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The Little Risks You Can Take To Increase Your Luck [TED Talk]

Learn about risk-taking and luck with Tina Seelig's insightful TED Talk. If you'd like to practice all these words in conversation with a native-English teacher, learn how you can do it here.

"Luck is rarely a lightning strike, isolated and dramatic -- it's much more like the wind, blowing constantly. Catching more of it is easy but not obvious. In this insightful talk, Stanford engineering school professor Tina Seelig shares three unexpected ways to increase your luck -- and your ability to see and seize opportunities."

Topic: Risk and luck   |  Length: 11:31   |   Speaker: Tina Seelig

Relevant vocabulary from the talk

  • entrepreneurship
  • ventures
  • success vs. failure
  • dramatic
  • take risks
  • stretch
  • tackle a problem
  • work out (=to succeed)
  • reach out to
  • a bunch of
  • pull out
  • play a big/huge/small role
  • miss an opportunity
  • to craft
  • over the course of
  • take for granted
  • come up with
  • figure out

More advanced vocabulary:

  • lightning strike
  • it blows in gusts
  • lock down
  • cook up an idea
  • to foster
  • nuance, nuanced
  • garbage dump
  • rip something up
  • pitch something to someone
  • pitfall

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Vocabulary practice

Below you have some extracts from the video, but they are incomplete. Fill the blanks with one of the words in the vocabulary section.

  • I teach entrepreneurship, and we all know that most new ___ fail, and innovators and entrepreneurs need all the luck they can get.
  • A couple of months later, I reached ___ to him, and I said, "Mark, would you like to come to my class?"
  • I sent him a ___ of video clips from another project my students had done.
  • "You know what, Tina, this isn't right for us, but thank you so much for sharing." It's OK. That risk didn't work ___.
  •  And I pulled ___ the exact same proposal that I had showed his boss a year earlier.
  • Over the ___ of the last couple of years, I've come up ___ some tactics for my own life to help me really foster appreciation.
  • If you look around at the companies, the ventures that are really innovative around you, the ones that we now take for ___ that have changed our life, well, you know what? They all started out as crazy ideas.
  • Well, that turns into a restaurant that's a training ground for future restauranteurs to figure ___ how to avoid all the pitfalls.

Comprehension questions about the talk

  • What is the talk about?
  • What is her 'risk-o-meter'?
  • What examples of risks does she mention?
  • What are the three main pieces of advice she gives?

Work on this comprehension questions with a personal teacher.

Discussion questions about risk and luck

  • What do you think about it and the topic discussed?
  • Do you believe in good luck and bad luck?
  • Do you agree with the following statement? --> “And this requires us to get out of our comfort zone and take some risks. The problem is, as we get older, we rarely do this. We sort of lock down the sense of who we are and don't stretch anymore.”
  • Do you consider yourself a risk-taker? How often do you push your luck?
  • What kinds of risks do you often take?
  • Does your job involve taking risks?
  • What kind of calculated risks have you taken in the last year?


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