Feel Your Way to Better Luck

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Have you ever known a person who seemed to attract bad luck? I used to work with a guy who seemed to have the cards stacked against him. Science gives us reason to believe that his luck wasn’t as random as he assumed.

Unlucky Larry

Larry was smart and hard-working, but quirky things seemed to happen to him that interrupted his success. Many years ago we were both computer programmers and worked in cubicles next to each other. I remember one time when he started getting phone calls at work asking for details about the boat he was selling. The funny thing was that Larry had never owned a boat and had no clue as to the origin of the calls. So he made some inquiries and found that there was a listing in a popular classified ads newspaper that detailed a 40-foot yacht for sale, along with a picture of a beautiful boat, for the super low price of $5000. The ad erroneously listed his business phone number as the contact.

From the cubicle next door I chuckled as I listened to him taking call after call and explaining that he didn’t own the boat and didn’t know who did. After a while, he became so frustrated with the long interruptions caused by explanations to boat seekers that he just answered the phone calls by saying, “The boat is sold.”  When even that became too much of an interruption, he decided not to answer the phone at all and just delete the messages later from voice mail. That worked okay until our boss tried to leave a message one day and found that his voice mailbox was full. Larry tried his best to explain that it wasn’t his fault, but he just couldn’t avoid appearing irresponsible to our boss.

These were the kind of things that happened to Larry, and they seemed to happen only to him. I never believed they happened by chance, and now science gives us an explanation.

The Science

Rigorous scientific experimentation has found that emotion has the ability to influence order in processes that would otherwise be random. Researchers designed experiments to determine if certain types of human situations and activities have the ability to shape the outcome of random events. The experiments measured the results of Random Event Generators (REG’s) that were placed in close proximity to people who were engaged in a variety of activities and situations, such as business meetings, spiritual rituals, fun activities, theatrical events, and conferences.

The REG’s were designed to randomly generate a series of numbers. Control statistics on the occurrence of each number were calculated while the machine was left on its own with no human influence. During the experiments involving people, if the REG created output that highly varied from the control statistics, it was considered to be influenced by the person. The experimentation was conducted with scientific rigor and included a high number of trials.

The research found that people indeed can affect random processes, but only in certain circumstances. The effect is generated when people feel strong emotions. In contrast, people do not influence random processes when they are in neutral frames of mind. The strongest impact is created by groups who share a deep emotion.

The experiments didn’t measure the direction of the influence, whether it was positive or negative. However, based on other research performed on the relationship between positive emotion in entrepreneurial businesses and their success rate, it’s logical to conclude that negative emotion orders the randomness in an undesirable manner, while positive emotion generates desirable outcomes.

Randomness exists everywhere in our world. We routinely make random decisions, anytime there’s no logical reason to choose a particular alternative, such as which aisle seat to select when checking in for a flight, or which equally-performing stock to purchase. The consequences can be phenomenal when we end up sitting next to the CEO of our next largest client, or when we pick a winning portfolio. In addition, other people cause random events that impact us, such as whether a mis-printed number will match our phone number. It pays to be lucky.

Larry always did seem to be in a negative mood. He would say he was in a bad mood because life seemed to unfairly pick on him, but now we have reason to believe that the bad mood came first.

As we learn more from neuroscience about the incredible power of group emotions, we see reasons to adopt techniques beyond the ordinary. For more on shaping team emotions to increase creativity and performance, including research references, get notified of the upcoming book Primal Teams: Harnessing the Incredible Power of Group Energy or sign up for a monthly summary of articles.


About the Author:

Jackie Barretta is a writer, speaker and consultant helping organizations strengthen agility and performance by shaping emotional energy. She is a thought leader bringing to light the new science of group emotional energy and connecting it to business performance. She has had a 28-year award winning career as a C-level Fortune 500 executive and Big Four consulting firm professional.
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  1. Stephanie Hilliard  April 23, 2012

    This is an intriguing article, Jackie. While I come at this topic from a Christian viewpoint, I can say that I’ve come to believe we are not passive spectators on life. Rather, our choices, our thoughts, our words (in particular), and apparently even our emotions can affect the world around us. All the more reason to live a life that values virtue and right thinking/right action.

  2. David Michie  May 2, 2012

    Fascinating article Jackie – thanks for posting it. Seems like interesting scientific evidence for Buddha’s assertion that the thought is followed by the word which in turn is followed by the deed ….


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