A different kind of book review – Get Lucky by Thor Muller and Lane Becker

So I would like to try out something here.

I read quite a few non-fiction books and read some reviews as well. Most of them are describing what the book is about. However, sometimes I wonder what people got out of it, did the book inspire them, did they take any action because of it, how much impact on their life the book had? In short, is it worth reading that particular book?

So I would like to share my thoughts on books I’m reading and maybe somebody will find this useful. So this will not be a regular book review. It will be a personal one and I will pick out certain thoughts and things that resonate with me the most and how it relates to my life at this point in time. This is my first try, so feedback is very much appreciated.

Here it goes.

The full book name is Get Lucky: How to Put Planned Serendipity to Work for You and Your Business by Thor Muller and Lane Becker, published in 2012.

The book explained one phenomena about which I have been wondering about for a while. I like flying. The reason is that it is time without distractions (most notably internet) when I can read, think and brainstorm. I always take a notebook with me and I get a lot of ideas on flights. So I wondered why. One, of course it is that airplane without an internet connection is a much less distracting environment, which is refreshing. However the book showed another possible explanation.

It is called construal level theory (CLT). “The premise of the theory is that our minds represent things – objects, events, places, people – differently depending on how psychologically distant we perceive them to be.” (Location 1349 in Kindle). One way of how to be distant is to be physically distant, like in an airplane going somewhere else from your daily life and routine.

This is backed up by a following experiment (its just one of experiments) by researchers at University of Bloomington. Students were told that they are participating in a study in which they have to come up with as many modes of transportation as possible (car, bus, skates, jetpacks, etc.). Half of the students were told that the study has been developed right there at their university and half of the students were told that the study was developed by individuals in a study abroad program in Greece. It turned out that such a small detail made a difference. “The participants who believed the study was developed in Greece reliably generated more examples and more original ideas than those who thought it was developed locally. Simply adding the perception of distance improved the creative output!” (loc. 1331)

Furthermore, when we perceive things more distantly we think about them more abstractly (the book of course goes into detail and fascinating experiments and the scientific evidence behind it). “It’s in this [abstract] form that we can more easily link the idea to all kinds of other concepts floating around in our minds, allowing us to cast the original idea with new meaning.” (Location 1357 in Kindle).

Finally I have come across a scientific evidence of why traveling is good for you. 🙂

One of the ways to get lucky is to get in motion – break out of routine, run into new ideas. For me that’s dancing, traveling, reading books, especially slightly related books about similar topics, going to conferences, meet-ups. Will definitely keep doing that and more.

Another topic that the book explores is geek mind – the insatiable curiosity. “Logic will get you from A to B, but imagination will take you everywhere” by Albert Enstain (loc. 1302).

The book talks not just about personal life but about organizations as well. One great example of how to encourage serendipity in organizations is that of Steve Jobs. When he built the new campus for Pixar in Emeryville, California he insisted that it is a big round building with an Atrium in the middle. All services like cafes and post office are in the middle. This creates opportunities for people from different departments, like engineers and designers to run into each other and have informal conversations while on the go as going through the atrium is the shortest path to go the other side of the building. Plus there is mixing and mingling at the cafe and services.

In the book I also got reminded again that sharing things in public is valuable (loc 3871). Maybe somebody will read it and one may set other people’s associations with one’s purpose.

Also another reminder that people want to find things and people to believe in (loc 4092). I guess that’s why religion works so well. It does not seem logical but fundamentally people want to belong to something.

To sum up, it was useful for me to read Get Lucky. I learned some new theory and research on how brain works which seems to explain some of the phenomena that I have observed. It reminded me of some things that I already knew. It encouraged me to “get in motion”. And it was one of the reasons why I decided to write a public blog while I’m on this trip. Who knows what serendipity it will bring. Actually, it already has. Through sharing I have found people who now live in places that I’m traveling to (instead of me thinking that they live in their previous location).

I came up with my own rating system:
5 – a must read, absolutely everybody should read it
4 – a good, useful read
3 – an ok read, only specific people should read it
2 – meh, there are other, better books on this topic
1 – don’t read, a waste of time

My rating of this book is 4.

Again, this is my first time writing up something like this, so please let me know in comments or in an email what you thought of it!

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