Keeping Things in the Right Direction

Making fundamental choices about life is never simple regardless how one treats them. Your choices put things in motion for long spans of time and in unpredictable ways. You don’t control what happens because of what you choose. Thousands of entrepreneurs embarked on the Silicon Valley in the 70s. Bill Gates of that generation has become the richest man in the world. He certainly doesn’t lack good qualities for his line of work, but he wasn’t alone at that. There is something called good luck, which happens by doing the right thing at the right time in the right place without knowing about any of the three. But luck strikes in many ways because your choices and actions don’t make things in a box do what you want. Your choices and actions push things like they are billiard balls. They bounce at each other. There are infinite possibilities.

You are not alone. Everybody must work against these odds. But putting your reason in use can improve the odds for you.

There is a mathematical concept called expected value (of transaction). Insurance, banking, and gambling businesses use this information to be a step ahead of their customers if their transaction volumes reach a certain size. Calculating expected value doesn’t make the world problem-free for these businesses. Some of them lose money or even bankrupt anyway because of other factors. But it gives them a better stance, a more probable investment return from their businesses.

Understanding probability takes a little attention. Chances of throwing a six with a single die are 1/6. Throwing six twice in a row is 1/6 x 1/6 = 1/36. But you can’t guarantee it by throwing a die 36 times. The throws are unconnected. There is no influence between them. Similarly, you can’t be sure of finding a job, winning a contract, or finding a good partner by applying or bidding many times or speed dating. Probability applies to each try individually. You can increase your chances by aiming for the opportunities that match the value of your offer and by improving your offer. Alternatively, you can try repurposing the expected value math by dating with six million people to find the right partner.

Good choices are a precondition for better odds. If you want to play in NBA, you must be 17 or younger and possess certain athletic qualities. If you tick these two, you can start practicing basketball five hours a day to improve the probability of your stardom. If you lack either of the two conditions, your investment in a future NBA career would only cause hardship in every part of your life.

Bad choices also tend to be toward titles. “I want to be a CEO” is poor thinking. It doesn’t refer to what a CEO does. One needs to identify that skill set from good information. If she has the relevant qualities, she can aim for being very good or better than anyone at those skills.

Another kind of bad choice is toward things one doesn’t have the potential of the resources they require. If you have an office job, a home loan payment plan, and two kids at school age, you shouldn’t invest in learning to write screenplays. Even if you have the talent, you simply can’t afford the time it takes to learn and do the job without failing in your other commitments.

Highlighting the negatives shows the positive in contrast. Good choices are made by collecting information and applying reason. Whichever stage of life you may be and whatever your ambitions are, make choices that set things in the right direction.

One last point about making choices: Learn from your successes. There are matters you are happy with the progress you made. They are tests you passed in life. Think about how that progress happened. It will tell you fundamentals you are good at – communicating with others, attention to detail, being analytical, being passionate about something, etc. Apply the information to future choices you make.