WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

How To Be Lucky (SEASON TWO)
 
BE ATTRACTIVE
Humans are predisposed to favor attractive people, meaning beautiful people get lots of luck.
Most of us can think of people we know who are beautiful and seem to find success with ease. We all have that good-looking friend who was the college sweetheart, always got the girls and is now raking in millions at MTN. Beautiful people simply seem to have all the luck.
And, in truth, beautiful people do have a lot of luck because humans are predisposed to favor attractive people.
Since we can’t directly assess the quality of someone’s genes, we tend to make guesses based on the information that is available. An attractive, symmetrical face and nice, shiny hair are indicative of solid genes, so we tend to prefer people who possess such qualities. Our brains seamlessly make a series of logical leaps – from “this person is beautiful” to “this person must have good genes” to “this person is likely to be smart and well-adjusted.”
If you’re of the opinion that beauty is a cultural construction, consider this. According to multiple studies, people of different genders, cultures and races tend to agree on who’s hot and who’s not. What’s more, babies do, too. When shown two faces – one that’s stereotypically beautiful and one that’s stereotypically ugly – six-month-olds spend more time looking at the attractive face.
So attractive people tend to be favored by others, which really does make them luckier. This starts at an early age. One study found that parents with attractive babies – as judged by other people – are found to be more nurturing toward their children than the parents of less genetically-blessed offspring.
The beautiful get extra help throughout life. In one study, researchers left university applications in phone booths, as if they had been left there by accident. Some of the applications, which included photos and addresses, were from attractive applicants, while others were from plainer candidates. Significantly more applications were mailed back to the attractive students than to their plain counterparts.  
So how can those of us who aren’t physically stunning improve our luck? Well, we have control over our clothes, how much time we spend at the gym and whether we use makeup, of course.
However, getting too worked up about your appearance can cause poor self-esteem. And as we’ll see next, confidence is also important when it comes to luck. 
 
CONFIDENCE
Confidence creates opportunities for lucky breaks, but it’s more dependent on social conditioning
than we might think.
If you have the confidence to get up and talk to that cute girl across the bar, you’ll be more likely to get lucky than if you sit in the corner, nursing your beer.
Confidence is about focusing more on reward than risk. Now, our brain has both an activation system, which encourages us to do things based on potential reward, and an inhibition system, which uses stress and anxiety to stop us from doing things based on potential risk. When we shift from activation to inhibition, we go from “go and talk to him – you might get a date out of it!” to “you’ll only embarrass yourself – it’s time to accept that you’ll die alone or I’ll try another time.”
People who are able to push activation over inhibition are luckier because they are more likely to get into the situations – talking to potential partners, demanding a promotion – that create opportunities for luck.
However, for many people, this switch is easier said than done. The world is full of hierarchies, and there is plenty of evidence that people’s behavior conforms to their perceived place in the hierarchy.
Consider why the rich guy from a successful family tends to be outspoken and confident. Research shows that, in the first four years of life, a child born into a professionally successful family receives 560,000 more pieces of encouraging feedback than discouraging feedback. In contrast, a working-class child receives just 100,000 more. And if a baby is born into a family that is not so much well to do, it’ll receive 125,000 more discouragements than encouragements.
Low standing in the social hierarchy can mean low confidence and, therefore, less luck. But it’s possible to escape this trap. Girls are often told that they are less good at math than boys, and studies of women often find worse math results than for men. In one study, however, women about to take a math test were told to imagine themselves as “a stereotypical male.” This caused discrepancies in male and female performance to almost disappear completely. The women’s newfound confidence resulted in an obvious increase in mathematical ability.   
If you’re naturally confident, lucky you! If not, here’s a trick that can help. Students who wrote for 15 minutes about one of their strengths – independence, say, or creativity – went on to perform better, over the course of a year, than a control group.
Take time to remind yourself of your strengths. You got this!
 
Next week, we’ll look at the place of being hardworking in the luck scale.
 
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Olusola Bodunrin
Olusola Bodunrin is a social commentator with a passion for gathering facts on social issues. He is writer, businessman, blogger, and wardrobe consultant. He is a graduate of Philosophy from the University of Ado-Ekiti. He anchors – ‘What You Should Know’ on SHEFFA. ‘What You Should Know’ is a column that offers to educate and enlighten the public on general falsehood and myths.