Stacking the Cards in Your Favor

Some people seem to have all the luck.

They're always in the right place at the right time, getting all the breaks, living the good life.

But is it blind chance? Are they fated to be blessed by good fortune?

What exactly makes a person lucky?

Dr. Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire has studied hundreds of lucky and unlucky people for more than a decade. According to Wiseman, "If there's a single message from the research … to a very large extent, you're creating a lot of your own luck."

Creating Luck

Wiseman explained that it was important to distinguish the difference between luck and chance. For example, some illnesses and accidents are completely out of our control.

In his book "The Luck Factor," Wiseman writes about essential traits of lucky people. "There's a very large percentage of events where we'll say, 'Oh, that was really lucky. I went to a party, bumped into this person, changed my life.' … In fact, lots of those events very much are to do with the way in which we think, the way in which we behave."

According to Wiseman, lucky people encourage good fortune by believing in their own luck: They are optimistic and resilient.

Actress Rachel Reenstra has been struggling with the daily rejection that comes with working in Hollywood for more than 10 years, and never got her "lucky break."

Yet Reenstra did exactly what Wiseman says lucky people do. She never gave up and visualized where she wanted to end up. "I created an ideal scene," she said. "I am traveling the world. I am enjoying getting paid lots of money hosting a show. … I didn't know how it was gonna happen, but I knew that's what I wanted."

So Reenstra took a proactive role in making her dream happen. She took her life savings — even though it meant going into debt — and began traveling the world, videotaping herself with animals. Finally one day her agent sent her a letter telling her that Discovery was looking for its next female adventurer. "I looked at that letter and I went, 'Well, this is me, and they need to know this is me!'"

Reenstra made a demo tape of her travel adventures, and after auditioning dozens of actresses, Discovery's "Animal Planet" announced the host of its new show "Ms. Adventure" -- Rachel Reenstra.

Ready for Luck

Wiseman explained that another essential trait of the lucky was that they were always prepared. "They were the ones that put a huge amount of effort, so that when that break came along, they were there."

As part of a BBC documentary on his study, Wiseman conducted hidden-camera experiments with self-described lucky and unlucky volunteers. In one trial, he planted money on the street to see who would pick it up. The lucky people tended to notice the money more than the unlucky people.

He said, "The lucky people are very open to these unexpected opportunities. They're a bit more laid-back. They're seeing the bigger picture."

Another experiment demonstrated that lucky people also tended to attract other people. Wiseman planted a lucky and an unlucky person in a cafe, and then sent subjects in to buy a cup of coffee and sit down. Almost every subject decided to sit next to the lucky person, a successful businessman.

"It's a very subtle difference in body language," he said. "The lucky people have very open postures, a lot of eye contact, drawing people towards them or smiling, asking about them and not talking about themselves all the time."

"The unlucky people were exactly the opposite. They had their arms folded, weren't really interested in others," he said.

'Hello, My Name Is Scott'

Speaker and author Scott Ginsberg, 27, has no problem finding people to talk to. "I've probably had encounters with over 100,000 people," Ginsberg said.

His popularity is fueled by an accessory that may make most people uncomfortable: He always wears a name tag.

"What is with the name tag? Well, I get that probably three to five times a day. And it's been approximately 2,237 days that I've been wearing this 24/7," he said.

Ginsberg feels the name tag represents friendliness in a world filled with strangers. In fact, he started his marketing business, "Hello My Name Is Scott," when he was just 22. He now makes more than six figures a year from book sales and speaking engagements.

Ginsberg says his success is a result of his approachability and he can trace the first time it worked for him back to one key day years ago. He had a conversation with a stranger on a bus and gave him his card. "About a week later, I get a phone call from the editor of the Portland Tribune, who wants to do an article about my upcoming book. This article went out to every major news wire in the country. … Everything in my entire life since then is because that guy on the bus. His girlfriend was that reporter for the newspaper."

Ginsberg, like most lucky people, doesn't listen to naysayers. His belief in his positive attitude is so strong that he even got his name tag tattooed on his body. He said it's "100 percent real. And you know what? This is as real as my commitment. And I think that is what can actually increase someone's luck." According to Ginsberg, he is the luckiest person he knows.

And of course, the big picture is important, as Wiseman explained. "This is about people enjoying a quality of life, in terms of their career, in terms of their family, in terms of their relationships. It's about having a lucky life."