Archive for the ‘Luck’ Category

Service of Being Born Under a Lucky Star and How to Nudge or Discourage One

Monday, January 3rd, 2022

Image by Angeles Balaguer from Pixabay  

A friend mentioned a family she knows that is born under a lucky star. Everything works out for them. When there were thousands of cancelled flights over the holidays because record numbers of employees called in sick combined with bad weather, this group arrived seamlessly on the last flight to land safely at their vacation destination in a storm.

Some of my friends do very well with lotto tickets or horse track betting. If I pick up $1.00 in the former I’m happily shocked though in so many other ways my star has shined brilliantly and I’ve drawn the long straw.

Folks may talk only about their casino winnings and successful fishing expeditions. They aren’t boasting even though you never hear, when they return empty handed, about dollars and/or time lost. I think it’s because they don’t want to complain.

Sometimes you can nudge a star in your direction or kick it away. Working hard at work and at home helps with the former and avoiding shortcuts can protect from the latter.

I’d forgotten why I had stopped using cake mixes decades ago–I make cakes, cookies and piecrusts from scratch–but it all came back to me on New Years Day. I was tempted by the packaging of a cornbread mix and I’d bought some wonderful baked ham to go with the results. The sickly sweet muffins are inedible. Cornbread isn’t supposed to be sweet. They only lack the stick-to-your-teeth texture of the worst of their cousins sold by 10th rate delis. I had planned to share them with friends. No way and never again.

Do you know people who are born under a lucky star?  Can you share examples of some who through hard work have helped along their stars and still others who in spite of life’s downturns nevertheless glow as though they’re blinded under the reflection of the brightest? Have you discovered any decent cake or other mixes?

Service of Luck IV: Watch Where You’re Going

Monday, January 30th, 2017

I’ve had a spate of good luck recently. Within a few weeks I found two MetroCards on the ground, each with money on them, one, $9+ and the other, all you could use and good for three more weeks. It was worth at least $115 if you take only two rides a day back and forth from work and to run errands on weekends. 

A few days later, walking by the 99 cent pizza shop on 43rd Street adjacent to St. Agnes Catholic Church, I saw $10 on the ground very near to a young man munching a slice. As I swept down to pick it up I noticed he hadn’t treated himself to a soda, plus it was a freezing day so I determined he wasn’t Mr. Moneybags as he’d be eating his lunch indoors. I asked him if the bill was his. He said “yes,” and it probably was.

A few weeks after that, walking home along Second Avenue, I found a wallet in the street with everything in it: Credit and insurance cards, cash, receipts. Fortunately, along with an appointment card for a Chicago dentist, there was a business card with a name that matched the plastic. I called, the woman was visiting her daughter in NYC and within a few minutes, she and her daughter were in the lobby of my apartment. She’d just arrived from Chicago and her wallet had fallen out of her tote bag as she exited from a cab. We hugged and her daughter said “See Mom? I told you not to worry. There are many nice people in New York.” The next day she sent the most glorious bouquet of flowers [photo below].

That wasn’t all. My husband couldn’t find a credit card and he refused to call the company. He said nobody had charged anything to it and wasn’t worried. I scoured our apartment and house, even checking inside the washer [he thought it was in the pocket of a shirt I’d washed and ironed]. We’ve had a few snowfalls upstate and a company that clears the snow disrupts the gravel in the driveway. I noticed something unexpected sticking out of a pile and there was his blue/gray Visa card. Whew!

Do you keep an eye on the ground where treasures might be found? Any luck lately?

Flowers for wallet

Service of Enough Already: When [Too Many] Things Keep Going Wrong

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

I was once pick pocketed at a personal low point and I’m sure it happened because I was both distracted and nervous, therefore a great target for a talented person. I was having more than a bad day or week—it was more like a bad year–but, as a good and sage friend often says calmly, regardless of the calamity, “this, too, shall pass.” And, indeed, it did.

There are ways to help things along according to Sue Shellenbarger in her Wall Street Journal article, “Having a Bad Week? Tricks for Turning It Around.” She wrote: “You can’t fend off all bad luck, but if you change your reaction, it can have a very powerful effect.”

She noted: “Mishaps make people feel anxious and uncertain, and often lead them to look for patterns as a way to regain a sense of control, according to a 2008 study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and Northwestern University.

“At these moments, it is worth remembering that misfortune is often a random event. There is always a probability that several bad things will happen at once, says Jane. L. Risen, an associate professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a researcher on judgment and magical thinking.”

We all know folks who think that the universe is against them. Others consider themselves lucky no matter what—that things could be worse, so they feel grateful. Richard Wiseman conducted a study years ago that corroborates the usefulness of this approach. An example of how it plays out might be that if a right-handed person breaks a hand they react, “Isn’t it lucky I broke my left hand!”

There’s also the issue of the jinx. Shellenbarger described a man for whom the roof fell in after his friend observed that his decade old jeep never needed repairs. Not only did it suddenly break down the next week but his credit card was stolen, his computer crashed losing his book manuscript, he sprained his ankle and had an unfortunate first date, but that wasn’t all. To pull himself together he headed for his motorboat and a calming ride but then its steering mechanism locked as he was making a turn with the result that it travelled in circles for ages, in front of an audience on land who thought his predicament hilarious.

“At times we get so rattled by a bit of bad luck that we make things worse,”  Shellenbarger wrote. “A belief that you are unlucky has been linked to deficits in decision-making skills, self-control and shifting from one task to another, according to a 2013 study led by John Maltby, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Leicester in England.”

Shellenbarger described a woman who suffered a ridiculous number of catastrophes ending up with a broken wrist so she couldn’t work. “She took comfort in thinking about her network of family members and friends, who would type for her if necessary. She credits her positive attitude as the reason she’s recovering faster than expected. “Another helpful technique is mental time travel, Dr. Risen says. Imagine yourself in the future; think about how, after the misfortune is over, you’ll have a good story to tell.”

Do you knock on wood? It helps, she wrote, because it, like finding a four leaf clover or carrying something that you think brings luck, will inspire positive expectations “as if you’re shielding yourself from bad luck or drawing good fortune your way.”

What techniques do you use to turn around a spate of bad luck? Do you have talismans or routines that break a spell or help give you back your equilibrium?



Service of Luck III

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

I barely caught the Third Avenue express bus back to my office after a visit to Trader Joe yesterday. A wheelchair passenger had just settled and the original line of passengers had dwindled to two. While gathering my packages in one hand to free the other to hold my MetroCard while running, I saw a gray leather or plastic tote leaning against the bus shelter. I asked the driver to alert the passengers over the loudspeaker.  Instead he closed the door, shrugged, mumbled something and drove on. I hope its owner meant to leave the portfolio there for someone else to use. I will never know.

The lost tote resonated with me.

Returning home from work one night recently I was loaded down and stopped by Food Emporium on Second Avenue and 51st Street to pick up one last item—a mistake. At the checkout counter I put down my load to fish out my wallet. I was almost home when I realized that although encumbered more than usual, something was missing: I’d left my laptop at the grocery store, tucked in the space to fill shopping bags.

As fast as I could walk—I was closer to home than to 51st Street–I dropped off my bags with the doorman. My husband immediately alerted the store [as soon as my hands and arms were free I called and asked him to do this], as I ran to the store. I entered the checkout line and a young man said, “Here she is!” [Was my hair standing on end? Was the anxious look on my face so obvious?] Sheryl the cashier held up my laptop as a football player might having made a touchdown, enjoying the reunion–I hugged the computer in its black cover as I thanked her profusely. I was SO LUCKY.

When I returned to the apartment the doorman told me he’d forgotten a shopping bag full of wine he’d put on the ground to free his hands to use an ATM machine. The bag was gone when he returned for it.

Have you enjoyed some luck lately? Has someone returned a lost item to you or like the doorman and maybe the owner of the tote at the bus stop, did a moment’s forgetfulness have unhappy results?

Service of Dreaming

Monday, December 16th, 2013

I’ve written before about luck and the lottery; that it’s a tax on the poor and how winners often become paupers but it’s again time to dream because the Mega Millions jackpot is $550 million and may even be more as I hear ticket sales were brisk over the weekend.

After paying off bills, buying a few gifts for yourself and loved ones, and salting away enough so that you don’t have to worry about how you’d pay for rent, food, clothes and healthcare for the rest of your life, there would be plenty left over. The hardest thing would be to decide where to put the money–all in one spot or a little here and there–whether to address starvation, disease, education, the arts or causes—or to keep it all.

Do you already know where the extra would go or would you first study the subject? Would you give money to existing foundations, start a foundation of your own or keep and then spend all the winnings on houses, boats and cars? Would you keep on working?




Service of Luck II

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

I wrote about a huge lotto winning in a previous post, “Service of Surprises,” although I’ve also covered the subject of luck before, albeit in a different context. The morning after a huge lotto drawing–$580 million going to two winners–I couldn’t resist revisiting the topic.

I didn’t win, nor did anyone in the office in which I rent space.

A talk show host who was not tempted to buy a single ticket reminded the listeners that lottery tickets are a form of double taxation, the first being the money spent on the tickets and the second, on the winnings if over a certain amount. I think we are aware of this but the temptation is to get lots for little.

There are exceptions–for some the cost is too much. I heard a statistic on another radio station that among those who play the lotto, people with incomes of $13,000/year spend over a thousand dollars–9 percent–on lottery games.

This leads to the subjects of hope and taking advantage of people’s grasping for same.  Is that what the lottery does? If a few dollars lost won’t make a difference to your family the lottery is exciting and fun. Otherwise, it’s more than heartbreak. When slot machines in the clubs of overseas US military bases were causing financial difficulties for some who poured their salaries into them the slots were removed. Should the lottery continue?

Service of Luck

Monday, February 6th, 2012

A quote by New York Yankee Lefty Gomez, that he’d rather be lucky than good, appeared in Lisa Sanders, MD’s diagnosis section of her analysis in a New York Times Magazine article, “A Head Full of Pain.” Sanders wrote that she heard that quote a lot when she was a TV journalist.

She noted that the same holds true for medicine. “It was lucky I was studying. It was lucky I ran across this mention of this half-remembered disorder. It’s humbling to know how easily I could have missed this diagnosis. But does it have to be lucky or good? We all aspire to be both.”

Discussing football players during a radio interview on the Friday before the Super Bowl, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg observed that if someone consistently plays well that it’s due to skill, not luck.

The old saw about being in the right place at the right time may be luck, but is it? What did you give up to attend an event, join a committee or sign up for a class where you met your next client or boss: Nights and weekends to catch up on work deadlines? Wasn’t this equal parts luck and motivation?

Monique Sanchez is a talented young actress who produced and starred in an off-Broadway play while juggling a job and other obligations. During this busy period the only thing she missed was sleep. The risks and tasks involved with producing a play are no joke but she took them. She didn’t wait for a showcase role to come to her, she created [a great] one. Nor did she hope the right people came to see her: She saw that they did. Is it timing, talent, luck, perseverance, energy–or all of these things–that account for her being cast in increasing numbers of television shows?

What part does luck play in success? In the outcome of many of life’s twists and turns?

Service of Surprises

Monday, March 28th, 2011

I’m a control freak but with the exception of surprise parties, I love most of them, which may be why I buy lotto tickets. I just heard that the winner of the $312 million Mega Millions jackpot ticket lives in Albany. Eight people shared the ticket, actually. I had fun dreaming of what a surprise winning a chunk of money like that would be for me and some of the people I know.

I won a drawing for big bucks at Pottery Barn years ago. The amount was enough to buy the most expensive thing at the store or a nice selection of the rest. When the store called me at home on a Saturday morning, I knew it was real-not a friend with a tease–because I hadn’t told a soul that I had dropped my name in a fishbowl on the counter. I also won a big football pool which got the serious enthusiasts furious because it was just luck on my part.

Not all surprises involve money or winning. Here are a few I’ve noticed lately.

parkshotssculpture2**On my walk to work last week I first saw silver and copper-colored life-size sculptures of men sitting on benches, standing or kneeling facing one another or posing alone on 47th Street between First and Second Avenues. There’s no way to tell who the artist is-I’ve looked and asked others who were also snapping pictures. I wonder if parksculpturesmall2the city is paying for these visitors or if the artist is renting the space, using Target’s model of “I’m not telling you who I am.” You may remember the very first Target TV commercials that featured the logo, but never the name, of the then unknown retailer.

**I guess tourists whose cell phones don’t work in the US find the burgeoning phone booths in midtown handy and those whose mobile phone service is sketchy around skyscrapers welcome them as well. They are also handy to display poster adverts. I began to realize that phone booths were back in droves relatively recently. They snuck in or phoneboothssmallI’m distracted as I walk from place to place.  I wonder how long the phones will work.

**There was no looting in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami! I saw a great political cartoon about this and a friend who reads internet news voraciously said that this fact was the talk of the town.

**Brenna Ehrlich reported on the Mashable blog, “OMG, the Oxford English Dictionary Added New Words! We ‘Heart’ It! LOL!.”  What’s officially accepted in our language is often a surprise.

Some people may not like the spontaneity connected with surprises. Do you? I’d love to hear of some new or remarkable ones you’ve observed or benefited from.

Service of What If II

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

The first in the “What If” series could also have been called “Service of If Only.” Today’s post is about luck and daydreaming.

It was late and the deli was empty so the counterman and I were chatting about winning the New York Lottery as he filled my order. The pot was particularly big that night.

“Your friends won’t treat you the same,” he maintained. “I don’t know if I’d want to win it,” said the 20-something as he sliced the ham just as I wanted it. “I sure wouldn’t tell a soul if I won,” he said.

I told him how wonderful it would be to enclose a surprise check for $10,000 with each Christmas card. Then we discussed whether some would feel that this amount would not be  enough given the multi-million dollar size of our hypothetical winnings.

I have often talked about establishing a foundation if ever I won enough money, although I haven’t thought about it seriously and long enough to decide whether my goal would be to address disease or education. I don’t want to jinx myself.

Do you ever daydream about winning one of the major lotteries? There are countless stories about how it has ruined other people’s lives. Do you think it would ruin yours?

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