Calculating the probability of success

​If someone says to you, “if you do X, Y and Z, you’ll be a success,” run, because the only certain thing in life is death. Everything else is mere probability.

Consider this. You could do everything within your power.

You could control your downside. You could build redundancies so it is easier to survive tough conditions. You could maintain your independence and your ability to explore new opportunities as they arise. You could use death ground strategies to keep you on the hook for the most important things. You could surround yourself with people smarter, wiser and more accomplished than you. You could take ownership and responsibility of all your problems. You could show up every day, practice every day, do the most essential things every day. 

You could do all that, and it still might not be enough. 

Yes, doing all the above will skew the odds of success in your favour. But even if they gave you a 99.99% chance of success, there’s still a 0.01% chance of failure.

I’m not being pessimistic. I’m being honest. No matter what you do, there’s always a small chance that it won’t work.

So what to do, apart from doing everything to swing the odds in your favour?

1) Imagine what you will do if the unlikely happens. The Stoics have an exercise called premeditatio malorum, which means the premeditation of evils. Literally, imagine all the bad things that could happen.

2) Fear setting builds off of this idea. Rather than just imagining the bad things that could happen, come up with ways to protect against and recover from them if they do. 

Misfortune is easier to bear if you have already prepared for it and created a plan of action.

3) This is the hardest because it requires a big shift in your mental machinery.

​Don’t be dependent on success.

If there’s a chance, however small, that you won’t be a success, do not attach your wellbeing and happiness to it. If you yoke your wellbeing to something that is out of your control, you’re in for a rough ride.

You can’t calculate or predict success with any measure of certainty. 

Yes, do everything within your power to achieve your ambitions and accomplish what matters to you. But prepare yourself for the day when, despite your best efforts, not everything goes according to plan.