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A different take on luck in life

If you’re not constantly re-evaluating the situation you’re in and readjusting, you’re just giving up and using luck as a scapegoat.

snake eyes

If you have a goal in mind and are set to achieve it, you’ll be likely working towards your goal. Ambition, resilience, and discipline are all important traits but what’s perhaps more important than all of them is your ability to reverse engineering the situation you’re in and optimizing for the right things. Simply put:

Probability of an event occurring = [# of tries] x [% of success]

Imagine you’re trying to get a job and only applied to 4-5 companies. If you applied to companies that are similar to Google, your chances of getting the job are around 0.02%. Which means, by default, your chances of getting a job at the top 5 companies cumulatively is about 0.1%. That’s extremely low. Being resilient and re-applying every 6 months might sound like the right thing to do but surely won’t be improving your chances that much. Instead of blindly applying, you should be re-thinking the equation. Which variables can you change?

Increasing the number of tries

There will be times where it’s either too hard to increase the chance of success or increasing is not economically feasible. In a situation like this, the best course of action is to increase the number of tries. Do you have the perfect slide deck but can’t find funding? You’re not talking to enough investors. Feel like you have a great profile on Tinder but not getting any matches? You’re not swiping right enough. A lot of people spend all their time working on increasing their chances but completely ignore the fact that it gets gradually harder to do so. There will be a time where it would stop making sense to work on improving your chances. You shouldn’t underestimate the power of numbers.

Increasing the percentage of success

Increasing the chance requires a good understanding of the thing you’re trying to achieve. Depending on the event, it can be modeled as a funnel or a combination of factors. If it’s a job application, we can easily break it down to different stages and work separately on the events that contribute to the final outcome. A typical hiring funnel consists of Resume Review, HR Screening, Interviews, Offer stages. The biggest drop off is at the resume review. Only 10% of the candidates make it past this stage. So it would make a lot of sense to focus on it. Once you identify the problems, the next step is improving them. What constitutes a good resume? How does the resume of a successful candidate look like for company A? They are all good questions to ask and LinkedIn is a great resource for reaching out to people who have walked the walk. The only caveat is time – use it wisely! Reverse engineering is a time-consuming effort and you always want to use time as efficiently as possible. Always think about the monetary value of your time. Don’t fall into the Not Invented Here (NIH) syndrome trap.

How can I apply this theory to X? Well, chances are someone has already done it before you. Want to get accepted to a top school? Talk with the alumni! Use LinkedIn to find people who have done it before and learn as much as possible about the process, ask about the interview process, become familiar with it. Do several mock interviews if possible and pay if necessary – it’s worth it!

In the modern world, “your luck” depends on your ability to reverse engineering existing processes and improving the odds. Don’t be a zealot, load the dice!