Do you believe in magic?


Such interesting stuff I read about magic and luck the other day.

Luck is what you make of it, and in a way totally different from what the old saying infers.

To know about luck, the psychologist Richard Wiseman, based at the University of Hertfordshire, said, understand a little about magic.

(How would you like to make your living talking about luck and magic — He also studies humor? — Some guys have all the luck!)

He also throws lying and the paranormal into the fray.

One of the things that struck me, was what he said about something called unintentional blindness.

Have you ever seen a magic trick up close? The handkerchief that skitters across the ground for example? Well, it’s not about smoke and mirrors. This one is all about a string…

But you can’t see it when you don’t know about it.

Same thing with luck, he said. Those that have it know, somehow, about the string. They are not blind to it…

So, is all this about deception or perception? In a way. The better you are at detecting those nuances, the luckier you are. At least, that’s the conclusion I’ve drawn after looking through his website.

“There are only two types of person who cannot become lucky,” Wiseman said. “There’s the person who is happy to be unlucky, for whom misfortune is a central part of their identity. And there’s the person who’s not prepared to put the work in; there’s a lot of effort involved in applying the principles.”

Lucky people he says, have the following in common:

Principle One: Maximize Chance Opportunities
Lucky people are skilled at creating, noticing and acting upon chance opportunities. They do this in various ways, including networking, adopting a relaxed attitude to life and by being open to new experiences.

This is the one I sort of measured with that unintentional blindness thing. It seems that lucky people sort of see that string.

Principle Two: Listening to Lucky Hunches

Lucky people make effective decisions by listening to their intuition and gut feelings. In addition, they take steps to actively boost their intuitive abilities by, for example, meditating and clearing their mind of other thoughts.

Principle Three: Expect Good Fortune

Lucky people are certain that the future is going to be full of good fortune. These expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies by helping lucky people persist in the face of failure, and shape their interactions with others in a positive way.

Principle Four: Turn Bad Luck to Good
Lucky people employ various psychological techniques to cope with, and often even thrive upon, the ill fortune that comes their way. For example, they spontaneously imagine how things could have been worse, do not dwell on ill fortune, and take control of the situation.

For one of his studies, he gave participants two problems. He said they would either receive a hard problem to solve or an easy problem to solve. Some people thought they had the easy problem and so worked hours on it to solve it, handing it back, saying they had the easy test. Others thought they received the hard test, worked on it for a few minutes and handed it back, saying they had received the hard test.

Read about what he says about connections and the small world phenomenon, too, and, of course, don’t miss his section about  laughing…

I think I want to go take his course!

Ps: did you miss the gorilla? People do miss it, said Anjana Ahuja, in The Times article from 2004.

That writer went on to tell of a bar brawl happening right next to hm that he missed completely.

That’s common, said Wiseman.

Now back to the  gorilla:

Wiseman explains in his book Did You Spot the Gorilla? , the gorilla is a why-didn’t-anyone-think-of-that-before insight, a flash of brilliance that seems obvious once unleashed. Examples include Ikea— the idea of funky, cheap self-assembly furniture — and Post-it Notes, which stickered their way into ubiquity after an enterprising employee realized that the weak adhesive he had unintentionally developed might have a use after all. Other recent gorillas include the Anywayup Cup, a non-spill beaker for toddlers, and easyJet, the no-frills airline that has utterly changed the way we think about air travel.

You’d think a gorilla wouldn’t be all that hard to spot, wouldn’t you?