If you want to succeed, double your failure rate



Determinism: the idea that the state of the world at the present determines precisely the manner in which the future will unfold. Determinism implies a world in which our personal qualities and the properties of any given situation or environment lead directly and unequivocally to precise consequences.


Butterfly effect: The phenomenon of butterfly effect is based on the implication that atmospheric changes so small they could have been caused by a butterfly flapping its wings can have a large effect on subsequent global weather patterns. That notion might sound absurd – the equivalent of the extra cup of coffee you sip one morning leading to profound changes in your life.


In the deterministic view of the marketplace, it is mainly the intrinsic qualities of the person or the product governs success. But there is another way to look at it, a non-deterministic view. In this view there are many high-quality but unknown books, singers, actors, and what makes one or another come to stand out is largely a conspiracy of random and minor factors – that is, luck


But, when we look back in detail on the major events of our lives, it is not uncommon to be able to identify such seemingly inconsequential random events that led to big changes. 


The future of particular individuals is impossible to predict, and for our particular achievements, our jobs, our friends, our finances, we all owe more to chance than many people realize.


Furthermore, in all except the simplest real-life endeavors unforeseeable or unpredictable forces cannot be avoided, and moreover those random forces and our reactions to them account for much of what constitutes our particular path in life.


The normal accident theory of life shows not that the connection between actions and rewards is random but that random influences are as important as our qualities and actions.


On an emotional level many people resist the idea that random influences are important even if, on an intellectual level, they understand that they are. Our assessment of the world would be quite different if all our judgments could be insulated from expectation and based only on relevant data.


The cord that tethers ability to success is both loose and elastic. It is easy to see fine qualities in successful books or to see unpublished manuscripts, inexpensive vodkas, or people struggling in any field as somehow lacking. It is easy to believe that ideas that worked were good ideas, that plans that succeeded were well designed, and that ideas and plans that did not were ill conceived. And it is easy to make heroes out of the most successful and to glance with disdain at the least. But ability does not guarantee achievement, nor is achievement proportional to ability. And so it is important to always keep in mind the other term in the equation – the role of chance.


It is no tragedy to think of the most successful people in any field as superheroes. But it is a tragedy when a belief in the judgment of experts or the marketplace rather than a belief in ourselves causes us to give up, as John Kennedy Toole did when he committed suicide after publishers repeatedly rejected his manuscript for the posthumously best-selling Confederacy of Dunces. And so when tempted to judge someone by his or her degree of success, I like to remind myself that were they to start over, Stephen King might be only a Richard Bachman and V. S. Naipaul just another struggling author, and somewhere out there roam the equals of Gates and Bruce Willis and Roger Maris who are not rich and famous, equals on whom Fortune did not bestow the right breakthrough product or TV show or year.


What I’ve learned, above all, is to keep marching forward because the best news is that since chance does play a role, one important factor in success is under our control: the number of at bats, the number of chances taken, the number of opportunities seized. For even a coin weighted toward failure will sometimes land on success.


If you want to succeed, double your failure rate.


Full Disclaimer: I am not a financial planner. The views expressed in this post are all mine and they may or may not suit your needs. Please do you own due diligence. I do not make money on any of the products suggested in this post. 

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