There’s a whole industry around mega success. It seems there is little interest in moderate success these days. Moderate success is for wimps.
Who wants a business that ticks over and meets your needs? Nobody puts ads out for courses on that. The ads all talk about “your 6 figure business”. Anyone not making 6 figures is a loser.
So I thought I’d join in and reveal to you the hidden secret to mega success. Not just ordinary success. But through the roof stratospheric success. The kind that would get you interviewed on the very best podcasts, so we can all learn from your wisdom.
Interested? Of course you are. Who isn’t!
But before I do, let me tell you a couple of stories that will help you understand the secret a little better.
I’ll start with Pete Best. He was the original drummer of The Beatles. They were from my home town, Liverpool. You might have heard of them.
How The Beatles Got Started
Pete was their drummer all through their hard times in Hamburg. But just before they became famous, they ditched him and brought in Ringo Starr.
After The Beatles, Pete became a civil servant. My Dad worked with him for the best part of 25 years. They were pals.
It’s fair to say that Pete had invested pretty hard in The Beatles. Not just the years of grind in Hamburg. But Pete’s home was the rehearsal venue for The Beatles. They played early gigs there too.
It was a large, Victorian house. It had 15 bedrooms. It was so big that
Pete’s mum opened a downstairs nightclub there called The Casbah. In the story of how The Beatles became so successful, Pete Best is integral to it.
But how did Pete’s Mum get herself a 15 bed home that doubled as an underground nightclub?
Simple. She had a bet on the horses.
Upon seeing the house for sale, she took the family’s life savings, and bet the lot on a horse in the Epsom Derby.
The horse was at 33 to 1, meaning it had less than a 3% chance of winning. But it won anyway. She bought the house with her winnings.
Rags To Riches
Here’s my second story. This time I won’t name names because I don’t want the hassle. But this guy is a famous businessman. Yet he started with nothing.
I read his book. I wondered how he got so successful from such humble beginnings.
He talks of the business that made him so rich. He maxed out his credit cards. He remortgaged his home so that was on the line too. He even sold his first business that was doing moderately well, and bet the lot on his new business.
Everything was on the line. If it worked out, he’d get rich. If not, he’d be homeless and bankrupt. What a gambler! It turns out he’s not so different than Pete Best’s mum.
The Infant Gambler
Now for my third story. Again, it’s about gambling.
I’ve gambled since I was five years old. I would stand outside the local bookies persuading adults to put my bet on. I said it was for my Dad who was ill in bed. They were only too glad to help. It’s how I’d collect my winnings too.
As an adult, I spent two years or so gambling seriously. I wasn’t a “problem gambler”. I was analytical. It wasn’t an addiction thing. It was a puzzle to me. Like alchemy. I had dozens of spreadsheets on the go at any one time.
I’m attracted to nerd stuff. I look back on the time and think I was maybe addicted to the spreadsheets. I kind of love spreadsheets.
During my time gambling, I learned that the quickest way to riches (and to the poor house) is to have a terrible strategy.
Gambling is like a bad parent. If I did something wrong it would often reward me with a big sum of money. All in one go. Yet next time I’d do the same thing and have it all taken from me and more. I’d get punished and rewarded for doing the exact same thing.
My standard strategy was low risk. But when I ignored it and took stupid risks, that’s when I could win a week’s money all at once. It was how I could lose two month’s money at once too.
I tell you this because I want you to see how rewards can follow a terrible strategy. You can be mega successful by doing something phenomenally stupid and getting lucky.
The Dirty Little Secret To Success
This is why I’m wary about the advice of the mega successful. They only need to win the proverbial lottery once.
But winning the lottery isn’t a replicable strategy. It’s not even a smart strategy.
Playing the lottery is usually a way of losing some money. I’ve followed that strategy and lost every time. But nobody interviews me about that. Nobody puts me on the cover of Time Magazine.
Yet everyone wants the wisdom of the mega successful. And because they want to be helpful (and because “I dunno” is an unimpressive answer) they weave a story to explain their success.
They do their best to pick the salient moments from their own path. And off we scurry to do what they did. After all, it worked for them!
My gambling background means I’m suspicious of big wins. I had it confirmed recently by Scott Belsky. I admire his transparency. Scott is an entrepreneur and investor. By any marker, he is a massive success. So here’s the hidden secret of success, as revealed from the horse’s mouth.
Scott says: “The dirty little secret is that every success was almost a failure. Timing and uncontrollable circumstances play more of a role than any of us care to admit.”
Or to put it another way, 97 times out of 100, the horse that Pete Best’s mum put her life savings on would have lost.
Why Data Points Of One Mean Nothing
Every mega success is a data point of one. If you try their strategy, you’ll likely fail. If they repeated that strategy themselves, they’d likely fail this time round. It may even be a monumentally stupid strategy that lucked out.
There is little we can learn from a data point of one.
I see this in the music industry all the time. I used to run a weekly music night in Liverpool. There’s a lot of talent here. I’d compare the best of the crop with those who had made it in the industry. I couldn’t see any difference.
There was one kid who came in. He was 19, good looking, a confident performer. He wrote songs that were more mature than his age. He seemed to be everything the industry would want. But they weren’t interested. Someone who seemed to have less talent was making it big. Who knows why?
Statisticians tend to remove the outliers from their data. It skews their results and makes the data less accurate. Yet we make the mistake of focusing on them.
The Middle of the Bell Curve
There is something more meaningful to analyse in the middle of the Bell Curve.
When we try to model mega success, we are likely modelling the wrong thing. We would do better to pay more attention to the moderate successes.
Instead of the one-off strategy that paid out millions, why not model the strategies that bring success every day?
When a strategy repeats success, it makes sense to learn from it. The repetition tells us that it’s not a fluke.
We chase the rare outliers as if they are geniuses. Some inevitably will be. But there is a bigger, untapped, and more useful resource all around us. The ones who are moderately successful in our midst.
It’s time to drop the worship of the outlier. Model instead those closer to the middle of the bell curve. Their data is repeatable and more typical.
Forget most of the stars of the big podcast shows. They don’t know why they got successful. When they think they do, they’re usually wrong. And some got successful because it was the right day for a dumb strategy to work.
Switch focus. Who do you know in your community who has been moderately successful for years? Who has been repeating their success over time? Who repeatedly does great work, irrespective of their external acclaim? Talk to them. They are the ones who have something to teach you.Alun Parry is Director of The Liverpool Psychotherapy Practice