The 4 Kinds Of Luck

And how to make your own

A synonym for the word luck is chance.

Try to replace the first with the second in a couple of scenarios and, suddenly, you’re talking about probability, about odds, about how you can maximize your rate of success.

Because unlike luck, our odds are partially under our control.

“I’m not lucky” becomes “I’m not taking my chances.”

“This was unlucky” becomes “this was unlikely.”

See how that changes everything?

In his book Chase, Chance, and Creativity, researcher James Austin breaks luck down into 4 types.

  1. Dumb luck. The kind of luck you have zero control over, like finding a $20 bill on the ground.

  2. Active luck. The more you do, the more possible moments of breakthrough you generate. It’s still chaotic, but at least you’re doing something.

  3. Planned luck. When I see an article that does well on Medium, I can try to write something similar. With experience, you learn to spot lucky breakthroughs and can direct your own efforts towards manufacturing them.

  4. Unique luck. This kind of luck is special. It comes from you building a unique reputation, character, and skillset, which then draws luck towards you.

Here’s an example of that last one:

If you’re the only one in your country who can extract a rare, raw material from the earth, and you always split the profits 50:50 with your partners, your reputation will start drawing opportunities to you. Whoever finds a sourcing spot of that mineral (dumb luck) will come to you (unique luck) to ask you to extract it and work together.

That last one takes years to build, but over time it creates so much opportunity for you that you can barely call it luck anymore.

In a conversation with Naval Ravikant about this topic, interviewer Nivi says:

“By pursuing these kinds of luck, especially the last one, basically everything but dumb luck, by pursuing them you essentially run out of unluck.”

I’d much rather do that than wait for a lucky break.


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