On our way back from Travelcon, Esther and I stopped by the Virgin America Loft at LAX for breakfast and refreshments t-shirt before our leg home to San Francisco. I have Virgin America (VX) Gold status from the Membership Rewards promo they are currently offering, so I get lounge access as a benefit of that status, but in any event, both of us have Priority Passes (me from my Amex Plat and she from her Citi Prestige), so we would be able to get free entry through that.

That good old Virgin America mood lighting.

That good old Virgin America mood lighting.

Before we entered, however, I asked Esther to put away her Priority Pass so I could just ‘see what happens.’ I had no expectations other than thinking that perhaps the rep would see my status on my ticket and ignore Esther’s completely (which was conveniently placed below mine as I handed the boarding passes to the agent).

Obviously, this didn’t happen, but the representative, rather than asking for money to pay for Esther’s lounge access, instead asked if I wanted to use one of my guest passes.

“Guest passes?!” I thought to myself. “Cool!”

Instead I stayed cool, calm, and collected like the composed status holder that I was trying to portray, and asked “How many do I have?”

For reference, here’s VX’s benefit list, with a fuller description here. Although Virgin alludes to passes of some sort, it’s not actually evident that this is a distinct benefit from the member’s own access to the lounge, nor did I ever receive an email notifying me of my passes. Long story short, I had no idea what she was talking about, but I went along with it.

“Well, if you haven’t used any, you’ll have three left. The balance resets at the beginning of the year as long as you re-qualify for Gold.” Unsurprisingly, upon reviewing my account, the rep noted that I did indeed have three passes remaining.

Given that Esther has a Priority Pass, I declined to use them, but the exercise underscored the importance of experimentation. Is a glitch repeatable? Is there a potential for arbitrage? Can you get something for nothing?

The point is that, as Matt had advocated during his talk at Travelcon (a discussion of which you can find here and which was fantastic, I might add), a large part of our hobby (and life in general) is about manufacturing luck. That is, you want to put yourself in situations where you can earn things that you either a) didn’t deserve or b) deserve, but didn’t realize you deserve. For me, the ideal case is the latter, since it means I don’t need to actively change my behavior to get the benefit a second time, but if it’s ever the former, well, I’m sure as heck not going to complain, and you (probably) won’t hear me blogging about it.

An alternative, but more general phrasing of the same principle is that no one is ever serendipitous by nature. Rather, those that appear to be lucky or serendipitous are only so because they have actively sought out opportunities for serendipity. (I think I read about it in an article about Thomas Edison on Farnam Street, but I can’t actually find it anymore).

What does that mean? Put yourself out there. Expose yourself to other people, and identify situations in which you can have a choice between a low (or no) risk but well-understood result and an equally low risk but strictly better possible result, and choose the latter. Don’t take out your Priority Pass if you don’t have to.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6W9QJe4BgPo]