Good luck, where did it come from and can we call it into our lives? As far back as history allows, people have believed in the concept of luck and have done whatever they could to attain it. From wearing lucky underpants, to lucky charms to knocking on wood; thought to date back to pagan rituals aimed at eliciting help from powerful tree gods. Even today some knock on wood after mentioning a hopeful future outcome, though few, if any, of us worship tree gods. So why do we pass this and other superstitions down from generation to generation? The answer lies in the power of luck.
Good luck – where did it originate?
While Dictionary.com suggests luck is “The force that seems to operate for good or ill in a person’s life, as in shaping circumstances, events, or opportunities.” The word “luck” originated from the 1200’s and evolved from the word, “Hap” which means, “chance, a person’s luck, fortune, fate;” also “unforeseen occurrence,” from Old Norse happ “chance, good luck.” By the 15th century the Germans shortened “Gelücke” meaning “happiness” or “good fortune” to “Lücke.” In the 15th century “Luck” entered the English language along with all its superstitions and belief systems.
In the 15th century religion also claimed “luck” and “fortune” suggesting they originated from the Sun-deity “Lucifer.” Luck is the abbreviation of the name “Lucifer.” The idea of having “Luck” and “Good Fortune” is unscriptural and points to belief in Gad, the Syrian/Canaanite deity of “Good Luck” or “Fortune.” We have come to know “Luck” as being a force of ill will or good will. But can we summon it into our lives?
While some pray and some ritualise luck, others avoid walking under ladders, black cats, Friday the thirteenth and opening an umbrella inside the house. To illustrate how crazy some of these superstitions sound, let me share the origins of one.
Opening an umbrella indoors is supposed to bring bad luck, though the origins of this belief are murky. Legends abound, from a story of an ancient Roman woman who opened her umbrella moments before her house collapsed, to the tale of a British prince who accepted two umbrellas from a visiting king and died within months. When we can’t understand something, we literally make stuff up. Reasons come first, answers come second, regardless of how illogical they may seem.
Do your underpants bring you good luck?
In the USA, Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland couldn’t explain the team’s 12-game winning streak and so refused to change his underwear believing his underwear lucky. Jim’s a smart guy and so is Michael Jordan whom wore his old North Carolina winning shorts under his pro uniform. Wearing lucky underpants sounds pretty silly as superstitions typically are. While luck can be seen as inconsequential creations of irrational minds, according to researchers, it also seems to work.
Subjects in an experiment who were verbally wished “good luck” before attempting a task completed that task much more quickly than those who were not granted the same wish. Others who had some sort of “lucky charm”; a key chain, special stone, photo, sentimental jewellery, etc. performed better on mental tests, working harder and sticking with it longer than participants without lucky charms. When it comes to golf, lucky golf balls are a must. Students at Colorado College who putted with what they were told were “lucky” golf balls performed significantly better than those who didn’t. Why?
Can good luck be conjured within the beliefs of the individual or embraced by an entire group? Golf balls, charms and individual rituals might not have any special powers. Underwear itself may not have any special powers either. Instead, like a placebo the power comes from the believer’s beliefs. Believing that you’re lucky underwear brings good luck can increase your propensity to extract your fullest potential, your self-confidence. When you’re more confident, you’re more enthusiastic. You’re more patient. You’re more relaxed. You think more clearly. You’re more focused. All of which leads to better performance.
Richard Wiseman, writing for Readers Digest detailed a fascinating survey. Four hundred men and women aged 18 to 84 from all walks of life participated in a ten-year luck experiment. Subjects were asked to complete diaries, personality questionnaires and IQ tests, and invited to laboratory experiments. The result was that “lucky” people get that way via some basic principles — seizing chance opportunities; creating self-fulfilling prophecies through positive expectations; and adopting a resilient attitude that turns bad luck around.
Consider chance opportunities: Lucky people regularly have them; unlucky people don’t. To determine why, lucky and unlucky people were given a newspaper. They were then asked to count how many photos were inside. On average, unlucky people spent about two minutes on this exercise; lucky people spent seconds. Why? Because on the paper’s second page, in big type was the message “Stop counting: There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” Lucky people tended to spot the message immediately. Unlucky ones didn’t. Half way through the paper there was another message: “Stop counting, tell the experimenter you have seen this and win $250.” Again, the unlucky people missed it. The lesson: Unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they’re too busy looking for something else. Lucky people see what is there rather than just what they’re looking for.
Subjects were also tested on their luck during a moment of misfortune. Each was asked to imagine being in a bank. Suddenly, an armed robber enters and fires a shot that hits them in the arms. Unlucky people tended to say this would be their bad luck to be in the bank during the robbery. Lucky people said it could have been worse: “You could have been shot in the head.” This kind of thinking makes people feel better about themselves, keeps expectations high, and increases the likelihood of continuing to live a lucky life.
Can we learn to become lucky? Can we create our own good luck? A series of experiments were carefully created, examining whether thought and behaviour could enhance good fortune. First came one-on-one meetings, during which participants completed questionnaires that measured their luck and their satisfaction with six key areas of their lives. The ideal conditions to create luck were outlined as “principles of luck” and techniques designed to help participants react like lucky people were described. For instance, they were taught how to be more open to opportunities around them, how to break routines, and how to deal with bad luck by imagining things being worse. They were asked to carry out specific exercises for a month and then report back.
The results were dramatic: 80 percent were happier and more satisfied with their lives and luckier. One unlucky subject said that after adjusting her attitude, expecting good fortune, not dwelling on the negative, her bad luck had vanished. One day, she went shopping and found a dress she liked. But she didn’t buy it. A week later, when she returned to the store, it was gone. Instead of walking away disappointed, she looked around and found a better dress, for less. Events like this made her a much happier person. Her experience showed how thoughts and behaviour affect the good and bad fortune we encounter. It proves that the power of luck is available to us all.
Just prior to travelling to a conference in Florida, USA, I was teaching in Melbourne, Australia our “Career and Life Mastery” Level I program. It’s a program where we explore beliefs in detail and our participant’s change their neurological blueprint to meet the lives that they design for themselves. One of my students made a decision to change one of his beliefs from “I’m unlucky” to simply, “I’m lucky” and it worked wonders for him in both his private life and his career. He and I were both so pleased with his results.
While flying into Orlando International Airport I had an idea. My student’s “I’m lucky” belief worked so well for him, I thought I would try out his belief too – why not, it would be fun! I had to drive from Orlando to Florida and afterwards south to Boca Raton. I approached the car hire desk and a lovely lady with a big warm smile greeted me. The weather was gorgeously warm, as Florida often is and you could imagine how lucky I felt when I was upgraded to a Volvo C70 convertible.
While I was in Orlando, I had a day off. I thought about what I could do to enjoy the time so I decided on visiting Universal Studios. Now I’m a big kid at heart and I love the scary rides, though you probably know that it is impossible to enjoy all that’s on offer due to the typically long queues, particularly during school holidays. Not for me! After paying for my ticket and enjoying a conversation about Australia with the guy in the ticket booth, he piped up and said, “I almost forgot to tell you about our ‘Fast-Pass’? And he gave it to me at half price! I almost felt embarrassed walking past massive queues of people only to find myself at the front of every queue. Not only did I get to experience the entire park and go on all the great rides, some of them I enjoyed twice! What’s more, I even lost my favourite hat on one of them and it turned up at lost and found. I still today have my favourite hat. How lucky was that!!!
The funniest thing though. When I got to LAX Los Angeles International Airport, to kill some time I ventured through the shops and a flashing key tag in the distance caught my attention. Can you guess what it flashed? The words “I’m Lucky” and a picture of a four-leaf clover.
You can hold a convenient belief or an inconvenient belief – I would say believing you’re lucky is a pretty convenient one – wouldn’t you agree?
What are at least 4 possible outcomes that come from the belief
– “I’m not lucky?”
1. You’ll look for reasons why you’re unlucky, and worse, you’ll find them
2. You’ll unconsciously avoid any opportunities to benefit, just in case you’re disappointed
3. If you believe you’re unlucky, your reticular activating system (your sorting filter) may only register “unlucky” experiences
4. If you’re religious, you may even blame your deity for you misfortune.
Perhaps a better belief may be, “I’m lucky.”
This is an excerpt from R!k Schnabel’s second book, “7 Beliefs That Will Change Your Life.”