Many thanks to an eagle-eyed reader for calling my attention to this excellent article on what differentiates lucky and unlucky people. It turns out that people unwittingly make their own luck. Unlucky people tend to be tense and miss unexpected opportunities because they are focusing on the sources of their anxiety.
Conversely, it appears that lucky people approach situations with a degree of optimism. The author explains, "My research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophecies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good."
Here's a simple personal example that I never thought of in terms of luck, but certainly fits the author's research:
In the past, I used to dislike large social gatherings. The cocktail chit-chat struck me as superficial and I invariably had a bad time and met few worthwhile people. At some point, I decided to approach these events differently. I said to myself, "In such a large group, just from statistical chance alone, there should be one or two really interesting people. My job is to find them."
Suddenly, the socializing became a game, and I became unusually good at spotting interesting people in a crowd. That made the gatherings not only fun, but rewarding.
Much later, someone commented to me that I was fortunate to have such a large, positive social network. In retrospect, my luck was a direct result of my approach to a situation. By preparing myself to find good things, I was able to stumble across them. When I was convinced that nothing good could come from the situation, I created an unlucky, self-fulfilling prophecy.
Now think about how traders approach markets and substitute markets for gatherings in my above example. Perhaps a great deal of market success boils down to a learned skill of luck: we are most likely to find opportunity when we expect to encounter it.