How to Get Lucky By Max Gunther


My first post will be on the book “How to Get Lucky” by Max Gunther. The notes below are mostly excerpts from the book alongside some simple notes I’ve made on each of his techniques. Gunther starts the book with defining luck as “events that influence your life but are not at your making.” Well, let’s start with some common misconceptions about luck. Some people totally deny it and claim they have achieved or earned “x” item in their life due to hard work, determination, and skill. On the other end of the spectrum, people claim most of their success was due to luck. As with most things in life it probably depends on various factors visible and not. Gunther’s first suggestion to improve your luck is to first acknowledge its existence.

First Technique: Making the Luck/Planning Decision

“When a loser loses, it’s because his luck was bad. When he wins, it’s because he was smart.”

  • I think it’s a good idea to be skeptical of outcomes when luck may have had any influence. It’s too easy to pat yourself on the back and claim it was due to smarts. Peel the onion. It might not be an onion at all.

“For now, the point to be appreciated is that every run of luck must end sooner or later”

  • How many people do you know who have won the lottery consistently (without cheating)? Sometimes people get lucky once, twice but how long does that usually last? In my experience, it’s usually short-lived and you’re just borrowing tomorrow’s luck.

Second Technique: Finding the Fast Flow

“To be singled out as a lucky target, you must make something of yourself known to those who are your primary links in the network. These can be what we’ve called “weak” links but they must be at least strong enough so that people know who you are, what work you do, what your interests are, what kinds of rewards you look for in life”

  • For you to benefit from luck, people need to be able to identify you, your skills, passions and what your real motivation is. Being within the “fast flow” means you’re in contact with people, you’re involved, and you’re not benched.

Third Technique: Risk Spooning

“There are two ways to be an almost sore loser in life. One is to take goofy risks; that is, risks that are out of proportion to the rewards being sought, and the other is to take no risks at all.”

  • We need to take risks in life for us to be in a position to benefit from something that isn’t in our control. Taking too much or too little each has it’s own issues. Trying to find a balance between adequate and inadequate amounts of risk is important but probably easier said than done.

Fourth Technique: Run Cutting

“Don’t push your luck”

  • Assume that a given run of luck will be short and you’ll be better off in most cases. Being a pessimist could help implementing this technique but in my opinion, that’s a miserable way to live.

Fifth Technique: Luck Selection

“To put it another way, they have the ability to select their own luck. Hit with bad luck, they discard it, freeing themselves to seek better luck in another venture”

  • Ignore the sunk costs when making a decision. It’s not what you should focus on if you want to grow or make progress over time.

Sixth Technique: The ZigZag Path

“It turns out that lucky men and women, on the whole, are not straight-line strugglers. They not only permit themselves distraction but they invite distraction. Their lives are not straight lines but rather zigzags”

“This doesn’t mean making a change just for the sake of it. It means that you shouldn’t reject something because it does not fit a particular plan”

  • Be careful with today’s long-erm “plans”. Don’t cut off your legs before you decide which way you are going to walk.

Seventh Technique: Constructive Supernaturalism

“As a breed, lucky people tend to be supernaturalists. Some are devoutly religious, while others harbor the most peculiar superstitions.”

  • Believing in certain things can help you make difficult decisions faster. Think of situations where limited information, and uncertain environments can lead to indecision. It might just be better to guess and pick one of the potential choices if the negative consequences are minor or nonexistant.

Eight Technique: Worst Case Analysis

“I know a situation can go wrong. Now I’ve got to ask how can it go wrong. What is the worst possible outcome? And if the worst possible outcome does occur how can I save myself”

  • If you want to do well in a particular field where luck has an influence make sure you position yourself to last during some period of bad luck. For you to be able to participate in the good run of luck, you need to be able to survive. The first step to most things is to show up.

Ninth Technique: Closed Mouth

“The trouble with too much talk is that it can constrict that valuable freedom and flexibility. Talk can tie you up, lock you into positions that seem right today but may be wrong tomorrow”

  •        Try to be careful when discussing things that can lock you into something for the long term. Flexibility regardless of what aspect of life you are thinking about is pretty important. By limiting your own explanations you don’t need to spend as much time justifying why you are doing something. In short, keep quiet, watch, listen, and learn.

Tenth Technique: Recognizing a Nonlesson

“A trait of the lucky is that they know what they can’t learn from”

  • Don’t try to learn from every piece of data you gather as some of it is noise. Don’t fall victim to the common correlation equals causation relationship that is so easily obscured.

Eleventh Technique: Accepting an Unfair Universe

“Bad luck is hard enough to take when you recognize it as bad luck. When you blame yourself for it, it can destroy you”

  • Life is unfair. Feeling bad for yourself about some event that didn’t go your way when it wasn’t in your control isn’t a good way to spend your time. Think about what in your life is controllable and knowable. Those are the things you can focus on and where the effort will pay off.

Twelfth Technique: The Juggling Act

“Lucky people tend to have many ventures going on at the same time. Even at the height of a particular venture, the lucky man will usually have secondary ventures going or under preparation.”

  • This is similar to viewing things from a portfolio approach but applied to the activities you are involved in.

Thirteenth Technique: Destiny Pairing

“The two liked each other instantly. Perhaps each recognized in the other some trait or group of skills or strengths he had often wished to find in himself. Neither had often wished to find in himself. Neither had made much of himself alone, but together, they may have sensed, they had the potential to go far”

  • Working with people who complement your skills and weaknesses is a prudent way to build a team in my view. I once read that some people build teams where they only add people stronger than the current members of the team. Seems like over time if this occurs, new additions will inevitably bring up the average quality of the team.

Life isn’t just some plan you can follow from day one. If you start with a plan it will end up useless due to changes in circumstances or the environment. Each of the techniques mentioned above can help shift your luck into your favor. There aren’t any guarantees as Gunther says but there are edges in life you can find. Find yours and cultivate.

How to Get Lucky By Max Gunther

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