How to Be Lucky, as Told by 65 Highly Successful People

From long walks to standing desks to … gravity boots?

By Kirk Miller

Recipes for Good Luck
Share This

13 April 2018

Happy Friday the 13th! Contrary to popular belief, today is your lucky day.

Because we found a book that illustrates — literally — the key to making your own luck.

In Recipes For Good Luck, author/illustrator Ellen Weinstein profiles the superstitions, fears and routines of 65 of the most famous and well-respected people on earth, past and present.

Recipes for Good Luck

It’s a beautifully illustrated tome. Weinstein’s work has appeared in The Atlantic, GQ, The New York Times, Time and The Wall Street Journal, and the depictions of what she considers “luck” are timeless, useful and really odd (sometimes all at once).

Turns out a lot of historical figures had rituals that are still in vogue today. Virginia Woolf penned her novels from a standing desk so she could step away from her work and “get a different view.” Tchaikovsky took exactly a two-hour walk every day for his health (and also so “a great misfortune” would not befall him). Gabriel García Márquez would wake before dawn every day and read the newspaper before setting about his writing.

Then there are the more peculiar ones. Ben Franklin took “air baths” (standing in front of an open window) when he wrote. Charles Dickens always faced north while sleeping. And Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown puts on gravity boots and hangs upside down from a special frame “to see things from a fresh angle and shake himself out of writer’s block.”

Dan Brown

But it turns out these politicians, inventors, athletes, writers and actors also tend to share some traits that grease the wheels of fortune. As Weinstein writes: “A good number of the athletes and creatives in this collection credit their adherence to their ritual as a key ingredient to their success … Sometimes, it stems from a desire to control the uncontrollable and ward off bad luck by making good luck. Others have work and routines that are so intertwined that one cannot begin to separate one from the other.”

We gave Weinstein a ring for some tips on inviting a little more kismet into your life.

Here’s what she told us.

InsideHook: What was the original inspiration for this book?

Ellen Weinstein: The inspiration came from an article I was illustrating on superstitions. Some of the behavior described in the article sounded familiar to me and I was curious to learn about the superstitions, rituals, and practices of known figures that related to their work.

IH: These entries fall under a lot of categories: routines, superstitions, habits, rituals. What is the common thread that ties them all back to the concept of luck?

EW: The desire for success. The figures in the book are known for their work and accomplishments, and their particular practices, superstitions and rituals are all related to having a positive outcome, whether it be winning a presidential election, giving a great performance or writing their best work.

IH: What was the strangest ritual/habit you discovered while doing this book?

EW: I am presenting these practices with text and image without judgment or analysis, so it is difficult to label one as the strangest. Some of the examples that stood out were those that challenged my own assumptions about the subject. Robert Plant has been associated with a flamboyant rock-and–roll lifestyle, and I love that he now has the ritual of ironing his own shirts in his dressing room prior to a performance.

Robert Plant

IH: Some people say there is no luck, that it’s all about "working hard" and/or "making your own luck." After putting this book, together, what's your take on that?

EW: There is always an element of chance and of timing. Some of the rituals described here pertain to the desire to control the uncontrollable, but many of them are about getting into the mindset to create one’s best work.

IH: It's not really related to your book, but do you believe any “bad luck” ideas behind Friday the 13th?

EW: I like the superstition of Taylor Swift, who considers 13 to be her lucky number.

IH: If there’s one trait all these successful people share, what is it?

EW: A passion for their work. If you don’t care about the outcome of your work, you are not going to cultivate a superstition or ritual to ensure its success.

Photos excerpted from Recipes for Good Luck by Ellen Weinstein, published by Chronicle Books, 2018.

Share This