The Power of Luck

By Noah Graff

New research is showing that lucky charms may actually improve a person’s performance when doing certain activities. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reported on a study conducted by the University of Cologne in which participants on a putting green were told they were playing with a “lucky ball.” The people using the “lucky balls” sank 6.4 putts out of 10, nearly two more putts, on average, than those who weren’t told the ball was lucky—a 35 percent improvement.

However, this phenomenon only applies to instances in which a person actually has some control over the situation. Various studies show that believing in luck while doing activities in which most if not all the variables taking place occur independently of what a person intends to do can actually have a detrimental effect on success because choices are being made by a person with a false sense of control. Gamblers and stock traders who base their decisions on superstitious ideas have been shown to be less successful than those who don’t use lucky charms because the superstitious ones act more recklessly.

So what does this all mean? How can a person use this to their advantage in business? It means that a person has to be able to identify the variables of a situation before they decide whether their lucky charm is more likely to lead to a positive outcome or an outcome where overconfidence blows up in their face. If one is going to negotiate with a customer and comes in with a confidence in their own abilities, magnified by superstition, assuming the person does actually have legitimate abilities or talent, luck may enhance their odds of success. At the same time, a person can’t forget, that when the decisions of another person (such as their adversary) or pure chance dictates a situation, they shouldn’t have too much faith in their rabbit’s foot.

Question: Do you feel lucky charms or superstitions have helped you be successful in the past?


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2 thoughts on “The Power of Luck

  1. Ron

    I haven’t believed in lucky charms or other superstitions since before my age gained a second digit. Nor have I had any belief in spells, hexes, curses (in the formal sense of the term), etc. The anecdote suggests that a VERY high percentage of golfers believe in magic – maybe that’s why I’ve never taken up the game (not counting the two games I played in college 45 years ago to gain points in a competition among residence halls).


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