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    Bo Burnham and the Illusion of Meritocracy

    In a WTF with Marc Maron podcast episode from 2012, musical comedian Bo Burnham said his fortune felt unreal, as if his life were a futuristic VR game. “I could die, take off a helmet, and, look: It’s the Bo Burnham 2000. There’s a whole line of people crying waiting in line,” he told Maron. […]

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    Are You Downplaying Luck’s Role in Your Life?

    When we succeed, we often take that success, in retrospect, to be the result of suffering that liquid trinity of blood, sweat, and tears. Perhaps fortune favored you here and there but, by and large, it was your effort and talent—not contingency—that won the day. Nonsense, says Robert Frank, a professor of economics at Cornell […]

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    Born Lucky: The Genetics of the Four-Leaf Clover

    Each year, from 1913 to 1917, the psychologist Edmund S. Conklin would hand out a questionnaire to his new psychology students. Conklin wanted to see which superstitious habits or beliefs were the most and least enduring. He found that just over a quarter of college students believed in lucky four-leaf clovers, making it the second […]

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    The Key to Good Luck Is an Open Mind

    Luck can seem synonymous with randomness. To call someone lucky is usually to deny the relevance of their hard work or talent. As Richard Wiseman, the Professor of Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, in the United Kingdom, puts it, lucky people “appear to have an uncanny ability to be in the […]

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    The Rituals That Ward Off Bad Luck Aren’t Arbitrary

    Launch Ritual: NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has a tradition of eating peanuts during big, risky spacecraft events, such as Mars rover landings. Photograph by Kevin Baird / Flickr For the last two years of his baseball career, George Gmelch didn’t eat pancakes. Playing in the Detroit Tigers minor league system in the 1960s, two disappointing […]