Admittedly, I have an obsession. I’m obsessed with you obtaining your leadership potential. I want the absolute, very best for you. There is nothing that would thrill me more than for you to have an opportunity to experience the kind of success that most people only dream about. This episode will help you come to grips with the fact that this is not inconceivable. But there isn’t room for superstition: your success does not require luck.
You have probably heard it said that luck is preparedness meeting opportunity. There’s a lot of truth in that pithy saying, isn’t there?! Though there is a disproportionate amount of weight often placed on the idea of being lucky as opposed to being prepared. And maybe it’s justified. When you think of someone who has gotten lucky, it might be that the impossible became reality or somebody was able to transition from ruin to a life well lived because of a chance event. I suppose that by comparison, some might say it takes a lot less work to get lucky.
Have you watched a baseball game recently? You might think that superstition belongs only to a few quirky no-namers but you would be wrong. I found a cool little article on BleacherReport that I will link to in the show notes. Here are a few of baseball’s more famous superstitious players for your listening pleasure. You decide if they truly could have had an impact on the player’s performance:
- Roger Clemens used to go to Monument Park and touch the Babe Ruth plaque before every home game that he pitched for the Yankees
- John Wetteland used to play for the NY Yankees. He would only wear one cap during the entire year. No matter how sweaty, dirty or faded, he only wore that one cap. In 1996 when they went to the World Series, he wouldn’t wear the World Series cap and made them sew the World Series logo on the cap he was wearing that year.
- Mike Hargrove earned the nickname “The Human Rain Delay” because of how long his pre-batting routine lasted as he stepped up to the plate
- Hiroshi Yamauchi, who at one time was the owner of the Seattle Mariners, never saw the team play a live game even when they played close to his home in Japan (you might remember Mr. Yamauchi as the owner of another very famous company…do you know it? If you guessed Nintendo, you are correct!)
- Wade Boggs ate the exact same meal before every game (fried chicken) and always wrote the Hebrew word chai on his bat (means life) IN THE BATTER’S BOX
- Joe DiMaggio used to touch second base every time he ran out to his position in center field
- Turk Wendell was one of the most superstitious players in baseball and it would take me too long to tell you all of his routines. One of the most interesting? He always had four pieces of black licorice in his mouth when he hit the mound at the start of an inning. Between innings? He ALWAYS brushed his teeth and grabbed four more pieces for the next inning!
These were a few of my favorites:
- Jim Leyland managed several teams including the Florida Marlins, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Detroit Tigers. When he was with the Tigers he led them to become the American League champions in 2006 and had a record of 95-67. They duplicated that record in 2011 but lost the ALCS that year. But during the year, they had two record long win streaks that season: one was 11 games and the other was 9 games. Apparently, Jim’s underwear had a lot to do with it because he wore the same pair of boxers each day they continued to win – no washing until the win-streak ended! Gross, eh?! Trust me, that’s not as gross as it gets – just look up Moises Alou’s (ah-low) routine.
- Jason Giambi would wear a gold thong to help him find his way out of a slump (maybe Leyland helped him see the significance of undies).
- Finally, Mark Teixeira wore two different socks and it happened the first time on accident. For those who don’t know, Mark played for the Yankees at the same time as CC Sabathia. Mark’s number is 25 and Sabathia’s is 52. Through a simple mixup in the locker room, he accidentally put on one of CC’s socks with one of his. So one sock had the number 25 and the other, the inverse, or 52. He did exceptionally well in that game (two homers, and six RBIs) so he kept it up for future games!
You can thank Bleacher Report for that insightful reporting. Lest you think it’s relegated only to the world of sports, Gallup did a little poll back in the late ’90s. They found that 72% of Americans possessed at least one good luck charm! I don’t know about you, but based on what we just read, I’ll bet it’s a little higher with baseball players! Now in defense of ballplayers, some of what they do is simply routine that has ingrained a habit which allows them to focus. It’s not all superstition.
We aren’t immune, however. Think about it: knocking on wood, avoiding walking under a ladder, a rabbit’s foot, or even saying “bless you” when someone sneezes are all pretty common. But here’s the problem: superstition doesn’t work.
“What?!” you say, “Have you considered those who are consistently lucky (or consistently unlucky!)?” Well, I haven’t, but Professor Richard Wiseman published a cool little article titled “The Luck Factor” back in 2003 and he did check it out…thoroughly!
Back in the early 90s, he took a more scientific look into the concept of luck because he wanted to know why some people are consistently lucky, while others, without bad luck, would have no luck at all. Why do some seem to get all the breaks? Especially when you and I know people who seem to experience one disaster after another.
So, Professor Wiseman placed advertisements in national newspapers and magazines asking for people who considered themselves exceptionally lucky or unlucky to contact him. Over 400 extraordinary men and women were willing to participate in his research. There was a wide variety in age from 18 to 84 as well as walks of life: business people, factory workers, teachers, housewives, doctors, secretaries, and salespeople.
After carefully examining diaries, personality questionnaires, and intelligence tests, they would also come to his laboratory for experiments. The findings were able to demonstrate that luck is not a magical ability or the result of random chance. The exercise was able to definitively prove that people are not born lucky or unlucky.
Instead, Professor Wiseman said that “although lucky and unlucky people have almost no insight into the real causes of their good and bad luck, their thoughts and behavior are responsible for much of their fortune.” His research was able to show that lucky people generate their own good fortune via four basic principles. They:
- are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities,
- make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition,
- create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and
- adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.
Further, Mr. Wiseman goes on to say “Lucky people consistently encounter such opportunities whereas unlucky people do not.” This might surprise you, but to prove his hypothesis, his volunteers were given a newspaper. His request was simple: look through it and tell him how many photographs were inside.
On average, those who count themselves as unlucky people took about two minutes to count the photographs. Those who consider themselves to be lucky took just seconds. Why? There was a half page message in type two inches tall on the second page of the newspaper that said: “Stop counting – There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.”
Isn’t that incredible?! Hard to imagine that anyone could miss it, but there’s an explanation. Remember those personality tests the volunteers took? Well, it turns out that those who view themselves as unlucky are much tenser and more anxious than their lucky counterparts…and anxiety disrupts people’s ability to notice the unexpected. They are too focused on looking for something else. The perfect job, the perfect mate, the perfect vacation, the perfect car…do you see a trend here?
Are you trying so hard to get it right that you are missing the opportunities blowing right by you? Professor Wiseman said, “The harder they looked, the less they saw.” Before you throw up your hands and relegate yourself to perfectionist purgatory, it doesn’t have to be like this! This isn’t a death sentence – you can alter your ability to see opportunities. But it’s up to you. You are going to have to introduce variety and change to disrupt your patterns of normality.
You’ve heard me take multiple times about neuropathways. You create new ones by forcing your lazy brain out of energy conservation mode. That means taking a different route to work. Brushing your teeth just before you leave the bedroom rather than immediately after waking up or using your opposite hand to brush your teeth.
Imagine picking apples in an orchard daily. When you start, you can go anywhere and find fruit. After a while, your repeated returns to the same spot diminish the result. He says: “It is easy for people to exhaust the opportunities in their life.”
Always talking to the same people, visiting the same places, or doing the same things reduces potential. New or even random experiences increase the potential for new opportunities.
Yet, it isn’t just about creating opportunities. It’s the way you handle misfortune as well. Seeing things that didn’t work out the way you would have liked in a positive and resilient way is critical.
He uses an analogy of going into a bank. While you are waiting, a robber enters, fires a shot, and the bullet hits you in the arm. Unlucky people say “Yep, sounds right. Wrong place, wrong time. Just my luck. I get shot just trying to deposit my paycheck!” Contrast this with the lucky person’s perspective: “Oh my goodness! It could have been so much worse! What if the bullet went into my head or my heart?! I’m so fortunate to be alive…and now I have this crazy story to tell!”
It’s counter-factual, but lucky people imagine how the bad thing could have been and feel better about themselves and their lives. And this, Professor Wiseman says, “helps keep their expectation about the future high, and, increases the likelihood of them continuing to live a lucky life.”
If you are unhappy with your luck, then start creating chance opportunities by breaking daily routines and use counter-factual thinking. When things are bad, get thankful and express gratitude for what you’ve got remembering how things could be worse. Enjoy your experiences and ease up a bit on the intense focus so you can see what’s happening around you and be aware of the opportunities. They are there! There’s evidence demonstrating a high probability that this will work for you.
There’s more to discuss regarding success and excellence. But first, don’t miss next week!
It’s the first of a two-part conversation with Substantial CEO, Carey Jenkins. If you can imagine everything that you would need to do in order to become a CEO, it probably starts with the business school you chose, then how well you network and establish connections, making sure you have a career history demonstrating successive levels of advancing through the business ranks…and certainly, those things can all be helpful.
But what if you didn’t go to one of the top business schools? What if your network isn’t flowing over with stereotypical CEOs who can help you get places? Or what if your success has been in non-traditional industries? Then what? Does it mean you aren’t qualified to lead at the highest levels? Of course not. Don’t miss next week and listen in to Carey’s unconventional path to the office of CEO and get inspired!
Resources Mentioned In This Episode:
Steve McKee’s article on SmartBrief The Ministry of Culture
Bleacher Report article Baseball’s 50 Weirdest All Time Superstitions
Professor Richard Wiseman’s article The Luck Factor
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