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Understanding Luck: What It Is and How to Control It

Understanding Luck: What It Is and How to Control It

Luck is quite an interesting concept. When we look at ancient man, and the cultural traditions that developed within ancient societies, we can easily understand why the concept of luck played such an important role in early societies. Early rains and an abundant harvest might be easily explained by today’s current meteorological understanding, but to ancient civilizations it was seen as good luck or fortune sent from the gods and goddesses on high. Likewise, a drought or other natural disaster often was attributed to bad luck.

Nowadays we have a better understanding of the science of luck beyond superstition, and can correctly equate what is and what isn’t affected by the hand of chance–but this hasn’t kept people from losing millions on roulette wheels in Las Vegas, or on video slot machines and other lotteries around the rest of the world. It also hasn’t stopped young dreamers from pursuing unlikely ambitions, even though, statistically, they don’t stand a chance of ever “breaking through” to a mainstream market or “making it” as a professional in their field.

The beauty of luck is that whether or not we believe in it, everybody generally understands it as a concept, and many can recount their own experiences with it, either positive or negative. So what exactly is luck, in scientific terms? And how (if at all) can somebody control it?

What is Luck?

    Roman Goddess Fortuna, also known as “Lady Luck”

    According to Wikipedia, the definition of luck “varies by the philosophical, religious, mystical, and emotional context of the one interpreting it.” What this means, basically, is that some people think luck refers to completely random circumstances, as seen in the Oxford Dictionary definition of the term: “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.”

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    This view of luck is more descriptive, used to explain events after they’ve happened, especially if they produce outcomes that are combination of favorable, unfavorable, or improbable. On the other hand, some people decide to view luck in more of a prescriptive way, where fortune is more of a supernatural force that can determine the outcome of events before they happen. Somebody who blows on a pair of dice before he or she rolls them might believe this heightens their odds of rolling a favorable number, especially if reinforced by a favorable outcome. This prescriptive belief, while amusing, holds no scientific weight–the laws of physics do not change simply because somebody blows on a pair of dice, and the outcome of a purely identical roll would not differ sans “blow.”

      A good example of this in action can be traced back to an episode at the Le Grande Casino in Monte Carlo, August 18, 1913. On this night, the roulette wheel produced the color black 29 times in a row, a feat that David J. Darling has calculated to be a 1 in 136,823,184 probability in his book, The Universal Book of Mathematics. This night lives in infamy because of the millions of francs casino go-ers lost betting on the false logic that because black had come up so many times before, it could simply not come up black again. Nevertheless, every time the wheel spun there was an 18 out of 37 chance that it would come up black, same as the time before it and same as the time after. While there was definitely no prescriptive reason that the casino-goers suffered bad luck that night, even people who “don’t believe in luck” can, in retrospect, descriptively ascribe the term “unlucky” gamblers in such an improbable scenario.

      Psychology and “Making Your Own Luck”

      The roll of the dice, the turn of the card, and the spin of the roulette wheel–this is just one way to portray luck. It works because it’s the most concrete example of how blind chance affects an outcome. But what about the idea of somebody or something being lucky or unlucky?

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      The interesting thing about luck is that it deals heavily with both perception and chance. Lou Holtz has a great quote stating that “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.” As it turns out, people who consider themselves unlucky don’t tend to believe the above, and would rather blame external factors for their misfortunes in life. People who consider themselves lucky, on the other hand, generally look inward for the reasons things in life happen to them, and try to adapt positively to situations that might otherwise seem negative.

        Psychologists call this the locus of control. An external locus of control means that you believe the world around you controls you more than you control yourself. Alcoholics suffer this quite often, and it’s one of the reasons that A.A.’s first step is “admitting you have a problem.” By internalizing your locus of control, you grant yourself the agency to quit. It’s kind of like the old tale of the tortoise and the hare–the rabbit didn’t lose the race because he was unlucky and napped for too long, he lost the race because he decided to nap in the first place.

        So while those who may consider themselves “unlucky” generally have an external locus of control, those who consider themselves “lucky” have an internal locus of control. The perception of chance between these two generally reflects their view of luck, and even affect health. If you look at cancer survivor Paul Kraus, for example, who had to dramatically change his lifestyle, diet, and therapies to survive three types of cancers including meningioma (a type of brain cancer), mesothelioma, and metastatic prostate cancer, (on top of being born in a Nazi forced labor camp during WWII!) you might think the man unlucky. Kraus would disagree, insisting that his survival is related to his belief that “a diagnosis is not destiny” and that people can conquer cancer because “there is far more to this illness than just a doctor’s bad news.” Kraus is the type of man who made his own luck.

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        How to Be Lucky Yourself

        Even though we understand that luck is simply chance, it still plays heavily into our culture, even if not in a prescriptive way, but in a descriptive way. A great display of this can be found in the culture surrounding America’s favorite pastime: baseball. The 2016 World Series, for example, saw the Indians and the Cubs go head to head, where the highlight of the series was the nullification of either Cleveland’s or Chicago’s decades long curse. Now, while these types of “curses” might show up in other sports, they’re more pertinent in baseball because of both players’ and fans’ susceptibility to superstitions in almost every aspect of the game. Indeed, because the ball is so small and moving so fast, there’s no way to predict every curve it will take, or whether or not it will make an unlucky bounce, etc. Eric Garcia McKinley writing for BeyondTheBoxScore.com actually argues that luck plays an undeniable role in baseball. The minor variables make the game so complex that you have to take into account that some players are simply in the right place at the right time.

        This analysis is not only correct in baseball, but is useful when applied outside of the game as well. Jennifer Aniston, for example, was about ready to call it quits with her acting career in 1994–but a chance meeting with the then-president of NBC’s entertainment division at a gas pump landed her on the cast of Friends, solidifying her career as we all know it. If we’re to take this as an example, we have to realize ourselves that Jennifer Aniston wasn’t just at the right place at the right time–because if you or me were to run into the president of NBC at the gas pump, there’s almost no way we’d get a shot at a hit TV series.

          What Anniston had that most of us don’t, in that specific situation, was preparation. Another Lifehack article on luck quotes the Roman philosopher Seneca, who said: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Anniston had prepared by doing at least four other failed TV sitcoms before she was put on friends, and these sitcoms had made her well-known to the NBC executive she met.

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          You Already ARE Lucky! Now Maximize It!

          Half of luck is the right mindset, while the other half is being in the right place at the right time. If you’re always in the right place, you’re only depending on the right time.

          The first part of this is realizing that you already are lucky. Every day that you don’t get in a freak accident while driving or walking down the road, you’re lucky. To have made it this many years into your life, you’re lucky. To be born in a time when you can look up almost anything on the internet (like this article!), you’re lucky! If you start focusing on all of the reasons that you’re lucky, and stop believing that you’re unlucky (you’re not), you’ll already start recognizing how much good luck you have.

          The second half, about always being in the right place, means simply to be proactive and persistent. If Anniston would have given up after the first failed Sitcom, she would never have been known to the NBC executive. Even Stephen King’s Carrie was rejected 30 times before it was published.

          The point is that luck often happens to people who are dedicated to a field, which is why luck happens in that field. Adopting a positive mindset and believing in yourself enough to persist are all the ingredients it takes to be lucky.

          So get out there, and do whatever it is you feel you were meant to do–by simply doing with a positive mindset, you’ll find fortune is already smiling on you!

          Featured photo credit: AdinaVoicu via pixabay.com

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          Andrew Heikkila

          Owner-Operator of Earthlings Entertainmnet

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          Last Updated on October 17, 2018

          7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

          7 Natural (And Highly Effective) Ways to Improve Memory

          How is your memory? Is your cognitive function as strong as you’d like it to be?

          If not, then you’re definitely going to be interested in the memory improvement tips I’ll be sharing with you in this article.

          Despite what you might think – or have been told – improving your ability to recall information is certainly possible. You just need to know the right ways to do it. (Don’t worry, as you won’t need to make any significant lifestyle changes.)

          So how to improve memory? Let’s dive straight into the first of seven easy ways to improve your memory significantly.

          1. Meditate

          We live in a world of non-stop, 24/7 information. It’s like a waterfall that’s endlessly pouring news, data, facts and figures into our conscious minds.

          Unfortunately, our brains are not designed to absorb this tremendous amount of information. It’s no wonder then, that most people struggle to remember information and recall things.

          Even if you believe you have a good memory and are comfortable with multi-tasking, you’ll also be aware that there’s only so much information your brain can process at one time. And research suggests that the more information and distractions, the harder it is for you to transfer information to your long-term memory.[1]

          Fortunately, meditation can help you out.

          Even if you just meditate for 10 minutes per day, you’ll boost your ability to focus, which in turn, will make it easier for you to remember important facts.

          If you need help in shifting into a meditative state, I recommend trying an app like Headspace – which can assist you to achieve this in a convenient and structured way.

          And don’t forget, meditation doesn’t just have to be closing your eyes and sitting in a lotus position. Some people prefer to simply take a short walk in nature. This clears and calms their mind, and still provides the all-important boost to their focus.

          2. Get plenty of sleep

          If you’re sleep deprived or have not been sleeping well, then I’m guessing you’re not remembering well either. This is because sleep and memory are intimately connected.

          If you have a busy life and regularly find yourself not getting enough sleep, then this will negatively impact your cognitive abilities – including your memory.

          How much sleep should you be getting?

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          Well, according to the National Sleep Foundation, you need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. If you get this amount of sleep regularly, then within just a few days, you’ll see a tangible improvement to your ability to remember and recall things.

          Now, I’ll be honest with you, maintaining a proper sleep cycle is not always easy (especially when the latest Netflix series has just been released!). But if you care about improving your short-term and long-term ability to remember things, then it’s critical that you try to get at least the recommended amount of sleep every night.

          Are there ways to hack the sleep cycle?

          Yes, there are.

          Try these three things:

          • Have a fixed bedtime (preferably before 10pm)
          • Don’t eat too late
          • Make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible

          Sleeping is a precious activity. It regenerates your body, clears your mind, and helps with the storing and retrieval of information.

          However, don’t sleep just yet, as I want to tell you about another great way to increase memory…

          3. Challenge your brain

          When was the last time you challenged your brain?

          I don’t mean challenged in the sense of overeating or undersleeping. I’m referring to stretching your mental capabilities through things like crossword puzzles, Sudoku and memory games.

          To expand your memory bank, and to make your recall razor-sharp, you need to continually challenge your brain.

          Feedback from Lifehack readers such as yourself, has suggested that brain training apps are a super-effective way of doing this. Used regularly, these apps can enhance your focus, attention span, problem-thinking ability and memory.

          There are hundreds of these apps available (most of them for free), but I recommend starting out with one of the big three:

          • Peak (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
          • Lumosity (Android/iOS, free, 10 million+ downloads)
          • Elevate (Android/iOS, free, 5 million+ downloads)

          If you normally spend a chunk of your week playing computer games, then instead of shooting and killing your enemies, why not let some of them live – while you put your attention into boosting your brain power!

          Challenging your brain will strengthen your neural pathways and enhance your mental abilities. But don’t just take my word for it, try one of the apps above and see the positive benefits for yourself.

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          4. Take more breaks

          When I think back to my days as a budding entrepreneur, I distinctively remember working all the hours under the sun – and many under the moon too!

          At that time, I believed that breaks were for the weak, and to become wealthy and successful, I needed to shed blood, sweat and tears.

          However, I was wrong.

          Taking regular breaks is the best way to keep yourself productive, creative and alive to opportunities. It’s also the best way to learn new information.

          Let me explain.

          Typically, when studying lots of new information, most people will spend hours reading it – in an attempt to learn and remember the content as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, they’ve overlooked something.

          Namely, extended study sessions are rarely a good thing, as your ability to retain information naturally declines after a certain period of time.

          It’s similar to physical exercise. You wouldn’t attempt to train vigorously for four hours in a row. Instead, you’d take regular breaks to give your lungs, heart and muscles adequate time to recover. Failing to do this will result in muscle cramps and overexertion.

          It’s the same with your brain. If you overload it with information, you’ll suffer from mental fatigue.

          What’s the answer?

          Make sure you take regular breaks when learning new information. I recommend at least a 10-minute break every hour. (You may also want to take a look at the Pomodoro Method.)

          If you don’t want to be as regimented as that, then take breaks as soon as you find yourself losing the ability to focus on the new material. Your brain will thank you – and your learning aptitude will move up a level.

          5. Learn a new skill

          I love this quote, as it’s 100% true – but frequently overlooked:

          “Learning never exhausts the mind.” – Leonardo da Vinci

          From my experience of helping to develop the careers of dozens of Lifehack employees, I can definitively say that participating in meaningful and purposeful activities stimulates the mind. It also reduces stress and enhances health and well-being.

          Let me give you an example of this:

          Imagine you work for a global financial institution in one of their call centers. You take over 100 calls a day – many of them complaints. When you started the job a few months back, you were excited to be in full-time employment and working for a household name.

          Unfortunately, your initial enthusiasm quickly turned into frustration.

          The endless complaint calls began to take their toll on you. And the supervisors irritated you too, as they were far too interested in micro-managing you – rather than letting you work in your own way.

          Now, in the story above, the ending could be that you put up with a job you didn’t like, and led a dull and frustrated working life for years and years. However, an alternative ending is this: you channeled your dissatisfaction in to learning a new skill (computer coding). It took you a year or two to get up to speed, but it allowed you to successfully upgrade your career – and the ongoing learning made the call centre job much more bearable.

          Clearly, learning new skills gives you impetus, focus and something to aim for. Your brain loves to learn, and you should tap into this by always seeking our new information. And when learning becomes a habit, you’ll find your ability to remember and recall things effortlessly, becomes a habit too.

          6. Start working out

          If you’re not already working out regularly, then here’s another reason to do so:

          Exercising for 20-30 minutes three times a week will improve your long-term memory.

          Regular exercise increases blood flow in your body and supplies the brain with extra oxygen and nutrients. And a well-nourished brain is a well-functioning brain!

          “But I just don’t have the time?,” I hear you say.

          Not a problem.

          A research has shown that a daily burst of 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise, offered many of the benefits of the longer exercise routines.[2] So, if you’re short on time – now you know what to do.

          Interested in getting started?

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          Here are five different ways that will help you work out:

          • Join a gym
          • Join a sports team
          • Buy a bike
          • Take up hiking
          • Dance to your favorite music

          7. Eat healthier foods

          I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.”

          This applies to your brain too.

          The food that you eat helps determine your brain’s capacity to store and recall information. A poor diet (think junk food + soda!) harms not just your physical health, but your mental health too.

          Fortunately, there are several foods that are especially good for your brain and your memory. These include: blueberries, celery and dark chocolate. But anything high in antioxidants will have a positive effect on your brain and memory.

          Conversely, highly-processed foods and those loaded with sugar will have a negative impact on your memory. This is due to them providing insufficient nutrients for your brain – leading you to easily suffer from mental fatigue.

          Want to be mentally healthy? Then eat and drink an abundance of these for brain health:

          • Turmeric – helps new brain cells grown
          • Broccoli – protects the brain against damage
          • Nuts – improves memory
          • Green tea – enhances brain performance, memory and focus[3]
          • Fish oilfish oil supplements can increase your brain power

          Here’re more brain food options that improve memory!

          Final thoughts

          I sincerely hope these seven memory boosting ways that I’ve covered in this article will be of help to you.

          You don’t need to implement them all. I suggest just trying the ones that appeal to you.

          But, if you’re serious about dramatically improving your memory, then make a start right now on adopting one or more of the ways I’ve suggested. I’m confident you won’t regret it.

          Featured photo credit: Eric Ward via unsplash.com

          Reference

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