Luck School

Twenty-one years ago, this month, my grandmother died.

My mother’s mother.

Polly F. Peirce.

She adored me. And I her.

I was her only grandchild.

The night she died I was doing unspeakable things.

My drug addiction had progressed to the point where I was more beast than human, living only at night, hating the chirping of birds at dawn, desperate for the endless darkness.

My cocaine addiction was transitioning into a crack addiction.

It was the beginning of the end for me.

I was nineteen years old.

And then my Grandma Polly died.

I don’t remember feeling much when I found out.

I was frozen numb. Permanently.

But that started a spiral that led me, ultimately, to my first 12-step meeting.

I hit bottom on a Tuesday morning in a seedy, decrepit hotel at Mission and South Van Ness in San Francisco.

I’d been there, smoking crack, continuously, for days.

And suddenly I awoke to my condition.

I got up and walked out the door.

That night, I got taken to my first meeting ever.

On a first date.

Seriously.

That’s luck.

Of the life-saving variety.

That first meeting was on August 9th, 1994.

I had just turned twenty years old.

I liked it.

These were my people.

I moved back in with my mom down in San Jose, California, and started going to meetings on a regular basis.

From that first day, I didn’t use any drugs, and I didn’t drink any alcohol, one day at a time.

But I couldn’t sleep.

I was rattling in my cage.

So each night I went to a midnight meeting.

It was young people and schizophrenics, in about equal numbers. We would gather together to support each other in not drinking or using drugs, no matter what, seven nights a week from Midnight to 1:00 am.

I fit right in.

After I’d attended a few of these meetings, a girl named Rachel approached me. She was maybe a few years older than I was, and had been clean and sober for over ten months. She offered to take me through the 12 Steps.

I agreed.

Rachel became my first sponsor.

As soon as I started working with her, my life changed.

Dramatically.

I did well in school. I worked an honest job.

A year later, I transferred from community college to U.C. Berkeley.

With that move, I had to leave Rachel and all my friends at the midnight meeting behind.

But it was okay. I found a new recovery community up in Berkeley.

When I graduated from Berkeley, I moved to New York to get my Ph.D. at the University of Rochester.

More distance.

Over the years I tried several times to find Rachel. But she has a common first name and a common last name. There are thousands of her on Facebook.

 

 

Nineteen years passed.

 

 

Fast forward to the present day.

 

 

This past weekend I was 3,000 miles from home, in San Jose, California for a conference.

Twenty years later, the midnight meeting in San Jose is still going strong.

I didn’t go, because now I go to bed much earlier than midnight.

And the conference started early each day.

But I knew I wanted to get to a meeting.

By the time the conference ended on Sunday, I most definitely needed a meeting.

I sat in the lobby of the conference hotel at the free computer station, searching for meetings in San Jose.

There are over 600 each week.

Lots of options.

This was Sunday night, which narrowed it down to about 50 meetings.

Still lots of options.

I knew I’d be driving to Santa Cruz that night to stay at a friend’s house, so I started looking at meetings half-way in between.

I looked in Campbell, Los Gatos, Saratoga…still lots of options.

I decided to just follow my nose. I could access the meeting list on my phone. I jotted down a couple of likely candidates and headed out in my car.

I got to Los Gatos and drove around looking for a place to eat dinner. The main drag had some options, and there was a 7:30 p.m. meeting around the corner. Perfect.

I ate dinner at a little Italian bistro that had some amazing sautéed spinach. I ordered two servings, plus a salad and some protein.

Yum.

I walked over to the meeting.

It was 7:28 p.m.

Perfect.

But the minute I walked in, it didn’t feel right. A few stragglers were sitting here and there in seats. No one was talking to each other. It felt cold.

I went to the bathroom.

I prayed, “God, what should I do?”

My gut answered. Go sit in the meeting.

So I went.

The second I sat down I looked at my phone and saw a text message from my husband, who was home in Rochester on Eastern Time, three hours later. “Starting to go to bed. Gonna brush teeth and read. Lights out by 11 if you want to call.”

At that moment it was 10:29 p.m., Eastern Time.

That was it. If I wanted to say goodnight to my husband I had to leave and do it right then. Perfect. I stood up, grabbed my jacket and my purse, and walked out the door.

I put my Bluetooth headset in my ear and called my husband.

He and I spoke while I drove off in no particular direction.

At a red light, I accessed the GPS on my phone and found out that there was a young people’s meeting starting at 8:00 p.m. about five miles away.

I drove over to it.

As I pulled into the driveway I felt the energy of the meeting. This was what I was looking for. Twenty-somethings were standing on the sidewalk and near the planters, smoking cigarettes. Cars were driving into the parking lot. People were walking into the building, as others walked out to socialize.

I did my best to dodge the plumes of smoke and get into the building quickly. The room was already half full, even though the meeting didn’t start for fifteen minutes.

And there, sitting in a comfy chair at the front of the room, was that night’s speaker—a blonde woman with clear, luminous blue eyes.

I was still talking to my husband in my Bluetooth headset.

She looked up at me and said, “You look really familiar.”

And then it hit us.

Rachel.

OMG, OMG, OMG!!!

Squeal-hug-squeal-hug-squeal-hug!!!

Breathe.

Stare.

Squeal-hug!!!

Squeal-hug!!!

“I wasn’t even supposed to be AT this meeting! I was at another meeting around the corner and it just didn’t feel right, so I left and came over here.”

“I don’t even LIVE here anymore! I live an hour away now. I haven’t spoken at a meeting in a year. As I was driving over here I could just feel that there was some bigger purpose for me coming all the way here just to lead a meeting.”

Squeal-hug!!!

Squeal-hug!!!

Needless to say it was an amazing meeting, and we had an amazing talk afterwards.

Needless to say we will NOT lose touch again.

Needless to say, that crazy night of coincidence will now alter our lives forever, as we get to shape each other’s worlds again, by loving and being loved, as only soul-sisters can do.

Soooooo wonderful.

As my life is.

As my life has always been.

I am an exceptionally lucky person.

But…what is that, exactly?

How can it be that on the very night I was ready to get clean and sober forever, I got taken to a 12-step meeting by a stranger, on a first date? What is the anatomy of the force that pulled me, twenty years later, out of one meeting and drew me into another, so that I could get reconnected with my long lost mate-for-life Rachel?

How, precisely, does luck work?

Several years ago, I was introduced to the work of Dr. Richard Wiseman, a psychologist who has a surprisingly satisfying answer for us.

Luck, he says, is not a force that happens to us, but a way of being in the world.

Lucky people think and act differently than unlucky people.

He knows, because he’s studied them.

Over a series of years he recruited volunteers through ads in national newspapers and magazines, saying, basically, “Are you an exceptionally lucky person? I want to study you.”

And also: “Are you an exceptionally unlucky person? I want to study you.”

Over a ten-year span of time, some 400 people volunteered to be in his research program on the science of luck.

He studied these people in a variety of ways. He gave them personality tests, IQ tests, and physiological tests. He had them keep diaries. He ran experiments.

At the end of all this, what he found was that lucky people differ from unlucky people in four distinct ways:

  1. They are more relaxed and open, and frequently introduce variety into their lives, which means that they are more likely to create and notice chance opportunities.
  1. They listen to their intuition. They even take steps to increase their intuitive connection, through practices such as meditation.
  1. They create good fortune by expecting a bright future. These optimistic expectations lead to perseverance and positive human interactions, which often become self-fulfilling prophecies.
  1. They reframe misfortune, and turn bad luck into good. They see the lesson in challenging circumstances, and can always imagine something worse that could have happened.

A classic example of how these differences play out in concrete ways is an experiment Dr. Wiseman ran where he handed people a newspaper and asked them to count the number of photographs in it. Lucky people took just a couple of seconds to count the photographs, while unlucky people took, on average, two whole minutes.

Why?

On page two, in a font that was over two inches high, was a message that took up half the page and read, “Stop counting. – There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.”

Basically, because they are more relaxed and open, lucky people are more likely to see something that’s staring them right in the face.

In essence, according to Dr. Wiseman’s research, money is equally likely to be lying on the sidewalk in front of any number of people, but only the lucky ones will see it.

So, what does all this have to do with Bright Line Eating™?

Well, Bright Line Eating™ is not just about food.

And it’s definitely not just about losing weight.

It’s about living life Happy, Thin, and Free™.

And being lucky is often synonymous with being happy.

To illustrate:

After Richard Wiseman discovered the differences between lucky and unlucky people, he decided to see whether he could train unlucky people to become lucky.

So he created Luck School.

And it worked.

After going through Luck School, unlucky people became lucky, and lucky people became even luckier.

Most importantly, after just one month of Luck School, over 80% of people were happier and more satisfied with their lives.

So. If you want to live Happy, Thin, and Free™, you might want to get lucky.

Here are some concrete things you can do to think and act like a lucky person:

  1. Keep a lucky diary by writing down the positive or lucky things that happened during the day. Add to it and reread it, so that your list of lucky occurrences grows, both on paper, and in your mind.
  1. When bad things happen, journal a bit about how it could have been worse…and about what you learned from it.
  1. Introduce variety into your life. Take a different route to work. Talk with different people at a party. Drive to a new town and wander around a bit. If you never vary your routine, you exhaust the opportunities that are available to you.
  1. Listen to your hunches and follow your intuition.

After all, you never know when your Rachel might be just around the corner.

With love,

Susan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. David Keeney

    That is an amazing amazing story!!!

    Thank you.

    Reply ·
    1. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.

      You’re welcome. Thanks for reading, David!

      Reply ·
  2. Lynn

    I’m so happy for you and Rachel.

    Reply ·
    1. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.

      Thanks! 🙂

      Reply ·
  3. Anna Huthmaker

    I have a bumper sticker on my car that reads, “Something wonderful is about to happen”. Two days ago, a delivery man mentioned it to me and said, “well….if you say so!”. He asked me how often that was true and I said, “ALL of the time!!!” I have to admit, I was a little disconcerted that he truly didn’t believe that something wonderful could be on the horizon at any given moment. The next time I see him, I am going to tell him about Dr. Wiseman!! 🙂 🙂
    Great, great blog!!

    Reply ·
    1. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.

      What a great bumper sticker, Anna! Reminds me of another common one which I also love, “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” or something like that. Similar flavor, but from the perspective of how we need to show up in the world to get the luck flowing our way.

      Another really cool experiment Dr. Wiseman did was he asked people, “Imagine you go to the bank to do a transaction, and while you’re in there, a robbery takes place. You’re fired on, and the bullet hits you in the arm. Would this be an unlucky thing or a lucky thing?”

      The unlucky people said it would be a very unlucky thing, and would be typical of the awful luck they always experience.

      The lucky people said it would be pretty lucky–after all, a wound in the arm isn’t likely to be fatal. They could have been shot in the head! One lucky guy even started imagining how he could sell the story to the newspapers…

      LOL.

      Here’s to something wonderful happening today!!!

      xoxox
      Susan

      Reply ·
  4. Chris

    Awesome blog! I feel so lucky to have you in my life!

    Reply ·
    1. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.

      Back atcha, baby!

      Reply ·
  5. Ajji

    Susan, do you remember our conversation in New York before your heading out to California for the work-related seminars? You were not sure what the learnings would be per se but you stated you had a strong feeling that a connection with someone would occur that would make the trip worthwhile! I am thrilled read about the reconnect with Rachel. Intuition, ho! it was a great read, too…

    Reply ·
    1. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.

      I definitely remember that conversation. Of course, I was thinking of a business connection, but I tend to travel through the world being open to whatever comes my way. I’ve already met at least three people who could have been the “worthwhile connection” … but all of that is minor in comparison to getting reconnected with Rachel. She and I are supposed to talk on the phone today. Maybe we’ll even get together again. Happy Day!!!

      Reply ·
  6. Fina

    Now that’s a story! I loved reading this today, just what I needed to hear! Thank you for making my day! xoxox

    Reply ·
    1. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.

      You’re welcome, Fina! Thinking of you!!! xoxox

      Reply ·
  7. Debbie

    Susan, what a wonderful story. Where can I sign up for Luck School?

    Reply ·
    1. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.

      Great question, Debbie! I may have to offer a class in it one day…

      Reply ·
  8. Linda

    I just LOVE your blog posts. Thank you for sharing your vulnerable personal stories. I am learning from you.
    Many blessings!

    Reply ·
    1. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.

      You’re welcome! And blessings back to you, Linda! Love love!!!

      Reply ·
  9. Joseph Fleischman

    Another great story from perhaps the luckiest person I know. Thank you!
    It just may be that positive expectations deliver because we interact with the universe in ways that our left brain is not programmed to comprehend or suspect.
    Joseph back in Missoula

    Reply ·
  10. Holly

    Dear Susan,
    I am so enjoying all you are sharing with the world these days. Thank you for your authenticity, vulnerability and straight shooting while sharing the *magic* of life. I was engrossed from the beginning to end of this particular blog post, which says a lot for those of us in the technological age…we have short attention spans!
    Bless you in all you are doing to share your Light with the world and helping people find themselves and their own Light.
    In Gratitude,
    Holly

    Reply ·
  11. Audrey

    Wow Susan – thanks so much for sharing part of your life with us! So many of us could use a little luck in our lives. Glad you shared how to cultivate luck! It is a mindset and CAN be cultivated!

    BTW I always find the best parking spots and today I found loose change under our table at lunch! I have a jar of coins I have found here and there and believe “Find a penny, pick it up. All day long it will bring you luck!” Once the jar is full, all proceeds will go to my favorite charity – but is is a reminder of the abundance surrounding us.

    Reply ·
  12. Wilma Zeedijk-Kejsers

    What an awesome blog Susan, I will definitely make a few changes in my life! Thank you for sharing your story! You are one phenomenal honest humble lady! Hugs and love xox

    Reply ·
  13. Joseph Fleischman

    Susan, how does Dr. Wiseman’s study provide for or negate the argument that in at least some cases causality may work in reverse to his thesis of luck depending on attitude, i.e. does he answer those who hold that continuous bad luck may promote negative expectations, while continuous good luck may promote positive expectations?
    Joseph

    Reply ·
    1. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.

      His work doesn’t address any of this. What his work shows, actually, is that lucky people and unlucky people tend to have a constellation of traits, attitudes, and ways of approaching the world. But he hasn’t done longitudinal studies or experiments of the sort that would tease apart what causes them in the first place.

      Reply ·
  14. /Rita Goebert

    Wonderful story full of BLESSINGS from above. No harm in acknowledging they come from a relationship with a Higher Power, if that is more comfortable for someone. I chose to give God the credit for all the wonderful things that happen in my life. Your examples are golden nuggets of what he has in store for all of us, if we but look for things to be grateful for each day. I have a Gratitude Journal and love looking back to see how God has answered my prayers and kept me abstinent for five years now. Talk about Miracles. I have had more than my share and count them every day.

    Reply ·
  15. Fran

    I truly appreciate you sharing your story & thoughts about luck. I feel I am frequently on the fence when it comes to luck. If I feel happy and reflect on my life. I have been greatly blessed which I think is a form of luck. But on days when I feel agitated & frustrated I don’t feel so lucky. Your story is truly an inspiration to focus on the positive things of life and look for possibilities in everything. I’m about to retire from 47 yrs of nursing & am so ready to lighten up and view life differently. Not have the feeling of a ball & chain are on my ankle. Feeling free and happy and healthy is what I’m striving for in this program. I’m into resetting my brain and having more luck or blessings come my way!!! Love and prayers for the wonderful work and gift you are doing. As your Bahai sister and human sister!! Fran

    Reply ·
  16. Kris

    Thank you SO much for sharing this story! I feel very lucky and grateful. One of my good luck moments was coming across your videos and connecting with your Bright Line ideas. Thank you!

    Reply ·
  17. Lynda Hahn

    What an amazing “lucky” story. Thanks you so very much for sharing this here. I am so inspired by your life stories, what a life it’s been Susan. I for one are proud to feel that I know you. Hugs forever.
    Lynda D. Hahn.

    Reply ·
  18. Lois Ellefson

    Susan – I very much enjoyed your blog. What a wonderful thing to meet your sponsor. I am approaching 3 yrs sobriety. Life keeps getting better. The tune ” Look On The Sunny Side of Life” ala Monty Python keeps playing in my mind lately. Dancing included! So happy I found you.

    Reply ·
  19. Maria-Clara

    Thanks for sharing your personal story and the way you do it is exceptional. And thanks for all your teachings and support. My God keep Blessing you and your family and all os us who are reading you.
    Namaste!!!

    Reply ·
  20. Judy Springsteen

    Susan, I’ve always considered myself a pretty lucky person. Your blog post reinforces for me that we have to show up and be open to the experiences of life in order for the magic to happen, and it will. Thank you for sharing this beautiful account of the magic that is possible for all of us! Our physical paths may never cross again, but your beautiful presence in this world will stay with me always. Much Love, Judy

    Reply ·
  21. N LoSasso

    I would love to find my first sponsor again. Misty. I cant believe I just remembered her name I have thought often of her but until this minute couldn’t remember her name. What a great story !! My friends and family have always told me how extraordinarily lucky I am. I’ve never thought much of it other than to be thankful. Now I will certainly research it more. What a great piece. Thank you.

    Reply ·
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