What The Luck?

What The Luck?
The Surprising Role of Chance in Our Everyday Lives
Gary Smith
Price: £
  • Hardback
26 Jan 2017
  • Popular Science
Available from:

A revealing and tremendously entertaining look at how the world of luck really works


• In Israel, pilot trainees who were praised for doing well subsequently performed worse, while trainees who were shouted at for doing poorly performed better.

• Highly intelligent women tend to marry men who are less intelligent.

• US pupils who get the highest scores in grade three generally get lower scores in grade four.


• It’s wrong to conclude that shouting is the more effective tool.

• It’s wrong to conclude that women choose men whose intelligence does not intimidate them.

• It’s wrong to conclude that schools are failing their pupils.

There’s one reason for each of these truths: a concept called ‘regression to the mean’, which explains how we can be misled by luck in our day-to-day lives. An insufficient appreciation of luck and chance can wreak all kinds of mischief in life: in sports, education, medicine, business, politics and everywhere else.  

Perfectly natural random variation can lead us to attach meaning to the meaningless. In What the Luck?, statistician Gary Smith explains how an understanding of luck can change the way we understand almost every aspect of our lives… and how it can help us learn to rely less on random chance, and more on truth.

Read an extract here! 


Another delightful addition to the stuff-you-think-you- know-that’s-wrong genre, á la Freakonomics, Outliers, and The Black SwanKirkus, starred review

‘Read this book. Then give it to your family and friends. There is no other single idea that will better improve your understanding of the world, and judgement of the future… Smith shows us how others have gotten it wrong and how you can get it right’ Cade Massey, Professor, Wharton School of Business

‘Gary Smith has another winner! His ability to combine entertaining writing with meaningful analysis should put him at the top of every thinking person's reading list’ Woody Studenmund, Laurence de Rycke Professor of Economics, Occidental College

What The Luck? is a tremendously entertaining and revealing read. A quick and engrossing piece of work, it is a must read for those who approach the world with educated insight! Two thumbs up!’ Simeon Nestorov, CFA, Managing Director, Berkeley Square Inc.

‘In clear, entertaining prose and the use of telling, useful, and even charming examples, Smith dissects one of the most fundamental principles of how the world works―and how our intuitions often fail to catch on. Anyone who wants to think more clearly and act more rationally will profit from reading this book’ Tom Gilovich, author of How We Know What Isn't So

What The Luck? is eminently readable and entertaining, filled with colorful examples’ Sebastian Thomas, Director, Head of US Technology Research, Allianz Global Investors

‘This nuanced understanding will help readers make better decisions in all realms of their lives’ Jonathan Abelson, MD, radiation oncologist

‘Gary Smith's What the Luck alerts us to many subtle and unappreciated consequences of one of life's great truths: it has its ups and downs’ George Akerlof, Nobel Laureate in Economics 2001

Gary Smith

About Gary Smith

Gary Smith is the Fletcher Jones Professor of Economics at Pomona College in Claremont, California. He received his PhD in Economics from Yale University and taught there as an Assistant Professor for seven years. His research has been featured by Bloomberg Radio Network, CNBC, Forbes, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and Businessweek. He is the author of Standard Deviations What The Luck?


Titles by Gary Smith
Other titles by Gary Smith