Get lucky at work – be positive

Unlock your luckMy driving force in business has always been enthusiasm. I’m easily amazed and get curious and fired up about many different things. In fact, I refuse to work on anything that does not grab me in that way.

I remember one meeting I had with a woman who was… let’s say slightly less positive. At one point in the meeting, she said “You’re very positive, arent you?” I had to agree, that that was indeed so. It was only after the meeting that I realized that she’d meant it as criticism :o)

Positivity has been getting a bad rap at work. If you’re too positive you can be accused of being pollyannaish, uncritical, unrealistic, silly, etc… “Well,” some people say, “it’s all very good for you to be so optimistic but some of us have to work in the real world.”

And while there are many great reasons to be more positive at work, there’s one I’d like to mention specifically:

Being positive at work means you get lucky at work.
(no, not in that way)

Yes, it’s true: Being positive makes you lucky.

Richard Wiseman (not a bad last name for a professor, btw) is a psychologist who has been researching luck. He’s built up a database of people who feel either extremely lucky or extremely unlucky and has examined the differences between these two groups to determine why it is that:

Lucky people meet their perfect partners, achieve their lifelong ambitions, find fulfilling careers, and live happy and meaningful lives. Their success is not due to them working especially hard, being amazingly talented or exceptionally intelligent. Instead, they simply appear to have an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time and enjoy more than their fair share of lucky breaks.

He has found that lucky people do four things that unlucky people don’t. They:

1: Maximise Chance Opportunities
Lucky people are skilled at creating, noticing and acting upon chance opportunities. They do this in various ways, including networking, adopting a relaxed attitude to life and by being open to new experiences.

2: Listen to Lucky Hunches
Lucky people make effective decisions by listening to their intuition and gut feelings. In addition, they take steps to actively boost their intuitive abilities by, for example, meditating and clearing their mind of other thoughts.

3: Expect Good Fortune
Lucky people are certain that the future is going to be full of good fortune. These expectations become self-fulfilling prophecies by helping lucky people persist in the face of failure, and shape their interactions with others in a positive way.

4: Turn Bad Luck to Good
Lucky people employ various psychological techniques to cope with, and often even thrive upon, the ill fortune that comes their way. For example, they spontaneously imagine how things could have been worse, do not dwell on the ill fortune, and take control of the situation.


So how can you become lucky at work? By being more positive! It’s clear that implementing the four things on Wiseman’s list means being more positive and optimistic – seeing the good in a bad situation, expecting good things to happen etc. I’ve tried it myself many times, and it works.

My most striking example is from 2003, when we arranged our first business conference about Happines At Work. There were six of us working on it and none of us had ever done anything similar before. Still, we needed to find speakers, arrange a venue, get press attention, get a website, arrange catering, setup 15 workshops at the conference and, not least, sell a lot of tickets.

This was in the early days of the company and the question was: Could a group of people with no experience working on a shoestring budget put together a professional business conference?

Our basic approach to the whole project was “Yeah, sure it’s impossible. Let’s do it anyway.” We totally believed that we could do it. And here’s the fantastic thing: Everything just fell into place. We couldn’t believe our luck. We needed a website – I ran into Niels Hartvig who makes the excellent web platform Umbraco, and he offered to host it for free. We needed a great design – and he Niels knew an amazingly talented designer who did it for free. We needed some press attention – and just when I was about to call some journalists a woman walked up to my desk and said “Hi, I’m a journalist, and I’d really like to do a story about you”.

It went on and on like that – everything we needed fell into place so easily it almost got scary at one point. And I believe that this happened at least in part because we were positive and subconsciously used Wiseman’s four principles. Also, because we were optimistic we were fun to be around and therefore attracted a lot of great people who wanted to work with us.

I think it’s time we brought more positivity into the workplace. Not that we can’t also be critical (constructive criticism is absolutely essential in the workplace), but being critical already comes easy to most people in the business world. I say we should practice positivity more. And get lucky!

How to be more positive at work? Here are a few ideas:

If you like this post I think you’ll also like these:

29 thoughts on “Get lucky at work – be positive”

  1. Thanks for the positive insight, Alex! Always adds to my life and work to visit your blog.

    When you wrote: “I refuse to work on anything that does not grab me in that way.” I found myself remembering something I learned when I pastored and preached to a congregation on a regular basis.

    My practice was “to never preach a sermon on anything that did not move me.”

    Sometimes I know I violated that practice and everyone could tell.

    There is a contagiousness that comes from passionate, positive and authentic communication.

    You’ve got that; and it shows up in your blog postings!

  2. There is a huge difference in the work you do based on whether it moves you or not!

    I always do shoddy, mediocre work on tasks that don’t speak to me, and while I used to beat myself up over it, now I just accept this fact and enjoy the work I do when I’m enthusiastic.

    And thanks for the kind words – they mean a lot to me!

  3. Being positive about anything and everything could also increase how you view and perceive things. You might just be happier doing just about anything even the really bad jobs if you just keep the right frame of mind. I remember a project on barbed wire if I didn’t keep positive the end result would have been amazingly bad and I would have hated doing it.

  4. I agree Deon. And on the flipside: Any job you approach sayin “man, I hate doing this, I wish I didn’t have to do it, why can’t someone else do it” etc… will suck. And so will the results, most likely.

    A project on barbed wire… What was that about?

  5. Yeah right, think positive and good things will magically happen to you.

    Did you ever think that people think negative thoughts because bad things actually keep happening to them?

    Do you think blacks were enslaved because they didn’t think positive enough? Were the Native Americans wiped out because they didn’t think happy thoughts?

    How many of these “positive thinkers” were born rich and goodlooking?

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  7. Being optimistic does work . . . I have been a positive person all my life, and have been constantly told so! (Fortunately by some Pessimists :P)
    Today I missed my bus for work and I was already late. Instead I kept calm & positive :) and caught the next possible bus within 2 minutes and arrived just ON TIME at work. During the entire day I felt all this luck occur to me, just because I kept optimistic!!!!!!

  8. I find it very helpful to read these comments. I find I tend to dwell a bit too much on the 1/2 empty glass. Reading this helps me to see more of my life as 1/2 full and the difference when I do that is incredible.The great opportunites that come my way the wonderful experiences are exciting to look forward to.
    Bad things happen to good people, but it can lead to wonderful results if they have faith that good things will happen and there are positive experiences ahead. Expect the best and it will appear.

  9. ?f you smile , your friends will do the same too…
    I believe Luck comes to ones who smile to the world…
    positiveness transfers good feelings from you to other people.
    And you can open closed doors wide ..
    ? agree all of what you say

  10. Speaking as an someone with a reputation for being endlessly positive (apparently ‘optimistic’ is my middle name and i have no emotions other than happy), i really like this post and hope for my own sake that it’s true :P

    Not relevant to this article, but I love the tone of your articles. I find myself reading articles that I’m not necessarily interested in the subject of, simply because i genuinely enjoy reading them. Keep up the good work :)

  11. @ Dan – I think the point here is, whatever your circumstances, you are more likely to be lucky if you think positively than negatively. A negative thinker born into a rich family maybe be seen as ‘luckier’ than a positive thinker born into poverty, but that negative person will be less lucky than they have the potential to be if they were more positive.

  12. Sometimes I am faced with rather laborious tasks in the office. However, by being ultra positive in the way I approach these, really makes a difference and I approach the task for what it is but with an energetic and focussed spirit, seeing the end result as a real accomplishment and beneficial to the company I work for. This makes the job nicer to handle and sets out a clear objective and reason for doing. Hope this makes sense.
    Good luck to all you positive thinkers out there….. :-)

  13. Hi Alex,

    I know you are absolutley right on this – I can think so easily of the challenges I’ve had that have been easier when I’ve had a positive attitude. A straight talker at work left me with this (you’ve probably heard it allllllll before!) – the workplace is full of radiators and drains. There are those who radiate and those who drain…. whihc do you want to be? It really puts a grumpy monday morning in perspective!

  14. Mr, Alex, Thank you for your blog. Your blog give me a new inspiration and make me better. I’m trying to get positive thinking for future of my job.. :)

  15. Its really inspirational… I shall try these four mantras mentioned… Hoping to be positive than before.

  16. “I refuse to work on anything that does not grab me in that way.”

    Does being positive mean that they are very few things that do not ‘grab you in that way’. As in, if I was never the type to like anything that by definition could be called ‘work’ in the first place, would being positive mean that I would instinctively like work that i would usually not like (probably because I saw/thought of it in a positive way)?

  17. Glad to have more insight of being positive in work and life.I work in a every stressfull job, but take the challenges that accure everyday.The problem is alot of the older ladies at the job gossip and create drama everyday, they been here for years, and (its not hard to get caught up in their misery and constanate strif they are asst. managers of employees,bad exsamples )Ive been practiseing to be more postive and find solutions to problems that arise,but its not easy. we have a new manager thats a problem slover and is a positive person. so yes it does help!By his exsample it helps me to seek to be postive with employees and customers. im in a pool of women whom stab you in the back if you let your gaurd down.yes im a women but really do we have to act like sharks when its not nesssary? being postive goes along way.and yes im avery logical and realistic person.

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