A Day in the Life



Just before dawn I am wrestling with the idea of opening my eyes as I listen to the hum of early morning traffic in the street outside my bedroom window. Beside my bed is a small notebook packed with night-time scribbles – you know, those amazingly creative WOL answers that come to you at 2am but are totally indecipherable at 7 o’clock when you turn the light on.
Pre-breakfast rituals include checking emails just in case a winning email arrived into my inbox during the night (well, you never know!). By 8 o’clock it’s time for a quick scan of any new comps on the website, looking out especially for those that might require a little effort during the day, just to be prepared. I leave Facebook until after a hearty breakfast which is vital to give me the strength to an arduous day ahead. (This week is a better week than last week when most of it was dominated by computer and internet problems. Oh, how drastic that becomes when you are trying to keep ahead of the pack in the best competitions).
The rest of the morning involves some serious comping. First, I enter all the random draws, eliminating anything that looks a bit suspicious or want too much personal detail or don’t have prizes I want to win. Many of these are probably only destined to produce a lot of emails I am not interested in either. I also carefully eliminate any comps that are likely to attract huge numbers of entries as I can’t be bothered competing with thousands just to win a couple of movie tickets or a box of chocolates. I need ones where I have a reasonable chance of winning something. So I look for multiple draw comps; ones with more than one prize (the more the merrier as they say) and those that require a considered thoughtful answer. The WOL ones I jot down in my notepad and set aside to ponder at my leisure or while doing my housework (yuk).
If it is Thursday I stroll around to my local newsagent and stock up on copies of That’s Life, Take 5 and any other puzzle books offering prizes and cash, and any stationery or stamps I need for my mail-in comps.
Afternoons are my thinking and creating time and are spent horizontal on the lounge all the while keeping an ear peeled for the postman or that thrilling buzz at the door when a courier arrives with a parcel for me. On a good day a prize in the mail and perhaps a freebie or two keeps me motivated and makes all the effort worthwhile.
By late afternoon I have usually composed most of my WOL answers and checked out any photo competitions to see if I already have anything that is suitable or could take one before the comp closes. Any really tricky WOL answers will have to wait for another day! I then do a careful email check to see if there are any other comps worth entering that have come from websites I am registered with. While I am back online I ‘like’ and ‘share’ any interesting comps and update my Winning Ways page. If I can be bothered I might also do a bit of an internet search for any obscure comps, anything a bit different, out of the ordinary or some that not a lot of others will know about: entering those will often increase my chances of winning and if the prize is good, I don’t ‘share’ them. I keep them all to myself. A bit greedy I know but then….
At the end of the day, (and it actually hasn’t been a day all about comping, although it often feels like it) I have also somehow managed to also achieve the impossible – done a little work; a lot of housework; caught up with my mum, my kids and the grandkids; prepared the dinner and brushed the cat. Night time is for relaxing with the puzzles that hopefully will win me a few more prizes. Then it’s off to bed to dream about winning the car I really need (or a new iPad).

Luck, Chance and Probability



‘You know Hobbes, some days even my lucky rocket ship underpants don’t help’

Bill Waterson, Calvin and Hobbes 

What exactly is luck? Can we attract luck? Can we share luck? When an event in our life has been influenced by luck or we wish someone ‘good luck’ what do we mean? It is hard to really define. It probably depends on our cultural view of luck or fortune and how we personally believe some mysterious force it is involved in the unfolding of events in our daily lives. Most cultures have expressions or a word that describes what we know as luck or fortune although the ideas might be a little different.

One simple definition of luck is: ‘an unpredictable and uncontrollable force that shapes events favourably or unfavourably.’ This idea of luck has three distinct characteristics which are (1) luck can be good or bad (2) luck can be an accident or chance and (3) luck only applies to sentient beings.

So winning a random draw competition could be seen as good luck as against being caught in an unexpected rainstorm or fire (bad luck). If you were born into a wealthy family this might also be considered good luck as against being born during a depression in a poor country. The idea of being in the right place at the right time is often considered good luck. Winning a random draw competition can also include a lot of luck but there are also the elements of chance and probability at work too.

Luck is related to chance in that in order to believe in luck there must also be a reasonable chance of the event occurring – chance meaning that some degree of occurrence is possible. Probability is the mathematical way of measuring this.

If we are told or think to ourselves that there is a good chance of winning a competition – what do we believe? Essentially we believe that our odds of winning are favourable (and we might be feeling a little lucky too!). This is where it might be worth considering probability – the chance that something might happen. Or how likely it is that an event will happen. This can, of course range from impossible (not actually entering the competition) to unlikely (a large number of other entrants besides you) to an even chance to likely (only a few other entrants) then finally to certain (you are the only entrant).

Very few events can be predicted with total certainty. If we are into the idea of making predictions the best we can do is determine how likely something is to happen. One mathematical equation for determining this probability is:

the number of ways it can happen divided by the total number of outcomes

If, for example, there is only one prize in a competition and there are 100 entrants then the probability will be 1:100. Let’s say there are 100 small prizes and 500 entrants. This will then increase your chances because the probability changes to 1:5. All of this, of course, obviously meaning that competitions with more prizes and less entrants are the best to aim for. I think we all already know that!

Having covered all this logical, mathematical stuff I am going back to the concept of luck again. It has actually been found that people who believe in luck (good that is) are more likely to be optimistic and make better choices and by doing so seem to attract it. Those who are more pessimistic and concentrate on the negative things happen in their lives don’t seem to be able to.

I’ll leave all this pondering up to you and in the meantime….good luck!