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Do you ever wish you were more lucky?

Sometimes Luck doesn’t always look like you think it will. Sometimes it’s more like gentle divine nudges to look this way instead of that.

And yes, I’m giving it a capital “L” because I believe firmly that Luck is a living, breathing thing. And like any playmate, it has to feel like you’re paying attention or it will go play with someone else.

Success in life or business is always part preparation and part luck. Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors only the prepared mind.” The preparation part you can control, so let’s focus on the chance (or Luck) part for a moment.

How do you know when Luck is showing up, and how can you get it to hang around for longer?

The best example I can think of is from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Remember that good-luck potion called “Felix Felicis” that looked like liquid gold in a fancy vial? Its nickname was “Liquid Luck.”

[Spoiler alert: if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, I don’t want to ruin it for you. But both have been out long enough that I’m counting on the fact that you’ve probably read it or seen it by now anyway. So, moving on… And if you don’t want to know, check back next week.]

Harry pretends to pour a bit of Felix into Ron’s drink at breakfast before a big Quidditch match. And a formerly-squeamish Ron played like a champ during that game because he believed he had luck on his side.

Hermione got all mad, but Harry hadn’t actually done anything. He just made Ron believe he had done it.

Later on in the story, when Harry really does use Felix, how it actually works is quite unexpected:

Harry is supposed to be finding out a piece of critical information from Professor Slughorn, but as soon as he drinks the potion, he says to Ron and Hermione, “I’m going to Hagrid’s.”

And we’re all thinking the same thing that Hermione says. “You’re what…?”

He’s not going where we think he needs to go. He just has this random impulse to do something completely different, and Harry has “a really good feeling” about it (going to Hagrid’s instead of straight to Slughorn’s office).

Luck is just like that. It’s not always a direct line.

Quite often it’s those random tidbits of seemingly-trivial info that pop into your head; and if you follow the hints, they become like a trail of breadcrumbs leading you to your destination.

Harry did end up getting that bit of crucial intel from Professor Slughorn, after all, but the way it played out was quite circuitous — in typical Luck fashion.

One thing leads to another, and then another, and then boom — there you have it! Something super-cool that you were hoping for, or maybe something that’s not exactly what you were hoping for — but quite often even better than what you had hoped.

The hardest part of it all is listening to Luck’s whispers. They’re so subtle most of the time, and you really have to be open to doing some crazy-sounding things to stay hot on their trail.

But if you can keep your mind open to receiving those messages, a lot of really cool stuff can happen.

Listening to those whispers is exactly how I got into Stanford. It’s how I got invited to study in Moscow and Prague, to do research at Princeton, to travel to Mexico, Hawaii, and lots of other fun places, and to do so many other wonderful things over the years, from chance connections with awesome people to job opportunities and lots of other wonderful blessings just falling into my lap.

Luck leads to opportunities, but it has to know that you’re open to hearing the messages (or seeing them — however they happen to manifest to you).

It helps you know the best thing to say that facilitates connection and insight and empathy. It guides you to random places where chance encounters can happen. Sometimes it can avert disaster, and we’re ever-so-grateful when it does.

So how can you tune it in and turn it up?

Start with an end-goal in mind. For Harry, it was finding out the piece of critical info from Professor Slughorn.

He didn’t get too specific with the how, just the what.

Then follow the prompts you receive. Look for the little things that catch your eye, or snippets of phrases that you hear in passing conversation, random things that you find, and so forth.

Follow the clues, Nancy Drew, and see where they take you.

It’s hard in today’s society to stay “open” for long periods of time like that. It’s more common in human nature to want to talk than to listen, so staying receptive can take practice; but trust me, it’s so totally worth it.

So, let’s try an experiment for the next week, and see what happens:

Think of something you want to happen.

Then just stay open.

See what you hear or see or feel, and follow those signposts one after another to see what turns up next.

I’d love to hear what surfaces for you, so please pop back in after a few days’ time and let me know how this goes!