Did You See the Gorilla?

I will get to the gorilla later. Let me begin by talking about luck…especially your luck over the past ten years.

Virtually all of us have been to a school reunion or large family event over the past decade. It is easy to have been both attracted to and envious of those folks who are leading seemingly charmed lives.

These fortunate relatives, friends, and colleagues have fulfilling careers, happy personal lives, and good health. They radiate a sense of well-being and quiet confidence. Then there are the chronically unlucky. They are often conspicuous at these gatherings by their absence. Their lives appear to be a continuous series of mishaps, muddles, and misadventures.

I have always found it ironic that both my lucky and unlucky acquaintances often share nearly identical educations, IQs, physical statures, and family backgrounds. How do you explain the differences in life outcomes?

Fate. Chance. Love Potion #9!

Dr. Richard Wiseman, a distinguished British research psychologist and former professional magician, believes he has the answer to the riddle of how we create good luck and bad luck in our lives. It involves our perception of reality and of ourselves.

Here is the gorilla story:

Serious academic behavioral scientists created a videotape of people playing basketball. They asked subjects to count the number of passes made by one of the teams. More than half of the observers failed to notice a woman dressed in a gorilla suit who walked slowly across the scene for nine seconds. What was especially curious is that the hairy beast faced the camera and thumped her chest. This experiment has been repeated with large public groups where only 10 percent of those present saw the gorilla.

Basically, we see only what we are looking for…and little else.

Check out this amusing but highly informative interview with Dr. Wiseman, conducted by Dan Pink, from the archives of Fast Company magazine.

The article also contains the funniest joke in the world, according to Dr. Wiseman, who spent a year researching the subject.

Here are Wiseman’s four scientifically identified luck factors that can create good fortune in your life and career. They are commonsense and a little "self-helpy" but worth considering. We all could use a little more luck with our creative ventures.

1. Maximize Chance Opportunities
Lucky people are skilled at creating, noticing, and acting upon chance opportunities. They do this in various ways, such as building and maintaining a strong network, adopting a relaxed attitude toward life, and being open to new experiences.

2. Listen to Your Lucky Hunches
Lucky people make effective decisions by listening to their intuition and gut feelings. They also take steps to actively boost their intuitive abilities — for example, by meditating and clearing their minds of other thoughts.

3. Expect Good Fortune
Lucky people are certain that the future will be bright. Over time, that expectation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because it helps lucky people persist in the face of failure and positively shapes their interactions with other people.

4. Turn Bad Luck into Good
Lucky people employ various psychological techniques to cope with and even thrive on the ill fortune that comes their way. For example, they spontaneously imagine how things could have been worse, they don’t dwell on the ill fortune, and they take control of the situation.

Daniel H. Pink, author of Free Agent Nation: The Future of Working for Yourself (Warner Business Books, 2002), is writing a book about the rise of right-brained thinking in modern life. He considers himself one lucky guy. For more information on the Luck Project, visit www.luckfactor.co.uk.

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