This weekend I traveled to Milano to visit my friends Simon and Gabriel. Having decided to travel more in Europe and go on adventures I got myself an interrail pass with 10 travel days in 2 months. This came in handy for visiting both Austria and Italy. Milano was great, it was sunny all weekend and felt like spring. The food was amazing and it was great fun to meet old and new friends there.
With 6 travel days left on my interrail pass and 7 weeks to spend them I am bound to go on more adventures in Europe. I have already started to think about where I want to go for my next weekend adventure. But next week I will be flying home to Sweden to celebrate Easter. I look forward to some time off work and going home for a week.
Today's post will focus on luck. This was inspired by a conversation about why I write this blog with my friend Jens last week. I will share a framework for how I think about luck and then explain some ways you can increase the probability of being lucky. Let us start by looking a little closer at what luck is.
Overview of this post:
- Luck often plays a big role in success. Many believe luck to be entirely random.
- But I believe luck is not completely random. I will explain why that is and how you can increase the probability of getting lucky in life.
- There are four kinds of luck:
- Blind Luck
- Luck from Motion
- Luck from Awareness
- Luck from Uniqueness
The definition of luck from a dictionary is “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one's own actions”. This rings true, but luck might not be as simple as that. It is easy to emphasize the role luck plays in someone’s success or failure but it is not quite as random as the definition makes it sound sometimes.
A better framework or mental model for how luck works that I have come across is that luck stems from one of the four types mentioned earlier. I first read about this framework in Sahil Bloom's newsletter here and then more recently I stumbled across it in a blog post by Marc Andreesen here where he talks about the role of luck in entrepreneurship. Both of these articles reference and are based on the work by Dr. James Austin.
Dr. James Austin, a neurologist, and philosopher wrote the book “Chase, Chance, and Creativity” in 1978. The book details the role of luck and serendipity in the medical field and other creative undertakings. His definition of chance is as follows:
Chance... something fortuitous that happens unpredictably without discernable human intention.
In his book, Dr. Austin continues to identify the four distinct types of chance/luck and outlines a framework to explain them better. Dr. James Austin proposed the four types of luck.
Blind Luck - Chance 1
The truly random events in life. These are things we have no power to affect. Things like where we were born or who our parents are. We have no control to change this. These are accidental and no amount of effort we put in can change this.
Luck from Motion - Chance 2
Luck from motion includes motion and actions from you that leads to ideas colliding and facilitating change in your life. The increased amount of events based on your movement or action creates more opportunities for luck to strike. With an increased amount of opportunities and movement creating random combinations of thoughts and ideas can spark creative solutions and luck. Meeting more people, saying yes to more things, and trying new experiences will open you up to more opportunities for luck. They increase the probability that you will come across luck.
Luck from Awareness - Chance 3
This can be described as blind luck but it is disguised. You have to recognize that there is an opportunity for luck. This luck is available to everyone but you need the correct understanding and awareness in a field or domain to see it. This requires prior knowledge to allow you to capitalize on the opportunity. Naval Ravikant refers to this as the ability to “spot luck” due to your knowledge and experience.
Luck from Uniqueness - Chance 4
Luck from uniqueness is luck and opportunities that come to you based on your unique combination of skills and interests. The specific skills and attributes you have attract luck. Maybe it is an unusual hobby or the way you live your life that is unique and then when someone needs help in that area they will approach you. This luck seeks you out because of who you are.
This is how Dr. James Austin viewed the different types of luck.
Chance I is completely impersonal; you can’t influence it.
Chance II favors those who have a persistent curiosity about many things coupled with an energetic willingness to experiment and explore.
Chance III favors those who have a sufficient background of sound knowledge plus special abilities in observing, remembering, recalling, and quickly forming significant new associations.
Chance IV favors those with distinctive, if not eccentric hobbies, personal lifestyles, and motor behaviors.
Here is a great infographic on the topic of the four kinds of luck and what Sahil Bloom and Naval think about it:
How to maximize luck in your life
Using this framework you can establish a path forward to give yourself more opportunities for luck. Blind luck is no idea to try and influence but for the other three, there are things you can influence. Here are the four things I believe are important to create opportunities for luck:
- A bias to action - Having a bias to action will ensure you try new things, meet new people, and have new ideas. This creates movement in your life and creates a better environment for luck and creativity to come to you.
- Embrace curiosity - Lean into the things you are interested in. Learn more about them and cherish the fact that you find them interesting. This will help you gain more knowledge and realize your unique interests and skills.
- Avoid creating silos in your life - Many great inventions and new ideas in science come from adjacent or different fields. Applying ideas from one part of your life to a different one might be a recipe for success. Having diverse interests and realizing potential overlaps will be beneficial.
- Develop your own view of things - Avoid falling into the trap of crowd thinking. With social media, it is easy to get sucked into an opinion because everyone else has it. Challenge the opinions of others but maybe more importantly your own opinions. Can you explain to yourself why you believe what you do? Make sure you agree with your own views and don't hold them because of others. It is not only okay to disagree with others, but it should be encouraged. The world needs critical thinkers and contrarians, differing opinions move the world forward.
How This Relates to the Blog
Like I said at the start this post was sparked by a conversation about why I write this blog. The fact is that this is a great example of how I am trying to create more opportunities to get lucky.
Sharing my thoughts in writing and putting my ideas out into the world is a form of creating motion, but also creating my own views and trying out a new thing. Posting articles online was something new to me and something that scared me a little but I enjoyed reading content like this and figured it would be good to not only consume content but also produce some of my own.
By writing this blog I can reach more people online than I can through speaking to them. If someone finds this interesting and interacts with this blog it may help me create opportunities and relationships for later in life. This is an example of increasing my surface area for luck. Below is a quote from James Clear on the Tim Ferriss podcast explaining this quite well:
“So anytime you create an asset that can compound — a blog post, a podcast episode, even simple stuff like Twitter posts and Instagram posts are less likely because they kind of have a short half life, but even those can be examples of putting work out there that is still being recorded and still being stumbled across by people online and you’re creating a large surface area for good things to kind of break your way”
I hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about how I am thinking about luck. To summarize here are the four kinds of luck once again:
- Blind Luck
- Luck from Motion
- Luck from Awareness
- Luck from Uniqueness
Here are the four things I believe one should do to maximize your luck:
- Have a bias to action - Say yes and take action
- Embrace curiosity - Lean into your interests and keep learning
- Avoid creating silos in your life - Live a diverse life and look for overlap
- Develop your own view of things - Don't rely on others to do your thinking for you
Have a great week and I hope to see you next week!