is a virtue when you stay with a course of action when there is still the possibility that you can succeed. Persistence becomes a vice when the chances of success are slim to none and you keep on persisting anyway.  Flexibility is about knowing the difference and acting accordingly.

 

Evaluate As You Go Along

“It’s astonishing in this world how things don’t turn out at all the way you expect them to.” – Agatha Christie

Every time you take a risk, there is always the chance that things aren’t going to work out. You can’t know at the outset which way things are going to go. Say to yourself: “Let’s see what happens. If it’s not working out, I’ll cut my losses and try something else.” Instead, too many people say, “I’ve made a decision, and so now I’ve got to live with it no matter what.” A small failure can become a big one if you’re not willing to change course. Let’s say you take a new job and quickly discover it’s not what you thought it would be and you know you won’t be happy there. Someone who has allowed for this possibility would immediately send out some resumes, call their contacts in the industry, or even try to get their old job back. They’ll spend a few weeks or months in the position, and then their ship will be righted and their lives back on course. But someone who feels they must stick with the decision might waste years toiling each day at a place they don’t want to be. And the longer they stay, the harder it is to leave. Suddenly they’re eligible for a pension and a bonus. Can’t leave now, can they? It’s much easier to abandon a bad situation early on. The longer you stay with it, the more entangled you will become.

 

Make a Mistake

It seems so obvious – if something isn’t working, try something new. But this is very difficult for many people, for one simple reason: changing your mind means admitting you were wrong. Quitting a job you just started means admitting that taking it was a bad idea. Selling a losing stock means admitting that buying it was the wrong decision. Ending a relationship means admitting that you picked the wrong person. No one likes being wrong. It’s embarrassing, it might damage your reputation, and you might anger or disappoint some people. Admitting a mistake can be painful in the moment and can have some serious short term consequences. But it’s a hell of a lot better than remaining in a bad situation because you’re not brave enough to be wrong. Everyone makes mistakes occasionally. Not being able to admit it means resigning yourself to a life full of mistakes you’re not willing to rectify.

 

Stop Investing

What if you moved across the country to take that new job? What if you spent most of your savings on your small business? What if you’ve spent years trying to succeed as an actor? The more time, energy, and money you have invested in a venture, the more difficult it becomes to leave. In fact, research has demonstrated that most people would much rather continue to invest in a losing proposition with a very slight chance of success than stop investing and guarantee their failure. As long as you’re still investing, you’re keeping the hope alive that some miracle might come along and save the day. Logically, it makes no sense. A reasonable person should take a certain loss of $5,000 over a very, very likely loss of $10,000, but few are able to do so in the heat of the moment.

Most failing situations don’t come to an abrupt end, but gradually decline over time. There might never come a time when it’s 100% clear that it won’t work out. There are those who are able to see the way things are heading early on and are able to pull out before all is lost. And then there are those who will keep clinging to the sinking ship until they drown. Be one of the former. When there is no longer a realistic chance of success, stop investing.

 

Allow For Change

Just because something has worked in the past, it does not mean it will work in the future. A lot of people get stuck on a losing course of action because the course used to be a winning one. Think of it like investing in VHS tapes. At one point in the 1980s that would have been a great idea. But once DVDs were introduced in the 1990s, investing in VHS tapes would have been a very bad idea. People are always changing. The world around us is always changing. It can be difficult to walk away from something that has brought you success in the past, but you must evaluate whether something is working today. Is there a good possibility that things might turn around? Or are you just feeling nostalgic for good times gone by? Make sure you know the difference.

I see this happen most often in relationships. Once you’ve loved someone, either romantically or platonically, it becomes very hard to see them as they are now and not as they were. It’s difficult to understand how something that was once so wonderful could go wrong. It can take time for problems to emerge in a relationship. Or one or both of you could simply have changed. Relationships aren’t all designed to last forever. Some people will be important to us in one phase of our lives but no longer fit later on. Hanging on to a relationship that has run its course will only lead to prolonged pain and heartbreak.

 

Don’t Expect Imperfection

Nothing is perfect. People say this a lot when they’re busy stagnating in a bad situation. They tell themselves that no matter what job they have they would be bored, so they might as well stay at the one they have. No relationship is ever perfect, so they might as well stick with the one they’ve got. I heard this “advice” a lot when I was getting divorced – every relationship will have problems, so why bother getting divorced? They said that my desire for a more satisfying relationship was unrealistic. “Why should a new relationship be any different? You’re still the same person. You will still have the same issues.” If you’re getting divorced because you are an alcoholic, or you have a gambling addiction, or you are a chronic liar, then yes, you will probably have the same problems in your next relationship. But if you’re simply unhappy with your spouse, and you cannot see any way to salvage the situation, it is wiser to move on. It is true that nothing will ever be perfect, but that’s not a good enough reason to settle for something that you tolerate rather than enjoy. There is a lot of room for improvement between “okay” and “perfect.”

 

(To keep on reading, All the Luck can be purchased at: http://www.amazon.com/All-Luck-Becoming-Luckiest-ebook/dp/B00E3WTX4A/)

Stay tuned for a preview of Tenet #8: Responsibility

Nov 8, 2013 - Posts    No Comments

Tenet # 6: Persistence

(Excerpt from chapter six of All the Luck: A Guide to Becoming the Luckiest Person You Know)

“It is vain to expect our prayers to be heard if we do not strive as well as pray.” – Aesop

Most of the time you’re not going to find the luck you’re looking for on the first day or on the first try. This means, of course, that if you give up looking at the first sign of trouble, you’re never going to find luck. Most things in life worth having require time and effort. You have to be willing to invest a lot of both if you want to be lucky. More often than not, persistence is all that separates the victors from the vanquished.

Effort, Outcome, and Motivation

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van Gogh

What makes many goals so difficult to achieve is the gap that exists between effort and outcome. There is a lag – and often a big one – between the time when you make an effort and the day when you are able to reap the reward. Weight loss is an excellent example. If you have a hundred pounds to lose, it will take a really, really long time to do it. Motivating yourself to go to the gym on any given night can be a challenge when you might have to wait the better part of a year to see the results. It can be difficult to motivate yourself to eat well when any individual meal will hardly make a difference. Time passes one night and one meal at a time. The amount of joy that can be gained from a delicious dinner and an evening watching your favorite TV show can be great, particularly when compared with the slim chance that you might one day be able to reap the reward from the effort of forgoing that pleasure. But if the reward is what you desire, it can only be won by making the right choices and efforts over the course of many days. To become successful, you have to keep going, one day at a time, one step at a time.

People often think that the first step is the hardest, but I don’t agree. Personally, I think the hardest step comes somewhere between the starting line and the finish. Whenever you start something new, you’re full of energy and enthusiasm and go at it with a gung ho attitude. But pursuing lofty goals requires hard work. Eventually, you will get tired, or bored, or frustrated, or scared. The energy you have at the start is almost never enough to power you to the finish. And so there you are, stranded somewhere between points A and B. It is what you decide to do at this moment that determines the outcome of any venture. At this point, turning back will start to seem like a really good idea. You’ll remember how easy and pleasurable your old situation was and conveniently forget the problems you were having. And you look ahead and see just how much further you have to go before you reach your goal. This is when I want you to be able to reach inside your pocket and pull out a list of all the reasons why you must reach your goal, no matter what it takes.

Before you make any moves towards accomplishing a goal, make sure you are very clear about why you want what you want – and then write it down. Keep a record of your motivations. Write about how happy you’ll be when you do lose the weight, or get your small business going, or finish that screenplay you’ve been working on. Hopefully you did this when you decided upon your focus, but if not, do it now. Be sure to include on that list all of the reasons why you can’t go back. Deal-breakers can be particularly helpful in this regard. A deal-breaker is something that makes it absolutely impossible for you to return to your old ways; it cuts off the option completely. There are pros and cons to every situation, but when you’re up against a deal-breaker, you have no choice. Someone who has developed type 2 diabetes can’t possibly return to their old eating habits. Someone who has left an abusive relationship can’t possibly go back to their partner. For some people, their deal-breaker was a moment when they hit rock bottom, a moment when they could no longer pretend they didn’t have a problem. Or perhaps it’s simply a realization that you must, must, must pursue your dreams right now and cannot delay a moment longer. Your old life is simply not good enough for you anymore.

Leaving my last job was a difficult decision. I was great at what I did and my employers valued and respected me. I knew how lucky I was to work in such a positive environment. Breaking the news to my boss, who I liked very much, was excruciating. But sticking with my decision during the two weeks before I left, and for months afterwards when I knew they would happily take me back, was much harder. Once I announced I was leaving, all I could think about were the things I would miss and how comfortable it was to be in a secure position with a steady paycheck and good health care benefits. I also realized how much hard work it would take to write a book and how uncertain it was that it would ever succeed. But I had a deal-breaker: I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that if I didn’t write this book I would always regret it. It was the perfect time for my husband and I to take this risk, and I knew that I had to take it, difficult though it might be.

When you’re coming up with your own deal-breaker, be honest with yourself. If you are unhappy with your current situation, don’t pretend otherwise. Change can be difficult, and you will only be motivated to make that change day after day after day if you are clear about why you must. When your old behaviors start to look really good, you have to know why they are no longer an option. When you understand why you must move forward it becomes a lot easier to resist the urge to turn back.

 

(To keep on reading, All the Luck can be purchased at: http://www.amazon.com/All-Luck-Becoming-Luckiest-ebook/dp/B00E3WTX4A/)

Stay tuned for a preview of Tenet #7: Flexibility

Oct 30, 2013 - Posts    No Comments

Tenet # 5: Bravery

(Excerpt from chapter 5 of All the Luck: A Guide to Becoming the Luckiest Person You Know)

“Fortune favors the bold.” – Latin Proverb

“Fortune favors the bold” has long been one of my favorite expressions. Its message is simple: if you want to be lucky, you have to be brave. Why is that the case? Gambling is the perfect way to illustrate this. If you want to win anything in Vegas, you have to place a bet. If you want to give yourself an opportunity to win, you have to risk something. You have to accept the possibility that you could lose and take the chance anyway. In any given situation, your luck might be good, or it might be bad. But those that take the most chances give themselves the most opportunities to win, and the more chances you take, the better you get at taking them. Bad luck can turn into good luck if you can learn from your mistakes and make a better bet the next time.

Aim High

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anaїs  Nin

I am of the belief that how far you go in life is a direct reflection of how far you are willing to go. Most people aren’t very brave; they set goals for themselves that don’t require a lot of courage. Often, though, these are the same people that look at those with incredible lives and wonder how they got so lucky. Just as you can’t be jealous of someone who wins the lottery if you never buy a ticket, you can’t be jealous of someone with a fabulous, exciting life if you aren’t willing to do what it takes to get one.

Lucky people give themselves an opportunity to be lucky. They know what they want and they go after it. More to the point, they go after something worth having. They aim high. In the chapter on Focus, I talked about knowing what kind of luck you’re looking for. I also noted that there is a difference between a fantasy and a focus: A focus is a fantasy you’re willing to work towards. You get to choose whether what you work towards is something inspiring and amazing, or something ordinary but easy to achieve. The more extraordinary the goal, the more bravery it will take to attain it. There’s nothing scary about climbing small hills, but if you want to scale Everest, it’s going to take some nerve. And just like those that climb Everest, you are going to have to put yourself in situations that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable, and you’re going to have to endure moments when you’re terrified and want nothing more than to turn back. But you have to keep going. Only those who are willing to make the journey can get to the top.

We live in a culture that values hard work and diligence, but there has never been enough emphasis placed on the value of taking chances. As a society we tend to view risk takers as reckless, yet just about anyone who has ever been wildly successful has taken a risk. Every entrepreneur has to bet on himself and his own idea. Every musician has to be brave enough to risk rejection and ridicule whenever they play a gig. Every politician that runs for election has to risk losing. Hard work and diligence are important factors in any success story, but you can’t get very far without taking a risk.

Bravery and confidence are also closely linked concepts. If you don’t have a high opinion of yourself, you’re unlikely to wager very much on your ability to succeed. To do something really brave, you have to be confident in your chances. You have to believe that your ideas and your talent are worth betting on. Aiming high requires believing that you deserve to be high. You are the one who puts the limits on what you believe you are capable of, and you decide how far you think you can go. Decide to go far.

 

(To keep on reading, All the Luck can be purchased at: http://www.amazon.com/All-Luck-Becoming-Luckiest-ebook/dp/B00E3WTX4A/)

Stay tuned for a preview of Tenet #6: Persistence

Oct 22, 2013 - Posts    No Comments

Tenet # 4: Focus

(Excerpt from chapter 4 of All the Luck: A Guide to Becoming the Luckiest Person You Know)

“You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.” – Yogi Berra

If you want to be lucky, it would be a good idea to know what kind of luck you’re looking for. Looking for luck might seem like a strange idea, but it boils down to this: it’s really hard to get what you want if you don’t know what that is. Luck can do a lot of things for you, but it can’t tell you what to want.

Mirror, Mirror

My favorite magical object in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series is the Mirror of Erised. Harry comes across the mirror in the first book of the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. In it he sees his parents, who died when he was a small child, and the family he never knew. It’s only later in the book that the reader discovers what the mirror is: a reflection of “the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts.”

Obviously, one can never bring back lost loved ones, but I was enthralled by what this mirror represented – a way to see what it is that you want more than anything else in the world. Not what you should want, or what you want to want, but what you would wish for if you could have anything. Do you know what it is that you want most in the world? It seems a simple question, but often it’s not. So many of us hide our deepest desires because we believe there is no way we could ever have them. And if we know we can’t have them, why torture ourselves by continuing to want them? But what if you could have them? What if you could have anything?

I had been married to my ex-husband for little more than a year when I first read about this magical mirror, and I immediately knew what I’d see. I would see myself married to someone that I truly loved. Not to the husband I had but to someone else entirely. It wasn’t a comforting notion as a relative newlywed to know that the most fervent desire of my heart was to be married to another man. I didn’t have a particular man in mind, but I knew the way I wanted to feel and the kind of relationship I wanted to have, and I wasn’t getting that with husband number one. I spent months pretending that wasn’t what I really wanted, months where I tried to convince myself that I wanted to work on my marriage and find a way to be happy with the husband I had. But that’s the cruel beauty of the mirror; it will only show you what you truly want. Every time I thought about that mirror I knew what I would see.

I’m continually amazed by how few people know what they want. You have to know what you want, and I don’t mean the “realistic” wants, like a 5% salary increase, or a weeklong vacation in the Caribbean. What would make you truly happy? What would make you leap out of bed in the morning, instead of hitting the snooze button five times? What would you do if you didn’t have to do anything? If you had ten million dollars and never had to work another day in your life, how would you fill your days? Often people think they’d love a life filled with nothing but rest and relaxation, but you’d be amazed at how quickly you might be bored out of your mind. Everyone needs something to inspire them, something that doesn’t feel like work. And once you find your inspiration, you might discover that there is a way to turn what you love to do into a career. Or maybe, like me, your deepest desire is for something less tangible, like a great relationship or some close friends. When you know where it is you want to go, you can start finding a way to get there. You can’t have the life you’ve always wanted until you know what that life would be.

 

(To keep on reading, All the Luck can be purchased at: http://www.amazon.com/All-Luck-Becoming-Luckiest-ebook/dp/B00E3WTX4A/)

Stay tuned for a preview of Tenet #5: Bravery

Oct 15, 2013 - Posts    1 Comment

Tenet # 3: Happiness

(Excerpt from chapter 3 of All the Luck)

“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” – Aristotle

When people say they want good luck, what they’re usually talking about is getting money or love or fame or a great body. They want these things because they believe that having them will make them happy. But what if happiness isn’t the outcome of good luck? What if happiness is the cause of good luck? As Dr. Deepak Chopra writes in his book The Ultimate Happiness Prescription, most people believe happiness comes from what they have in their lives. He feels, however, that these things are the byproducts of happiness and not the source. I love the idea that happiness and positive thinking are what bring what you desire into your life. Be happy first and the good things will follow. Be happy about your luck, and you will be lucky.

Happy Brings More Happy

“We must laugh before we are happy, for fear we die before we laugh at all.” – Jean de La Bruyere, Du Coeur    

Just about everyone has heard of The Secret, the book and movie by Rhonda Byrne, which describes the theory that whatever you want will materialize in your life if you believe that it will. In the book, Byrne goes on to say that belief alone is not enough: you also have to be happy. You have to feel as overwhelmingly happy as you would feel if you already had what you wanted. Byrne suggests that a belief without the accompanying emotions won’t go anywhere. You have to emit positive energy to attract positive things into your life.

Whether or not you subscribe to this theory, I am absolutely a believer in the power of having a positive outlook. I’ve proven to myself that it works. I tried having a positive attitude, all the time, and saw how much better things became. Not just a little bit better, but overwhelmingly, unimaginably better. I realized the extent to which being happy and optimistic had changed my life when I re-read Emily Giffin’s book, Something Borrowed. I read it once in my early twenties, when I was the epitome of the pathetic single woman, making just about every mistake it is possible to make. I loved the book. I related deeply to the main character, Rachel, an overworked lawyer who was unlucky in love. I didn’t think anything of it for years, until one day just after I had turned thirty, when I picked up the book again. I was astounded by how differently I viewed Rachel, the character I had felt such a kinship with just a few years before. I saw clearly how she had created her own bad luck. Her negative attitude was the problem, not random misfortune or her “best friend” who was really more of an enemy. She sat around feeling sorry for herself when it was entirely within her power to change her destiny. I realized, perhaps for the first time, just how much I had been to blame in creating my own bad luck. When I changed my attitude, I changed my luck. Believing that good things would happen brought good things into my life. I’m not suggesting that it was the positive energy I was emitting that created these opportunities. What I can say, however, is that being optimistic changed my behavior. I did things for myself that I wouldn’t have done previously. In the past, I wouldn’t have pursued a hot guy because I would have been convinced it wouldn’t work out. I wouldn’t have quit a steady job because I wasn’t optimistic about finding another one. I wouldn’t have been brave enough to join an all-male ice hockey team because I wouldn’t have thought they’d want me there. I had some lucky breaks along the way, but I only came across that luck because I started out in the right direction. I believed things would go well and gave myself the opportunity to see if I was right.

Further, I’m hardly alone in seeing the rewards of having a positive outlook. There have been countless studies demonstrating that optimists have the edge over pessimists in just about every area. Optimists do better in school and at work, perform better at sports, have happier and more successful relationships, are healthier and live longer. If that’s not motivation to have a sunnier disposition, I don’t know what is.

 

(To keep on reading, All the Luck can be purchased at: http://www.amazon.com/All-Luck-Becoming-Luckiest-ebook/dp/B00E3WTX4A/)

Stay tuned for a preview of Tenet #4: Focus

Oct 10, 2013 - Posts    No Comments

Tenet # 2: Confidence

(Excerpt from chapter two of All the Luck.)

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” – Buddha  

No matter how good you are, if you’re not promoted right you won’t be remembered.” – Andy Warhol

Confidence, first and foremost, is about loving yourself and believing that you are the most wonderful, attractive, and intelligent person there is. But there’s more to it than that. It’s also about how you present yourself to the world. When you see yourself in a positive light, you invite others to see you that way as well. When you feel that what you have to offer is valuable, others will agree. When you believe in the merit of your own words, others will listen. When you are confident, opportunities will magically come your way. People will want to know you. People will want to date you. And people will be jealous of all your good luck.

Confidence From Within

“Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.” – Tina Fey, Bossypants

Far too many people make the mistake of basing the way they feel about themselves on the opinions of others. True confidence comes when you believe that you are the same amazing person no matter what anyone else thinks. True confidence comes when you are able to do whatever it is you want to do, no matter what anyone else has to say about it.

You have two options in life. You can either live the life you want, or you can care what other people think about you. Because you can’t do both. Sometimes your friends and family will approve of what you’re doing, but that won’t always be the case. There will come a time when you have to choose whether you want their approval or your own. It’s natural to want to fit in, and for that reason most people permit those they know best to have an undue influence on their life. But other people cannot and will not know what is best for you. Only you can. Only you will.

Part of the reason most people aren’t very lucky is that they haven’t been willing to expose themselves to criticism. They haven’t been willing to risk rejection. They would be embarrassed if they tried and failed and so they haven’t been willing to try at all. It is true that whenever you try to separate yourself from the pack, you will face pushback, and the more ambitious your plan, the more people will criticize it. Further, the more successful you become, the more people you will encounter who don’t like what you’re doing. It’s impossible to identify a public figure who doesn’t have their share of negative press. No matter what it is you’re doing, there will be someone who disapproves. To get the life you want, you have to be willing to endure the bad things people might have to say about it. Your opinion is the only one that counts. Trust yourself. If you are following your heart, you are doing the right thing. If you approve of your words and actions and deeds, you cannot go wrong.

There’s also something incredibly powerful and attractive about someone who doesn’t care what other people think. Not someone who says or does things to be shocking or to gain attention, but one who is truly their own person and who does not feel the need to comply with society’s expectations. Confident people are who they are all the time. They don’t care if they say something unusual. They aren’t concerned about fitting in. People are drawn to them because they wish they could live that way. They too wish that they could do what they wanted without fear of disapproval. People want to be around a confident person in the hopes that some of that confidence will rub off on them. Paradoxically, the less you care about the opinions of others, the higher those opinions will be.

 

(To keep on reading, All the Luck can be purchased at: http://www.amazon.com/All-Luck-Becoming-Luckiest-ebook/dp/B00E3WTX4A/)

Stay tuned for a preview of Tenet #3: Happiness

Oct 3, 2013 - Posts    No Comments

Tenet # 1: Belief

(Below you’ll find the first few sections of chapter one in All the Luck.)

“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl 

The Power of the Placebo

“A placebo works only if the patient believes it’s an effective medicine. Within strict limits, hope, it seems, can be transformed into biochemistry.” – Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World

One of the most common demonstrations of the power of belief is the placebo effect. I’m sure you’ve heard of the “placebo effect” before, i.e. the phenomenon whereby you think you’re taking a particular kind of medicine (but you’re not), and it has the same effect as if you were actually taking it. These days most drugs are tested using “double blind placebo controlled trials,” in which half the patients get an inactive drug (the placebo) and the other half get the real thing. The “double blind” part means that neither the doctor nor the patient knows which group they fall into. On average, in most trials, about 30% of study participants experience a placebo response, meaning 30% of those taking the inactive drug experience the same effect the real drug is supposed to have. The effect is inconsistent, but when it occurs it is quite real. Patients don’t just think they are better; they really are better.

In his book The Placebo Response, Dr. Howard Brody outlines research conducted by anthropologist Daniel Moerman back in the 1980s. Moerman, who was interested in studying the placebo effect, gathered thirty-one studies of a drug designed to treat stomach ulcers. In each of these trials, the setup was the same: A patient’s ulcer would be observed using a scope inserted into the stomach before the start of the study, and the patient’s ulcer was observed again after one month of treatment, either with the real medication or a placebo. The success rate of the drug was quite consistent between studies, and the ulcers of about 70 to 75 percent of patients taking the medication had healed at the end of the month. Among the placebo patients, however, there was no consistency whatsoever. In some trials, only 10 percent of patients improved, and in others up to 90 percent recovered completely. Those who wish to argue that the placebo affect isn’t a real phenomenon suggest that those who respond to a placebo are just those who would have recovered naturally anyway. However, as Brody puts it, suggesting that there could be such a wide variation in the natural rate of recovery from stomach ulcers is akin to suggesting that we don’t know very much about stomach ulcers. Clearly some other factor is at work here.

Before and since Moreman’s study, researchers have been struggling to understand why some patients respond to placebos and others do not. Not everyone experiences the effect, and it’s difficult to predict when it will occur. One thing the research has made clear, however, is that the more someone believes that the treatment is real, the more likely they are to respond. Injections are more effective than pills. Pills taken four times a day work better than pills taken two times a day. Doctors who are convinced of a treatment’s efficacy are more likely to have patients respond. Pills with the colors blue, green or purple make excellent downers, while pills that are colored red, yellow or orange work well as pretend-amphetamines. Perhaps the most profound demonstration of the impact of belief on healing is what happens when patients undergo placebo surgery. Because it is difficult to “test” new surgeries, more often than not physicians try experimental treatments on patients with severe difficulties and conclude that if they get better, the surgery must have worked. There is no control group, so the effect is attributed entirely to the procedure. A famous example of an unintentional placebo surgery was mammary artery ligation. Patients who suffer from coronary artery disease experience an inadequate flow of blood to the heart muscle. Back in the 1940s and 1950s, doctors thought that if they tied off (ligated) the mammary arteries, they would be able to divert more blood to the coronary arteries and so improve a patient’s condition. Patients underwent the surgery and most responded quite well; for many months afterwards they experienced a dramatic improvement in their condition. The treatment was thought a success. That is, at least, until some doctors thought to try out a placebo version, whereby they’d cut open the patient’s chests but leave the mammary arteries intact. These patients recovered at the same rate as those with the “real” surgery. We like to think our science has improved since the 1950s – and thus the chances of having a sham surgery reduced – but a similar study was done in the 1990s demonstrating that patients with a certain type of arthritis responded just as well to fake arthroscopic knee surgery as those that had the real thing.4 Patients were so impressed with the results that they recommended the surgery to their friends.

Whether we recognize it or not, it’s possible that the medical community relies heavily on the power of the placebo. Brody goes on to make the point that in the days before the advent of modern medicine, nearly all drugs and treatments were placebos. For centuries patients have been responding to treatments that have since been proven ineffective. It makes one wonder why we need the pills and procedures at all. The answer, at least in part, is that we still believe that we need them. The placebo effect has its limitations, and no one is suggesting that we abandon medical treatment altogether. The effect does, however, underscore the importance of believing in the treatments we are getting. Science has demonstrated that belief is critical to the healing process. And if belief can heal a stomach ulcer, or treat coronary heart disease, or improve the functioning of our knees, how can we doubt its power to have a profound effect on all areas of our lives?

 

The Possibility of Belief

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.” – J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Another demonstration of the power of belief is the extent to which it defines what is possible. It may seem farfetched to suggest that what we believe is possible impacts what is, in fact, possible. Something is either possible or it’s not, and it doesn’t matter what you believe, right? One of the best illustrations of why this is not the case is the story of the four-minute mile. For many years runners tried and failed to break the four-minute barrier. A mythology grew around the achievement, and many at the time believed it was physically impossible. The top mile runner in those days, John Landy, made it his mission to run a sub-four-minute mile, but after two years of hard training, he still couldn’t get below four minutes and two seconds. He announced publicly that he felt the achievement was beyond his capabilities. And then one day in 1954 a man by the name of Robert Bannister did the impossible, running the mile in a time of 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds. A miraculous achievement, indeed, but even more miraculous was what happened to John Landy. Forty-six days after Bannister’s historic run, Landy ran the mile in 3 minutes and 57.9 seconds – a full four seconds faster than he’d ever run it before. Landy – and the rest of the world – believed it wasn’t possible until someone showed them that it was.

Chances are, you’re not attempting something that’s never been done before. But it is likely that you are going to be doing something that you’ve never done before and that can be just as daunting. Do you think it’s possible that you could earn ten million dollars? Let me ask another question. Do you think it’s possible for anyone to earn ten million dollars? The answer to the second question is easy. Countless people who have made that kind of money will immediately spring to mind. Athletes. Actors. Entrepreneurs. Writers. Musicians. Real estate moguls. Financiers. It’s hardly a question of belief if it can be easily proven. It’s been done before and will be done again. So, then, why couldn’t it be done by you? I’m sure you could come up with a lot of reasons. (For example, “I’m not starting a career in Major League Baseball anytime soon.”) But I’m equally certain that you could find someone who was in your exact same circumstance and did it anyway. All you need is an idea and the belief that you can pull it off.

Maybe money isn’t what you want. Maybe it’s adventure. Maybe you want to be a ski instructor in Switzerland or give snorkeling tours of the Great Barrier Reef. Has anyone done it before? If so, then you could do it too. Or maybe what you’re looking for is love, and you’re not sure if you’re going to find it. You have to believe that you will, or you’re certain not to. That was the trap I fell into. When I was younger, I didn’t believe it was possible for me to marry someone I was madly in love with. I didn’t think that the really awesome guys would want to get married, or, at least, that they would want to marry me. So I settled for someone I thought was good enough, and by doing so I had fulfilled my own prophecy. I believed that it was my only option, and so I took it. It was only once I believed that something better was out there (and got divorced) that I was able to find it.

Usually people decide what they think is “realistic” before deciding what they believe is possible. What I need for you to do is the opposite: decide what you want, believe you can have it, and then find a way to make it realistic. The only limitations on what you can do and what you can have are the ones you give to yourself. You can have anything you want. The only catch is that you have to want it enough to do whatever it takes to get it – and you won’t be willing to do whatever it takes unless you believe it’s possible to have.

 

(To keep on reading, All the Luck can be purchased at: http://www.amazon.com/All-Luck-Becoming-Luckiest-ebook/dp/B00E3WTX4A/)

Stay tuned for a preview of Tenet #2: Confidence!!

Sep 30, 2013 - Posts    No Comments

The Twelve Tenets of Good Luck

“Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy.” – Walt Disney Company

In this last introduction section to my book, All the Luck, I present the twelve concepts critical to living the luckiest possible life. In brief, these concepts are:

(1)    Belief. “I think I can.” If you don’t believe your desired outcome is possible, why bother trying? You can have anything you want in life, so long as you believe that you can.

(2)    Confidence. “I am the best.” You have to know that you are amazing, and attractive, and talented, and lovable. The more highly you value yourself, the more highly others will value you.

(3)    Happiness. “Life is good.” Things will not make you happy, only you can make you happy. And if you are happy, the good things will follow.

(4)    Focus. “I know what I want.” If you want to be lucky, you have to know what kind of luck you’re looking for.

(5)    Bravery. “I go after what I want.” Fortune favors the bold. The timid aren’t lucky.

(6)    Persistence. “I keep going after what I want.” If you turn back at the first sign of trouble, you’ll never get where you want to be.

(7)    Flexibility. “I can handle anything that comes my way.” The route from A to B is rarely a straight line. Sometimes you’ll have to take a detour, and sometimes not getting what you want will be the best possible kind of luck.

(8)    Responsibility. “I am powerful.” When you take control of your life, you give yourself the power to make it into whatever you want it to be.

(9)     Awareness. “I pay attention.” Be aware of the impact of your actions. Be aware of the people around you. Listen with more than your ears.

(10)  Serenity. “I am calm.” Anxiety and anger are deterrents to good luck.

(11)  Kindness. “I am nice.” You can catch more flies with honey, and both you and your flies will be happier for it.

(12)  Gratitude. “Thank you.” When you are grateful for what you have, you will always feel lucky.

 

Check back tomorrow for excerpts from Tenet #1: Belief!

 

Sep 16, 2013 - Posts    No Comments

All the Luck: The Nature of Luck

Here is the second part of the introduction section to my book, All the Luck.

The Nature of Luck

“I’d rather be lucky than good.” – Vernon “Lefty” Gomez

Luck is a funny thing. Most of the time we hardly notice it at all, and yet it has more influence on our life than just about anything. Things happen to us all the time that we couldn’t have predicted. Sometimes they’re great and provide us with amazing opportunities. Other times they’re bad and result in health problems or financial difficulties. You can never know what life will bring. By definition, luck is something totally beyond your control that conspires to bring you either great fortune or adversity. If that’s the case, then, how can I promise to make you any luckier than you are today?

Luck means different things to different people. Some people, I’ve found, don’t believe in luck. They think that if they work hard enough and long enough they don’t need luck. Others rely almost exclusively on luck, and wait around for the day it comes. The way I see things falls somewhere in between. Whether you like it or not, there is some element of chance inherent in everything you do. You can’t control the weather. You can’t control who you’re going to see when you walk down the street. You can’t control the people around you and what they do. You can’t prevent car accidents or freak injuries. And you’ll have nothing to do with some of the best things that happen to you. You could win big at the casino or inherit some money from a long-lost relative. A chance meeting could turn into a great job opportunity or a great marriage. It’s possible that you could make all wrong choices and still luck out, and it’s possible you could make all the right ones and still fail through no fault of your own.

Fortunately, there are also plenty of things in life that you can control. You can control what you’re wearing. You can control what you say. You can control your own actions. You control how you think. You control how much effort you put into what you do. You can decide how to respond when things go wrong. You can decide to make brave choices or never risk anything. You can work towards improving yourself or continue on exactly as you are. And many of those factors can and will determine whether good things will happen to you and if you get what you want out of life.

It all comes down to probability. In everything you attempt, there will be some chance of success and some chance of failure. There will be some factors you can control, and some you can’t. All you can do is give yourself the best odds of winning. You’re more likely to give a good presentation if you practice it first. You’re likely to succeed at a sport if you train regularly. You are more likely to be promoted if you ask for a promotion. And you’re more likely to win the lottery if you buy a ticket.

There are also ways to increase the chances that you’ll have a random stroke of good fortune. When good things happen to us that we don’t anticipate, we rarely recognize the ways in which we contributed to getting that luck. But people who are consistently lucky have more than just luck going for them. The more people you meet, the more chance you have of coming across someone who can give you the lucky break you’ve been waiting for. When the people you interact with like you they’re more likely to do favors for you or recommend you for jobs. And when you expect good things to come your way, you’re more likely to get them.

This book is full of information on how to increase your odds of success and your chances of stumbling upon some good luck. Anyone will tell you that if you flip a coin you have a 50/50 shot of it landing heads-up. But that’s only if there is nothing you can do to influence the coin. There are ways to get that coin to land heads-up a lot more than half the time. This is why some people appear to be so much luckier than others. If you believe that everyone has the same odds of success, it would seem unfair for someone to win time after time after time. But luck and success don’t work that way. The odds aren’t fixed, and you can tilt them in your favor. Read on and learn how to make every day your lucky day.

Sep 12, 2013 - Posts    No Comments

All the Luck: Introduction

As promised, for the next few weeks I’m going to post sections of the book to the blog so that you can get a free preview.  Here is the introduction section, which tells the story of why I decided to write it.  Enjoy!

Introduction

“Success leaves clues.” – Anthony Robbins

Some people seem to have all the luck. Peppered amongst the population of ordinary individuals are a select few who appear able to get whatever they want, whenever they want it. They have the best house, the best spouse, the best kids, the best car, the best job, the best body, and the most money. If there is an award to be won, they will win it, and if there is a prize to be had, they will have it. They look and walk and talk like normal human beings, and yet they seem to have superhuman abilities. They play by different rules. Things always seem to go their way. It can be maddening to have to struggle along in your own life when there are those who appear to effortlessly float along from one success to another. How do they do it? How can anyone be that lucky?

If you’re reading this book, it is likely because you want to be that person. You want to have that kind of luck. Well, I’m here to let you in on their secret. You don’t have to be born lucky. You can learn to be lucky. And I can teach you. I know I can because I taught myself, and I am now the luckiest person I know.

I wasn’t always lucky. To make a long and all-too-common story short, I was an ugly kid. I got picked on a lot. I had really low self-esteem, which I carried with me for years. As an adult, my poor self-image held me back professionally and made having a successful relationship just about impossible. I didn’t know how to be the person I wanted to be. I didn’t know how to have the life I wanted to have. Perhaps because I didn’t know how to get what I wanted, I ended up with a lot of things I didn’t want: an unfulfilling career, an unhappy marriage, and an uninspiring life. I tried to convince myself that things were okay, but deep down I knew they weren’t. And then two things happened that changed everything. First, my uncle passed away unexpectedly. We were very close and his death was devastating to me. It did, however, have the effect of putting things in perspective, as tragic events often do. It became very clear that life is short and not to be wasted. I knew that I had to do something, I just wasn’t sure what. This led to event number two.

There’s an old expression that says when the student is ready, the teacher appears. Knowing that I was going through a difficult time, a friend of mine handed me a copy of Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins. I was grasping at straws at this point. I didn’t really think that something written by the oft-ridiculed poster boy for self-help was going to make a difference in my life, but I was willing to try anything. Much to my surprise, I loved it. It opened my eyes to the way that things ought to be. It taught me that I was in charge of my life and there were things I could do to make it better. A simple enough concept, but one that had eluded me for a long time. I was helped by self-help. I loved the book so much that I immediately sought others. I read every self-help, social psychology, and behavioral economics book I could get my hands on. Book after book after book, by authors from Deepak Chopra to Malcolm Gladwell, and everyone in between who might have some advice on how I should be living my life. Slowly but surely I became the person I had always wanted to be – happy and confident, pretty and popular. The more I grew as a person, the more good things came into my life. I made the brave decision to leave my husband and found that being on my own wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. I made a ton of new friends. I had an active social life. I was promoted at work and gained new responsibilities that made my position much more compelling. I even had men fighting over me – ME, the girl who never had a date in high school. And then I met Adam. Adam is the greatest man I have ever known. Not only is he extremely good-looking, but he is kind and generous, brilliant and funny. I am married to someone who is better than any fantasy I’d ever had of what a husband could be.

Now, I wake up every day and see the bounty around me that is my life. I have everything I could possibly want. I have had luck beyond my wildest dreams, and it keeps on coming. I see so many people who are struggling and unhappy, trapped in unsatisfying jobs or unsatisfying relationships, and what I want to say to them all is, “It doesn’t have to be this way!” I want them to be as happy as I am. As Anthony Robbins is fond of saying, “Success leaves clues.” What he means is that everyone who has been successful got there somehow. If you follow their example, you can have the same success. Now that I have my own success story, I want to leave clues. This is the story of how I got lucky.

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