I have a bachelor’s degree in English literature and I can read literary fiction in two languages (English and French).
I need that as a preface, because I can’t stop raving about Katie Couric’s anthology, “the Best Advice I Ever Got.” I recently raved about the book to two new acquaintances at a networking event and they gave me a little flak for my low-brow taste in reading material. Thus, the necessary preface.
That said, this book has changed my life. It’s a simple concept: Katie Couric reached out to her network of famous, successful friends and acquaintances and tapped them to share essays about, of course, the best advice they ever got. Michael Bloomberg discusses the immense value of showing up early in business and in life, Anna Quindlen wrote on overcoming fear, Billy Joel crooned about doing what you love, and Biz Stone (co-founder of Twitter) submitted a 140-character essay.
My favorite three essays in the book are by Mario Batali, Suze Orman, and Tony Hsieh. The Tony Hsieh essay is one that I reflect on almost daily and has changed my outlook on life.
In his essay, “Be Lucky,” Zappos founder Tony Hsieh writes that when Zappos interviews job candidates, they ask job seekers how lucky they are, on a scale of one to ten. Hsieh goes on to discuss a study where participants were asked how lucky they were on a scale of one to ten, and then were given a broadsheet newspaper and asked to count the number of articles. The study participants who identified themselves as being luckier were much more likely to read the first article in the newspaper that read, “There are 37 articles in this newspaper. Go to the test proctors and collect $200.” The less lucky study participants counted the articles and went home.
It’s a fascinating topic to ponder: if you consider yourself a “lucky” person, are you more open to opportunities, more observant, and generally happier? I’d make the argument that feeling “lucky” is in the same vein as feeling grateful—being aware of and thankful for all the bounty in your life—and scores of researchers and writers have discussed the many mental, emotional, and even productivity-related benefits of being grateful.
So, I have been making an active effort in recent months to consider myself a “lucky” person. It started one morning over caramel macchiatos in a Financial District Starbucks. I was having breakfast on a Saturday with a friend from college (on the heels of having just read “The Best Advice I Ever Got”) and a beam of light hit me. “We are so lucky,” I said. “We have apartments, we have jobs, we’re young, we have no major life problems, and we have our entire lives ahead of us. We are so lucky.”
That was October, and since then, I’ve been making an effort to observe how lucky I am and practice luckiness. When the Q train pulls into my local subway station just as I walk down the stairs, eliminating any wait for the train, I think to myself, “The Q train is here because I am a lucky person.” When I need a latte and I see that there is no line in Starbucks despite it being peak hours, I think, “Wow, there’s no line and I’m really lucky today.” I’ve been buying Powerball tickets once a week and while I’ve never won more than $4, the ritual of buying the ticket, chatting with the deli guy, and returning to check the ticket the next day foments an atmosphere of luckiness.
I’m deeply curious to see how my new “lucky” lifestyle will play out this year, interpersonally, financially, and professionally. At the very least, when the Q train comes, I’m getting places sooner on a literal level.