Today is April 27 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how many traits of lucky people do you practice?” Throughout the course of navigate the chaos you my have used the phrase, or perhaps have heard others use the phrase, “she was so lucky.” Variations of such a theme include “he was lucky and found himself at the right place at the right time,” or “they were so lucky to have that happen to them.”
Turns out luck is not what we often think it is. Instead of a series of unpredictable events, luck is far more sophisticated a strategy to navigate the chaos than most people know. Luck has been studied by researchers and a more thoughtful reflection of luck might just help nudge you further along your path of navigating the chaos. One such researcher was Max Gunther.
Max Gunther (1927–1998) was an Anglo-American journalist and writer. He was the author of 26 books, including his investment best-seller, The Zurich Axioms. Born in England, Gunther moved to the United States at age of 11 after his father, Frank Henry became the manager of the New York branch of a leading Swiss Bank Corporation.
Gunther graduated from Princeton University in 1949 and served in the United States Army from 1950 to 1951. He worked at Business Week magazine from 1951 to 1955 and during the following two years he was the contributing editor for Time Magazine. In one of his many publications Gunther explored the question “why are some people luckier than others?”
The answers can be found in his now classic 1977 publication The Luck Factor: Why Some People Are Luckier Than Others and How You Can Become One of Them. Gunter identified five traits of lucky people:
1. The spider web structure: network with others
2. The hunching skill: believe that it is possible to perceive more than you see
3. The ‘audentes fortuna juvat’ (fortune favors the brave) phenomenon: the lucky life is a zigzag, not a straight line
4. The ratchet effect: prevent bad luck from becoming worse luck
5. The pessimism paradox: lucky people often cultivate hard, dark pessimism as an essential item of survival equipment.
Two examples of people who were diligent in creating their luck were producer Brian Grazer and photojournalist Clemens Kalischer. After graduating from college in 1974, Grazer overheard a conversation between two men outside his apartment window one afternoon. One man was telling another how he had just quit a law clerk position for Peter Knecht at Warner Bros.
Grazer needed a job that summer before he started USC Law School, so he found the phone number and called Knecht who invited him in for an interview the following day. Knecht hired him and a year later Grazer quit law school to pursue a life in Hollywood.
As a law clerk for Warner Bros. Grazer delivered contracts to Hollywood’s top executives and actors and started to have conversations about how television shows and movies were made. As he explained in his 2015 publication A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life, his curiosity allowed him to be prepared for the opportunity that presented itself.
Grazer used his entry level position to meet experts in the movie and television business. He also took the advice of American talent agent and studio executive Lew Wasserman who told him “Start manufacturing ideas. You don’t have enough money to buy anything, so take this pencil, put it on this paper, and get going.”
During this early part of his career Grazer first met Ron Howard and soon they became friends and eventually business partners when they founded Imagine Entertainment. Grazer made his own luck by practicing Gunther’s first trait of lucky people-he created a ‘spider web structure to network with others.’ Was Grazer lucky? Most certainly. He created his own luck. Noted photojournalist Clemens Kalischer launched his career in a similar fashion to that of Grazer and also created his own luck.
Kalischer fled Germany in 1933 as the Nazis clinched power, surviving imprisonment in France, and escaping to the United States. His career as an accomplished photographer happened by pure accident. Upon arriving in the United States, and still acclimating himself to New York, having arrived speaking only French and German, Kalischer took a job as a copy boy at the New York bureau of Agence France-Presse.
His daily agenda consisted of getting coffee and figuring out the word counts of articles. Then one day in 1946 the news agency’s chief photographer was unavailable for an assignment, and an editor recruited Kalischer as a replacement. With a borrowed Rolleiflex, he set out to record the arrival, at 4:00 am of the former French luxury liner Normandie, which was being towed to a scrap yard. His editors in Paris were impressed with his photographs.
As Kalischer recalled “That’s when it first dawned on me, perhaps you’re now a photographer.” His series of photographs of displaced persons arriving in New York City from displaced persons camps in post-World War II Europe, taken in 1947 and 1948, was his most recognized work. He would go on to be one of the influential photographers of the 20th century be taking advantage of an opportunity merely by accident. Kalischer practiced Gunther’s second trait of lucky people - the hunching skill of believing it is possible to perceive more than you see.’
The study of luck as a strategy to navigate the chaos has been around for hundreds of years. During the 18th century Benjamin Franklin noted “diligence is the mother of good luck.” The concept of luck seems to originate with Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger, often known as Seneca, who is believed to have put forth the adage “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” In other words, people who to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves are creating their own luck. Gunther expanded on this theme of luck and offers five traits of lucky people to understand.
Both Grazer and Kalischer practiced the traits of lucky people.
How often do you?