Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Book review: How to Get Lucky

Max Gunther's How to Get Lucky was published in 1986 and represents and attempt to identify character traits and habits that differentiate the "lucky" from the "unlucky". Gunther identifies 13 such techniques:

1. knowing the difference between planning and luck - understanding that all the planning in the world does not make an investment a sure thing, especially where random chance has a role to play

2. finding the fast flow - the importance of widespread contacts and weak social links in generating opportunities

3. risk spooning - only taking risks which are appropriate and avoiding risks which offer only limited upside to the the amount risked or ventures which have potentially disastrous consequences

4. run cutting - not expecting lucky streaks to run forever, or even for a very long time

5. luck selection - cutting losses and walking away from situations which offer limited upside

6. the zig zag path - goal orientation is not always a good thing. Changing course, sometimes often, can be a good thing

7. constructive supernaturalisim - religion, superstition and the occult do not determine outcomes, but if they can help moving from a state of indecision they can be helpful

8. worst case analysis - knowing the downside and how to deal with it if it eventuates

9. the closed mouth - bad mouthing people or committing to a position unnecessarily can be damaging to future prospects

10. recognising a nonlesson - understanding that just because something worked once, does not mean it will do so again. In other words, correlation does not equal causation

11. accepting and unfair universe - life is not fair. Accept it and move on

12. the juggling act - having multiple ventures will keep you busy but increases your potential opportunities

13. destiny pairing - finding the right partner, mentor etc is sometimes critical

While Gunther does rely more on anecdotes than statistical data than I would prefer, he does in places support his thesis by reference to experts in various fields. While it falls short of being definitively persuasive, How to Get Lucky certainly makes for interesting and entertaining reading.

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