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How to change your luck for good or ill

The nature of luck

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This page last updated on or about 5-19-05

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There appears to be at least a dozen major elements or dimensions to luck on the individual to intermediate size group scale, and the weight of each in any particular event may be fluid. That is, the one element which plays 100% of the role in determining the outcome of one event may play 0% in the next. But it's likely that for most events all the different components listed below carry some non-negligible weight on the outcome. The order of the following list is entirely random, and non-prioritized or weighted by importance:

How to change your luck Contents

Random chance is perhaps a display of one of the universe's most essential traits in action. In totality it makes for a somewhat schizophrenic cosmos, as on the one hand it tends to push everything towards eventual bankruptcy, destruction, and death via entropy, while on the other hand making for 'loopholes' among the chaos where anti-entropic organization or dissipative structures like life and intelligence itself can emerge and even prosper.

-- Turbulence Restrains Itself; APS Meetings; Nov. 15, 2002; George R. McKee, (858) 455-2419, mckee@fusion.gat.com Raymond J. Fonck, University of Wisconsin-Madison, General Atomics

Is the underlying stratum of all Reality merely randomness? There's hints that this is so. And that everything we know is created via pure random chance. It's mathematical theory that suggests this.

Randomness may be more essential than physicality to reality.

There appear to possibly be random connections which exist beyond or outside of physicality, between all events or objects. Links that transcend spacetime. But these connections do not usually survive a scale up from the subatomic level.

-- New Scientist: Random Reality by Marcus Chown; 26 February 2000

-- Witness says clear skies preceded fatal strike; Jul 21 2003; CBC - New Brunswick; nb.cbc.ca

"Looks, Race, Even Weather May Play Role in Whether You’ll Get a Helping Hand"

-- Who Can You Count On? apparently by Jami Floyd; December 6, 2003; abcnews.go.com

-- Ananova - Hamster 'saved by being too fat'; ananova.com; accessible online circa 8-16-04

-- Pleasing names make faces sexier; newscientist.com

-- Researcher: Your name key to sexiness - Aug 11, 2004; cnn.com

-- Yahoo! News - What's in a Name? Well, Matt Is Sexier Than Paul

"Popular names owe success to fickle fate."

-- Baby names a game of chance by MICHAEL HOPKIN; 18 June 2003; nature.com

In most circumstances the odds of random chance are against you-- unless you're out to harm yourself or others, or wreak destruction in general. Death, decay, and destruction represent the mainstream of events in this universe, and are not so prey to undoing by random chance as more creative and constructive endeavors.

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Evil and profligate waste. Many of the composite elements of luck have only a random relationship with justice or efficiency. Indeed, when you consider the entropy effect, luck more often favors the evil or ill-intentioned over the good, and the extravagantly wasteful over the efficient and thrifty.

Most people learn in their youth just how lucky or unlucky they personally are, and so what level of resources they can afford to waste on a regular basis. The majority of us learn pretty early on that we have no choice but to be thrifty.

This aspect of luck should be obvious to most everyone: just examine the history books. Look how far evil men like Stalin and Hitler were able to get in life, and how many innocents they robbed and killed doing so. You can check out today's newspapers for plentiful examples too.

-- Yahoo! News - Sex Attacker Wins Lottery on Weekend Out of Jail

This particular aspect of luck would seem to be a glaring contradiction to the belief that there is an all powerful and just God running the cosmos. If such a being exists it would appear to be only one or the other, not both. That is, if it's all-powerful it certainly isn't just; and vice versa.

Of course even anarchy has a structure of sorts: the strongest rule over everyone else. Human society has basically followed this path for millennia. Today that means that the nearer the top of the hierarchy you are the more evil you are expected to do and be allowed to get away with. The nearer the bottom, the less. References for this are presented elsewhere in this document.

To see more about this aspect of luck, CLICK HERE

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Statistics (or Probability and Statistics for those with college time). The field of stats actually offers some formulas for calculating certain aspects of the likelihood of events. And some types of events described here aren't random at all in overall character, actually being as predictable as clockwork. Certain types of card games, for instance, can be manipulated to almost any desired end using knowledge from this field. It's for this reason that well known gambling establishments maintain intense surveillance on players, watching out for known experts of such statistical plays, and immediately expelling them from the building when they find them.

-- Toss Out the Toss-Up: Bias in heads-or-tails by Erica Klarreich; Week of Feb. 28, 2004; Vol. 165, No. 9 , p. 131; sciencenews.org

-- Yahoo! News - Lucky gambler sues Las Vegas casino By Gina Keating; Mar 03, 2004; UK Reuters' story.news.yahoo.com, and Gambler Sues Las Vegas Casino for Barring Him By Gina Keating; Reuters; Mar 03, 2004; story.news.yahoo.com

Note that a good amount of local historic biospheric, chemical, geological, and geographic 'stats' are likely 'frozen' as biological programming code into the DNA of lifeforms universe-wide. That is, survival strategies which worked for predecessors are enshrined in DNA as bodily characteristics, instincts, etc., thereby enabling present generations to live and breed, sometimes in unbelievably hostile conditions.

-- Squirrels' evolutionary 'family tree' reveals major influence of climate, geology; eurekalert.org; 20-Feb-2003; Contact: Monte Basgall; monte.basgall@duke.edu; 919-681-8057; Duke University

-- Chemistry guides evolution, claims theory by Anil Ananthaswamy; New Scientist; 20 January 03

Epigenetic instructions passed from parent to child may be able to suppress or stimulate a wide range of genetic activity in the progeny. This could allow for sometimes substantial apparent changes from just one generation to the next. Thus, epigenetics may represent one possible avenue to accelerated evolution. So-called 'imprinted' genes may be part of this process. If this phenomena works as some believe, then human evolution could be profoundly affected in as little as one generation by environmental factors such as diet and drugs.

-- Hidden Inheritance (possible author Gail Vines), New Scientist, Archive: 28 November 1998

-- Love and Genes Can Beat Poverty -Study; Reuters; abcnews.go.com; May 26, 2004

-- Study shows that genes can protect kids against poverty; eurekalert.org; Contact: Julia Kim-Cohen julia.kim@iop.kcl.ac.uk 44-207-848-0595 University of Wisconsin-Madison; 25-May-2004

-- Genetic basis for individual variations in the response to stress; eurekalert.org; Contact: Aimee Midei molecularpsychiatry@mednet.ucla.edu 310-206-6739 Molecular Psychiatry; 24-Jun-2004

-- Identical twins break same arm on same day; ananova.com; accessible online circa 8-16-04

-- Research Links Month of Birth to Disease By Marc Lallanilla; abcnews.go.com; February 3, 2004

-- Yahoo! News - Birth Month May Influence Brain Cancer Risk

-- Probability Theory; C A S I N O M A G A Z I N E; October 3,2002; pokermag.com

You ARE a statistical data point. Sometimes this will be a good thing; others, a bad.

The typical US citizen experiences around 30,000 different events a day, with about one event a month occuring which is sufficiently unlikely (one chance out of a million) as to qualify as miraculous.

-- Miracle on Probability Street The Law of Large Numbers guarantees that one-in-a-million miracles happen 295 times a day in America By Michael Shermer; August 2004 issue; sciam.com

Normal luck is a much older article of mine exploring the possible role of probability in personal luck, which you may find interesting in its own right.

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Optimism (or open-mindedness slanted towards the positive). So long as optimism is tempered by an avoidance of actions which will definitely set back or harm you, such an attitude can lead to good fortune simply by increasing experimentation or 'playfulness' and therefore the likelihood some benefit or gain may be realized (via a manipulation of the 'stats' principle above).

-- How to be lucky; BBC; 3 January, 2003

"People can make their own luck, according to a psychologist who spent eight years studying the lives of 400 exceptionally lucky and unlucky individuals."

-- Psychologist gets a lucky break by Donald MacLeod; UK Guardian; January 3, 2003; education.guardian.co.uk

-- Woman spends 99-cents, ends up with $6,000 worth of art; July 21, 2003; cnews.canoe.ca

-- Yahoo! News - Man Spends $75 Gets $1 Million in Art; AP - Feature Stories; Aug 22, 2003

-- Yahoo! News - Man Cashes in on Trashed Lottery Ticket; story.news.yahoo.com

-- Twist of Fate An Alternate Route, Whimsical Purchase Led to N.J. Couple Powerball Winnings; abcnews.go.com; May 19, 2004

-- When the chips are down, bad luck is all in the mind By Jenifer Johnston; sundayherald.com; 01 June 2003

-- Psychologist aims to deconstruct luck By Byron Spice; May 12, 2003; post-gazette.com

-- Optimistic Outlook May Reduce Risk of Stroke By Alan Mozes; Yahoo!/Reuters Health; March 22, 2001; SOURCE: Psychosomatic Medicine March 23, 2001

Either depression or anxiety can slow healing of wounds.

-- Depression May Slow Wound Healing; Yahoo!/Reuters Health; April 19, 2001; SOURCE: Psychosomatic Medicine 2001;63:216-220

-- Expecting a laugh boosts stress-busting hormones; EurekAlert; 6-Nov-2002; Contact: Andrew Porterfield; amporter@uci.edu; 949-824-9363; University of California - Irvine

-- Depression Ups Risk of Dying From Heart Disease; Yahoo!/Reuters Health; March 15, 2001; SOURCE: Archives of General Psychiatry 2001;58:221-227

Optimism looks to be a generally beneficial trait, so long as it's not 'blind' optimism, or 'foolish' optimism. Taking good fortune for granted is always a no-no.

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The expression of confidence is a definite component of luck in a certain class of situations (especially social, and sometimes dealing with animals as well). From some perspectives confidence might appear best classified as a subset of optimism. But that would not necessarily cover the full range of effects confidence expression can have on events, even when it is only feigned, as when a con-man plies his trade. Sometimes only a well done display of confidence will be sufficient to persuade other people to submit to your arguments, or to scare away or train animals. And so, confidence can have a concrete role in success or failure, and therefore in how your 'luck' regarding certain events may pan out. BUT...one similarity confidence shares with optimism is that there can be too much of a good thing. Over-confidence (or a con-game gone wrong) can get you into just as much trouble as blind optimism.

-- Prisoner escapes courtroom using cardboard gun; Associated Press/Houston Chronicle; June 24, 2003

-- Escaped convict dies in shootout; Reuters; June 25, 2003; cnn.com

-- Winners Make Their Own Good Luck By Alex Rovira and Fernandos Trias de Bes; businessweek.com; JULY 26, 2004

The placebo effect in medicine, wherein certain conditions of patients may improve significantly due to nothing more than the belief or faith in such success, may be another example of how confidence may affect circumstances for better or worse (there's a reverse placebo effect as well, where negative expectations will help bring about negative results).

Note that the placebo effect is not effective for all ailments.

-- How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body By MICHAEL D. LEMONICK; JAN 20, 2003 ISSUE OF TIME MAGAZINE

"Simply the belief that you are drinking alcohol can impair judgement and dent memory, say researchers."

-- 'Fake alcohol' can make you tipsy By Dr David Whitehouse; BBC News Online; 1 July, 2003

-- Wrist bands can ease cancer nausea, especially for patients who expect them to work; eurekalert.org; 28-Aug-2003; Contact: Tom Rickey; trickey@admin.rochester.edu; 585-275-7954; University of Rochester Medical Center

-- The Nocebo Effect: Placebo's Evil Twin (washingtonpost.com) By Brian Reid; April 30, 2002; Page HE01

-- Putting placebos to work By Barbara Feder Ostrov; San Jose Mercury News; May 12, 2002; seattletimes.nwsource.com

-- Depressed brains get better on placebo!; eurekalert.org; 1-May-2002; Contact: Kelly Connelly; kconnelly@baycrest.org; 416-785-2432; Baycrest Center for Geriatric Care

-- Even thoughts can turn genes on and off by SHARON BEGLEY; June 21, 2002; Associated Press/The Wall Street Journal

Confidence alone can sometimes be all you need. But relying exclusively on confidence is basically bluffing, and so not recommended as anything but a last resort.

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Charisma, leadership, mastery of the art of deceit; these qualities or skills are often found among the highest paid and most famous folks in modern society. Some may take offense at the 'master of deceit' phrase-- but the label well fits the majority of our politicians, who often say one thing and do another, and manage to get away with all manner of astonishing deceptions during their careers. Note too that our top politicians and military and intelligence leaders routinely hide the truth from us by way of claiming it must be kept secret for reasons of national security or similar excuses. Decades later when the facts finally come out we often discover many secrets were merely kept to cover up malevolent conspiracies, corruption, outright theft, or dangerous, stupid, and embaressing mistakes on our leaders' parts.

-- Reports reveal national security not at stake in crash long called secret; February 28, 2003; zwire.com

-- Families ask court to reopen landmark case involving crashed bomber; February 26, 2003; zwire.com

-- Unearthed military secret brings new life to old case By L. Stuart Ditzen; Philadelphia Inquirer; Mar. 05, 2003

"In '48 Crash, the U.S. Hid Behind National Security"

-- An Injustice Wrapped In A Pretense By Timothy Lynch; June 22, 2003; Page B03; washingtonpost.com

-- GOVT DENIES FRAUD IN 1953 STATE SECRETS RULING (apparently by Steven Aftergood); SECRECY NEWS from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy Volume 2004, Issue No. 8 January 26, 2004

If you want still more on how the art of deceit is considered vital in modern government and military matters, look to the huge resources spent on spying on virtually everyone, domestically and abroad, disseminating propaganda (lies of various degrees) for political, economic, or military gain, and disguising our actions and policies so as to mislead others regarding our true intent in trade and research pacts, etc., etc., in order to strengthen our negotiating positions.

Then there's the other celebrities we worship, such as actors and actresses, and chief executives of corporations. Those in the acting biz officially make their living by deceiving their audiences-- making us believe they really are murderers or madmen or sailors or whatever on screen or stage, when the public record clearly shows they are not.

Many of our chief executives 'get paid the big bucks' for their ability to manipulate employees, customers, vendors, investors, and various accounting, regulatory, and tax agencies-- frequently to the point of outright deception and sometimes worse-- so as to produce specific results on paper and in the public and/or market's perceptions.

But such deceit is widespread in the plant and animal kingdoms, in the form of camouflage or fraudulent sounds, scents, and appearances. The walking stick insect looks like part of a plant. Lions sport fur coats that blend into their stalking terrain. And so on and so forth. So deception is not a uniquely human trait by any means.

-- The Mockingbird's Songs By C. CLAIBORNE RAY; May 4, 2004; nytimes.com

So charisma, leadership, and mastery of the art of deceit are important aspects to luck in modern human society. They can win wars, allies, generate (or steal) vast fortunes, and bring fame for those already at or near the top of the social hierarchy. They can offer benefits and advantages to those lower on the social scale too, but an enormous law enforcement infrastructure has historically been maintained by nations to actively discourage such indulgences, often with severe punishments. In practice such enforcement is primarily focused on the lower classes rather than the higher. Thus, it's usually far, far riskier for a poor person to attempt to improve their fortunes via deception, than it is for a member of the elite (especially where significant cash sums or potential prestige are involved).

"Criminal prosecutions are highly unusual for corporate criminals, and convictions carrying jail time are even more rare."

-- Big crimes? Maybe. Big punishment? Not likely; Yahoo! Op/Ed - USA TODAY; Gannett Co. Inc.; Feb 5, 2002

-- Crime And (Very Little) Punishment by Arianna Huffington; Arianna Online; July 15, 2002

-- UMass researcher finds link between lying and popularity; EurekAlert! 13 DECEMBER 1999; Contact: Paula Hartman Cohenphcohen@admin.umass.edu; 413-545-2987; University of Massachusetts at Amherst

-- Cheaters prosper in schools, colleges By Jill Tucker; Tri-Valley Herald; December 09, 2002

-- The CEO as Thief: A Psychological Profile by Abraham Zaleznik; Edited by Patricia O'Connell; Businessweek; DECEMBER 23, 2002

Note that an important aspect to successfully practicing deception is not getting caught or found out. Or, alternatively, enjoying the 'connections' or influence necessary to 'cover up' or suitably justify those instances where you do get caught.

In modern society, being exposed as a liar is usually most damaging to those of low social stature, such as the poor. So it's little wonder that personal honesty is valued more highly among those of the lower classes than the higher ones. The more social status or financial wealth you possess at the time of such exposure, typically the smaller price you'll pay for your deception being revealed. In some cases, the elite may actually benefit from being found out for fraudulent behavior-- where the same exact actions would put poorer, less influential folks in dire straits.

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Networking of one form or another, believe it or not, is something lifeforms (and even inanimate objects!) were doing long before intelligence sprouted to take credit for it.

"Cornell scientist Steven Strogatz has found that beings that cannot think, or are not even alive, can synchronize their behavior."

-- Cornell scientist finds nature's rhythms in sync By JESSICA KELTZ; March 15, 2003; The Ithaca Journal; theithacajournal.com

"Mindless things can synchronize by the millions..."

-- All Together Now: The New Science of Sync By Louis Jacobson; The Washington Post; August 4, 2003; Page A07

-- It's Hard to Beat "Network Effects" By Amrit Tewary; FEBRUARY 28, 2003; businessweek.com

-- Old-boy network's power exposed by PHILIP BALL; 4 October 2002; nature.com

-- New networks mimic the behavior of insects and bacteria By Kimberly Patch; March 19, 2003; Technology Review, Inc.

-- Uniting With Only a Few Random Links Findings Reported in This Week's Science; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; rpi.edu; January 30, 2003; CONTACT: Jodi Ackerman (518) 276-2146 ackerj2@rpi.edu; CONTACT: Gyorgy Korniss (518) 276-2555, korniss@rpi.edu

"Salespeople who aren't striving to extend life's web of human interactions find themselves poorer in pocket -- and soul"

-- Beyond The Customer Connection By Michelle Nichols; JUNE 27, 2003; Businessweek

"It is less random than people thought"

-- What does the Internet look like?; Oct 3rd 2002; The Economist

-- Social insects point to non-genetic origins of societies; eurekalert.org; 26-Sep-2003; Contact: James Hathaway; hathaway@asu.edu; 480-965-6375; Arizona State University

-- Gene expression tied to social behavior in honey bees; eurekalert.org; 9-Oct-2003; Contact: Jim Barlow; jebarlow@uiuc.edu; 217-333-5802; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

But in purely contemporary and secular human terms, networking is usually viewed as 'schmoozing' with associates to either sow or harvest potentially useful information among the group, and/or incur behavior which might affect changes in status for one or more of the number (or related activities), for good or ill. Untold numbers of business and social groups, clubs, and other types of organizations which exist today are based on the power and functionality of networking principles.

Metcalfe's law, meant to apply to computer networks but surely useful for sociometrics as well, states that the more nodes (or members/contacts) a given network acquires, the more useful it becomes for everyone. Now this law likely runs up against practical limits in terms of human social networking, but still it should work up to a point.

So in general, the more folks you have connected to your own network, the more powerful or effective the network potentially is for all members.

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Preparation, practice, and study. The motto of the Boy Scouts is "be prepared". This notion, where actually executed prior to a crisis, can literally mean the difference between life and death. In less extreme circumstances it can mean the difference between a comfortable and interesting life, and a mediocre, painful, and boring one. The simple presence of a college education versus only a high school diploma can make that much difference in a person's life, and is an excellent example of how 'being prepared' can help improve your personal fortunes.

One serendipitous example of how suitable preparation can translate to good luck might be an anecdote from my own life. I basically won a pretty massive promotion at one company due to some purely accidental preparation I'd done years before.

A friend of mine called me in basically as an artist to help with a business presentation. But over time I gradually became a valued tech support person for many of the computer users at the company. This made the current IT head consider me a threat, leading to him attempting to ambush and publically humiliate me at the firm in what essentially turned out to be a duel of computing technical jargon, before dozens of witnesses.

Fortunately for me, I had no idea of his plans, and even remained unaware of what was happening during the ambush itself. This left me light-hearted and relaxed, or 'innocent', as certain interpretations of the I Ching might say, and so in optimal condition for a mental duel.

And that's where the preparation came in. For my opponent couldn't know that I'd been fascinated with personal computing technologies for a whole decade by that point, and spent untold hours at my college library years before devouring all available back issues of BYTE magazine, as well as other technical journals-- and continued such reading for long afterwards in my personal life. So I enjoyed a fairly impressive command of computing jargon-- the very thing my opponent had chosen to challenge me on.

So my challenger ended up humiliating himself instead of me. He soon afterwards quit his job and disappeared, leaving a vacuum which many folks felt I should move into-- and I did. I got a big raise too. And what won the duel for me wasn't my college education, but my reading of computer magazines for years on end-- as a HOBBY.

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Leveraging the existing social order is often essential to good fortune. For example, in modern society quite a bit can be accomplished simply by cooperating with various bureaucracies and completing the proper paperwork-- while on the flip side, the lack of such cooperation or papers can bring even the most grandiose of projects to a standstill. The gangster Al Capone was brought down basically because he hadn't filed tax returns on his ill-gotten gains. Exploiting your host society includes educating yourself about its possible benefits. For instance, some small businesses may qualify for low interest loans from various government agencies. The hungry and cold may sometimes qualify for food and heat assistance. If you already have access to a reasonably modern computer and internet account, you can set up your own web site for free. Etc., etc.

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Risk-taking can be either voluntary or not, but just as you must usually pass through a doorway to gain access to a new environment, you must usually take a risk to find or exploit new opportunities. Risk accompanies virtually every breath and step we take in this world. It's a part of living. But anyone who wishes to get beyond mere sustenance or more actively direct their own fate, must usually raise their level of risk-taking to do so. Risk equals potential cost. Always try to make as accurate an estimate of the true risk and theoretical gain involved in a possible action before execution, and avoid undertaking too much risk for too little potential reward, in order to maximize your chance of beneficial outcomes.

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Curiosity indulgence and outright snooping 'Curiosity killed the cat' as the old cliche goes-- curiosity truly can be risky. But it can also be rewarding. Or else there wouldn't be so much intelligence gathering both covert and overt, taking place in the world today. Governments do it. Businesses do it. Other groups and individuals do it. Even animals do it.

-- Eavesdropping occurs among animals, finds evolutionary biologist; 18-Sep-2002; eurekalert.org; Contact: Denise Fitzpatrick; denise.fitzpatrick@louisville.edu; 502-852-6171; University of Louisville

Note here that I'm not coming down on either side on the morality of snooping. In some cases it'd plainly be wrong, perhaps even evil. But in other cases not doing it could be lethal. Such matters as these may often have to be decided on a case-by-case basis, and even then the morality of the practice may be unclear.

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Timing is sort of the metaphysical correlate to the modern maxim that "location, location, and location" are the three most important aspects to real estate values. If a person could fully exploit the timing of events, even just in the daily hum drum circumstances of their own life, they could in many cases accomplish amazing things. Unfortunately, successfully exploiting event timing is just as fraught with difficulty as it is potential. Witness the billions of dollars easily lost by stock speculators trying to time the markets.

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Natural physical and/or mental talents or characteristics (including beauty, speed, reaction time, coordination, instincts, creativity, artistic sensibilities, etc., etc.)

Physical beauty and natural athletic speed, coordination, and grace may be the most easily recognized examples of this element of luck.

Typically based largely on the luck of the random genetic draw (as of 2003), such traits can never-the-less exert strong influences on your destiny if you possess them. They can help open the way for you to become a high paid model or ball player, or actress, etc.

In some instances such characteristics may be artificially gained, by way of plastic surgery or intensive training and coaching. But rare indeed is the case of someone 'self-made' in this respect outdoing a 'natural', where such come into direct competition.

So desirable natural (or unnatural) traits like physical attractiveness, coordination, and creative talent can give the owner a 'leg up' over much of their competition.

"These results particularly show the far-reaching social consequences human facial attractiveness may have."

-- Beautycheck - Causes and Consequences of Human Facial Attractiveness; Last modified 25-06-2002; pcptpp030.psychologie.uni-regensburg.de

"BEING beautiful pays off. Economists have found that men with above-average looks are paid about 5 percent more than those with average appearance, while those who are below average in looks have wages 9 percent below the mean."

"...beauty has a substantial payoff across a variety of occupations, even those where it doesn't seem to be inherently valuable"

-- The Hunk Differential By HAL R. VARIAN; The New York Times; August 28, 2003

"Looks, Race, Even Weather May Play Role in Whether You’ll Get a Helping Hand"

-- Who Can You Count On? apparently by Jami Floyd; December 6, 2003; abcnews.go.com

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Self-discipline. Mastering your own 'flight or fight' response: remaining cool and collected when those around you aren't, can at minimum present you with certain unique opportunities for advancement, and at maximum enable you to save your own life and those of others.

The 'fight or flight' response is a leftover from our Stone Age history, when a saber-toothed tiger or pseudo-grizzly bear might surprise us on the trail at any moment, leaving us but the two choices, and prepping us biologically with adrenalin and other aids to endure the crisis as best we could.

Today though, most of us would have to go to an awful, awful lot of trouble and even expense to put ourselves into such dire situations. Sure, we might still fall into an open roofed bear compound at the zoo, or wander into a bad section of town populated by muggers, both scenarios where our 'fight or flight' mechanisms might still be of some value. But mostly we just worry about our jobs, paying the bills, and how to persuade or motivate ourselves or our loved ones into changing personal habits for the better, etc., etc., etc. Often such mundane matters will become agonizing enough to trigger our 'fight or flight' responses-- but neither fight or flight will be viable solutions to our dilemma, and so the biochemical changes due to our Stone Age response merely worsen our stress levels, and even damage our long term health, if such triggering events occur too often.

And even where flight or fight is an appropriate response to today's ills, submitting to the most primitive forms of these responses usually will not be. That is, modern flight or fight responses must often be cooly thought out to work, as our escapes may involve blindly navigating complex artificial environments like large building interiors filled with smoke or darkened by power loss, or eluding stalkers on unfamiliar city streets. Our fights might require combatting or defending against fires blocking our exits or endangering our families. Simply running away or clubbing, hacking, scratching, and biting as our Stone Age forebears might have won't help us in many modern situations of real danger. No, thinking is often required. And thinking can be clouded or negated entirely by panic or overwhelming fear.

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Wealth and power. Now here's an exotic mix. The vast majority of people on Earth never have and never will experience significant quantities of either of these. And yet such stuff is precisely what many, maybe most, will be wanting to gain by way of a change in luck.

But wealth and power themselves are modifiers of fate too, for good or ill. A few folks are born with them, a few others inherit them, or have them dropped on them unexpectedly for some other reason. Not all who get to enjoy wealth also get power and influence along with it, or vice versa (although each may often include at least some aspects or glimmers of the other).

Gaining widespread fame can often be related to these, and even become a source of wealth and power itself. But there's no guarantee. There's quite a few people who became household names, even for the most positive of reasons, who never got wealth and power to go along with it. There's also rich and powerful folks who few have ever heard of, that may even have spent huge sums to gather such fame, to no effect. And there's plenty who had wealth, influence, and fame all at once and lost all three.

-- What’s in a Name? In Hollywood, a Famous Name Can Help Land You a Lead Role; Feb. 6, 2004; abcnews.go.com

"Big-Name Celebs Don't Always Mean Box Office Bucks"

-- Star Power Failure By Dan Ackman, Forbes.com/abcnews.go.com; December 6, 2003

So while achievement, possession, or inheritance of wealth and/or power may offer many benefits in themselves, and in some cases allow a person more choices and more powerful means of persuasion of others to obtain what they need or desire, wealth and power combined may still fall short of what some of the other elements of luck on this page can bring a person. For example, good fortune in timing alone might prevent you from being in the wrong place at the wrong time during some natural or unnatural cataclysm, and so save your life, when all the wealth and power in human society could not.

There's also some fairly big potential liabilities to substantial wealth and power. Someone born into it, then not raised and educated properly, might find themselves completely helpless if they ever lose the advantages later on-- even if only temporarily. But a good raising and education won't necessarily always protect someone from the related downsides either, should they earn, win, or inherit wealth and power.

"Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
-- Lord Acton, 1887

-- page 615, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations by John Bartlett; 15th Edition, 1980; Little, Brown publisher

-- Does It Take Big Bucks to Get the Big Break?; ABC News

"Lottery Win Exacerbated Va. Man's Troubles, Friends and Family Say"

-- Be Careful What You Wish For By Eric M. Weiss; Washington Post; June 26, 2003; Page B01

"The evidence is clear: our wellbeing depends on cooperation and the public good, not personal enrichment"

-- Money and happiness by Polly Toynbee; March 7, 2003; guardian.co.uk

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The Determinate continuum, otherwise known as fate or destiny. Yes, it does exist, but perhaps not exactly as most believe. To use an analogy, it appears that the typical person's fate is like a road of varying width, sometimes as narrow as a tightrope (in which case the traveler has no choices at all), and other times miles across. The traveler enjoys sufficient 'free will' to wander all over the width of their personal road, but perhaps cannot go beyond its boundaries, or avoid its ultimate destination, due to various constraints beyond their control. For instance, very, very few folks on Earth during the 20th century ever had a realistic shot at becoming the President of the USA, or head of a major corporation.

This aspect may help provide a characteristic somewhat like that of physical momentum or inertia to a person's luck. Or the 'streaks' of luck that some people seem to experience at times.

-- Free will may be an illusion by Dan Falk; National Post; January 27, 2003

-- Free will, but not as we know it; [interview of Daniel Dennett, director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University in Massachusetts]; New Scientist Magazine; 24 May 03

-- Pulling Our Own Strings (how evolution generates free will); [Philosopher Daniel Dennett interviewed by Ronald Bailey]; reason.com; May 2003

"Popular names owe success to fickle fate."

-- Baby names a game of chance by MICHAEL HOPKIN; 18 June 2003; nature.com

-- Man wins jackpot twice on same machine; ananova.com; 22nd January 2003

-- Quebecer blows lotto winnings, then hits 6-49 jackpot again by Graeme Hamilton; National Post; May 03, 2003

-- Man Wins Lottery Three Times in One Night; The Associated Press; May 10, 2004; abcnews.go.com, and Yahoo! News - Man Wins Lottery Three Times in One Night

-- Yahoo! News - Man Wins 2nd $1 Million Scratch-Off Game

10-20-96 Newz&Viewz: Chaos Theory predicts clustering of like events...which may be why luck sometimes appears in 'streaks' of good and bad. From the book Lost World by Michael Crichton

How to change your luck Contents

Exotic or 'lunatic fringe' possibilities for luck-affecting elements

Successfully shifting between parallel universes could in theory be one way to change your luck. This is explored in Champion of destiny. Another method might be time travel and its ilk (technologies for which may be explored here). Somewhat related to this would be preparing yourself to exploit a coming technological singularity (if such preparation is possible).

Plotting a successful method of reincarnation or mind transfer to an immortal inorganic platform or even deciding to accelerate your journey into an afterlife might also offer wildly unlikely ways to change your fortunes for the better.

Of course, one of the easiest and fastest ways to radically change your luck (all the way up through imaginary omnipotence!) is via lucid dreaming.

How to change your luck Contents

How might we change one or more of the above variable quantities so as to garner net gains in good luck?

Keep in mind here that none of us can count on outguessing the cosmos in events. That is, sometimes we might benefit more in the long run from taking a particular loss in the short run-- but we often won't realize this until after events have taken their course. So you always risk changing your normal long term luck for the worse by manipulating your short term fortunes.

That being said, let's explore our options.

Basically the stats element can only be practically manipulated in certain human games of chance, or similar events where the total number of possible outcomes is pretty small and rigidly defined. In other words, the formulas of probability and statistics won't do you much good in shaping most real life events better to your liking-- primarily because there's usually far too many variables (and variables involving immense numbers) involved for you to effectively control.

The best way to control the factor of random chance is to eliminate it entirely from a given process, if possible. For example, if you want someone to pick the Ace of Diamonds from a group of 52 cards, make sure all 52 cards are the Ace of Diamonds. Note I'm not condoning cheating here: just giving an example of how someone can easily improve their odds of success in something like a basic magician's trick. If you can't remove random chance from an event, the next best thing is to reduce the number of possible outcomes. For instance, having just three poker players rather than four increases your own chances of being the winner, where all other factors are equal.

As you can see, controlling random chance is something pretty much like trying to control statistics and probabilities. The smaller and more closed the environment, the better able you may be to stymie random chance in that environment. Unfortunately for such efforts, there's no way to create an environment completely closed to random chance. It pervades everything in this universe. In general you may be able to diminish its role, but not utterly eliminate it.

Example: Let's say you were prepping for that card trick mentioned previously, and had put together a deck of cards consisting entirely of Aces of Diamonds. You obviously can't do this preparation in front of the folks you intend to fool with it, so you do it sometime before that, and in a different location. Thing is, the more time and distance that exist between that preparation and your actual trick display, the more chance that some random element will spoil your plans by somehow getting one or more different cards inserted into your deck. And I'm talking pure accident here, perpetrated by folks entirely ignorant of-- or circumstances wholly unrelated to-- your plans. Your child might find your deck and decide to trade one of his math flash cards for one of your Aces, for instance.

And all the varying possibilities related to the example above doesn't include mistakes you possibly make yourself during your all Aces compilation, such as inadvertantly getting the back of one card sticky or wet, which causes a non-Ace to become temporarily stuck to it so that you don't realize one of your Aces is actually an Ace and a seven-- until your intended victim stuns you by drawing the dried out and unstuck seven during your trick. Or you may transfer your deck from a box to a slipcase, not noticing there's a non-Ace card still in the slipcase from a previously staged prank.

The universe can be extremely creative in undoing the best laid plans of mice and men, as the old cliche goes.

Networking is a multi-faceted entity, which can be somewhat inherited or bequeathed, or artificially increased or reduced in quality. There's potentially LOTS of improvements a given individual can do to their own networking quotient. Indeed, networking may be the most readily malleable of luck's elements.

"Social contacts are really important in finding jobs"

-- Using the Internet may harm, not help, people find a job; eurekalert.org; 13-Aug-2003; Contact: Joel Schwarz; joels@u.washington.edu; 206-543-2580; University of Washington

The simplest rule to networking is to make as many high quality friends and contacts as you can, and try to maintain the connections as best you might into perpetuity. Family and neighbors are often good places to start building a network. After that you'll find opportunities among school and work mates.

There's several practical limitations to networking however. For instance, members of the net which don't get the attention or reciprocity they expect from you will diminish in net quality and possibly leave your network altogether. Thus, the demands of network maintenance must always be balanced against your other priorities and requirements. Different people under different circumstances will possess different capacities for such net maintenance, making some able to sustain a larger network, and for a longer period, than others. The quality and character of your network members will also be an important factor here. Some folks will be a persistant drain on your resources, perhaps for little or no return on your investment. Thus, networks have to be pruned like trees too, at times. Example: you're in college and become pals with your room mate. You have a few good times with him, but come to learn that he's a borderline alcoholic that shows no signs of responding to your attempts to persuade him to be more moderate in his drinking. If he has redeeming qualities in your eyes, you might invest more time and effort in getting him to dry out. But if not, you would want to excise his bad influence from your personal world/network.

It may be that around 150 is the maximum number of personal relationships which can be usefully maintained for purposes of successful networking.

-- THE TEN KEYS TO EFFECTIVE NETWORKING by Dave Pollard; How to Save the World; March 21, 2004; blogs.salon.com/0002007/

It may be that there's two distinct and different network levels to be utilized by folks. One is their own personal networking-- the version naturally utilized by all of us, to various extents. The other is reputation networking-- the sort of stuff widely known book authors, scientists, business execs, and other celebrities/notables may possess.

Reputation networking (once it takes off) may be something like personal networking on steroids. It can bring you new opportunities with little or no extra effort on your part, unlike the typical processes of personal networking. Reputation networking at least partially explains why those already well-known tend to continue garnering a greater share of private and public attention than others for extended periods, even where they may be trying to reduce or stop the excess attention altogether.

As there already exists lots of literature relating to networking and the improvement of same, I won't expound on it further here.

Optimism/open-mindedness is another factor over which you enjoy potentially lots of control. Again, improving or enhancing one's optimism and/or positive attitude is a subject well covered elsewhere, and so I'll avoid such redundancy here-- but for just one recommendation: Regular moderate to high impact physical exercise. Even if you ignore the enormous wealth of health benefits from same [see low cost health and medical care for details], you may want to do it for the increased optimism it can bring, alone.

Preparation is another key element over which you can enjoy much control-- but it can be tricky. Because you can't always know for what to prepare. Much as a young person might not know what they should major in at college, someone wanting to utilize preparation to change their luck may be confounded as to what precisely they should study or train at in order to succeed. I can't possibly offer anyone specifics here tailored to their own goals and circumstances. So here's a generic recommendation:

If you haven't done so already, get to know yourself as best you can, and after that set out clear priorities in regards to your life and behavior. Start with the basics and work from there. Once you have a well-fleshed out set of priorities in your back pocket, you'll find yourself able to make better decisions, and make them faster, than you could before. Of course, getting to know yourself that well can require a substantial amount of education and/or personal experience. Lots of folks may not ever achieve such inner knowledge, much less assemble a useful set of personal priorities which can serve as a 'quick-reference' guide for behavior and decisions afterwards. So don't expect this to be something you can complete in mere days or weeks, from a standing start. Months and years of concerted effort is far more realistic for most of us.

There's lots of 'self-improvement' books on the market that offer ways to learn more about yourself and set priorities. Adding more formal education to your record, almost no matter what the subject matter, may help speed things along as well.

Keep in mind that doing the best you can to prepare for your chosen course in life, and setting or discovering your personal priorities should also do a lot to help you build up real confidence in yourself in general, and regarding a large number of the situations you're most likely to face down the road-- thereby increasing your 'C.Q.', or confidence quotient: a sometimes important facet of good fortune.

Most folks will find it about as difficult to gain substantial wealth and power during their lives as it would be to eliminate the element of random chance from daily events. But there are a few ways to mount a reasonable attempt. Not surprisingly, the methods most likely to succeed depend on other factors of luck listed on this page, such as preparation (get as much education as possible), networking (make useful business and/or political connections), timing, etc., etc. Some helpful ideas on the nuts and bolts of self-employment, entrepreneurship, investing, and politics can be useful in a personal quest for power and wealth. But if you decide to give it a shot don't forget to stir in lots of hard work and always be on the look out for ways to include the other elements of luck listed on the page, wherever possible.

Note that in some ways the 'highway of fate/destiny' described above in the Determinate continuum much resembles the parallel tracks which could exist across multiple realities, as described in my article Champion of destiny. Ergo, some of the ideas for 'switching tracks' in Champion might also work on your 'road', as-it-were. Or at least they might wherever your present stretch of roadway isn't too narrow, thereby allowing you to swerve off your current course and onto a somewhat different one.

Successfully leveraging timing to your advantage is not entirely out of your reach. It can be done-- at least to a limited extent. But it may be one of the more complex exercises described on this page, requiring the juggling of several elemental contributors to luck all at once. Indeed, at times pulling off such a feat may require pretty much all the factors discussed on this page being brought into near perfect synchrony.

Examples include fairly brazen contrarian stock buying in the face of panic, such as the head of the Kennedy clan did around the time of the 1929 stock market crash, thereby creating the fortune which would establish an American political dynasty. Kennedy successfully combined preparation (ready capital and investment smarts) with shrewd yet bold risk-taking, and more, to make himself a key figure in history.

There's another aspect to timing that can be crucial to good fortune. Free time itself. That is, disposable time you have available to seek out new opportunities, and then exploit them if and when they arise. If you have zero free time, then sooner or later you're going to be forced to pass up on one or more golden opportunities, the likes of which may never pass your way again.

Things that can deplete your free time include addictions, obsessions, paranoia, and extremes of other sorts. If you're addicted to smoking (of any kind), or alcohol, or truly obsessed with collecting some sort of strange stuff like ceramic shoes or candy wrappers or funny looking knives with purple handles, then not only will you likely fail to notice that grand opportunity when it bumps into you on the street, but you'll also maybe have insufficient time to exploit such a golden ticket, due to the extra hours you must spend working to buy the goods necessary to support your habit. Beyond that, habits like smoking cut years off your life in an absolute sense as well, thereby costing you still more free time. Maybe you're destined to have your ship come in in 2013, but darn it, your smoking kills or incapacitates you in 2012.

Personal debt-- especially debt due to frivolous or wasteful spending-- can rob you of valuable free time as well, as you must sooner or later spend much time making the money necessary to pay it off.

In extremely rare cases people may be able to affect their luck via extraordinary means.

Princeton researchers delving into ESP have determined that some slight effect upon the randomness of events can be exerted by the human mind. And that those effects can display distinctive patterns unique to the individual responsible-- sort of a telekinetic 'fingerprint', if you will, in the results. Similar successes in remote viewing experiments (something like clairvoyance) were also reported.

Note that the research indicates that the effects are very slight, and likely extremely difficult to exploit for any but the most desperate or minute goals. To make such talents viable for practical purposes some sort of enormous amplification would seem necessary, as well other aids.

-- NUDGING PROBABILITY From Science Frontiers #56, MAR-APR 1988 by William R. Corliss, citing R.C. Jahn, et al; "Engineering Anomalies Research," Journal of Scientific Exploration, 1:21, 1987

Extraordinarily synchronized, virtually identical behavior in a certain set of human twins raised together (Greta and Freda Chaplin), and under various circumstances, has been documented. The behavior exhibits such uncanny coordination it gives the impression of a telepathic bond between the two.

-- THE MOST IDENTICAL OF IDENTICAL TWINS From Science Frontiers #14, Winter 1981 supplement by William R. Corliss, citing "British Twins Too Close for Trucker's Comfort," Baltimore Sun, December 8, 1980. p. A3. AP dispatch

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Luck as a finite resource

Is luck a renewable resource, or a finite one? Yes and no. Some elements of luck may be renewable while others definitely are not. And still others can be pretty ambiguous in this respect.

Finite luck elements may include DNA which determines the basic attractiveness of your physical appearance, or protects you from certain types of disease or environmental poisons.

-- Gene Found to Defend Against Environmental Pollutants and Pulmonary Emphysema

For you can always overwhelm innate protection from poisons by simply exposing yourself to excessive amounts. In many cases there's a limit to how much even superb DNA could take without succumbing.

Likewise the attractiveness genes. You could sooner or later take sufficient risks of injury to obtain horrible and permanent scarring or loss of limb, or pursue a diet of harmful food, drink, or drugs which likewise resulted in substantial harm to your looks or general health.

It's conceivable that there may even be some time-dependent elements to luck. That is, you could use up a lifetime's worth in a single incident.

As the universal law of entropy seems to skew everything towards worse outcomes over time, it would seem that in general 'good' luck in all things will be in somewhat shorter supply than 'bad' in any randomly chosen situation.

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The above article(s) come from and make references to a collection copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by J.R. Mooneyham (except where otherwise noted in the text). Text here explicitly authored by J.R. Mooneyham may be freely copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes in paper and electronic form without charge if this copyright paragraph and link to jmooneyham.com or jrmooneyham.com are included.