It is 01:36 AM and I can’t sleep because I can’t answer a simple question …
“What the fuck determines success?”
I’m confused. In theory, consistent action towards a goal determines success. In practice though, I’m not that sure anymore.
The reason why I’m saying this is because if I look back at some points in my life, my biggest wins were based on almost random events. Yet, these events were not random. They were consequences of my mindset and my action yet random in the same time.
Yes, I know. Mind-blowing. That’s why I can’t sleep.
The only conclusion I’ve reached so far is that success is like a pyramid. I would open an graphic editing product right now to draw a pyramid, however, since it is very late, be patient with me.
The base of the pyramid represents 80% of your life. These are the processes that you do every single day. Rituals, habits, etc. For example, reading almost daily or focusing on six main tasks every days is represented by this 80%. Going to the gym, eating, smoking, drinking or not drinking water, represents that pyramid. For the sake of our example, I’m not going to use terms like right or wrong but rather stable or unstable.
I’ll explain more soon.
And the last 20% are paradigm and life changing events. For example, when I land a big deal, that deal is almost completely random. I could say that I’ve worked hard towards it but the truth is that it usually appears from the ether, from a person that I’ve never knew and which had no previous connection with me.
But here’s the thing. Without the stable 80%, that 20% is worthless. It is worthless because I can not take advantage of it. And even that 20% always existed there, opportunities always existed, you need that 80% to open the door. In other words, it is a door but you need the key. And the key is in your control. But when that door appears beats me.
Looking back at my life, some of the biggest driving factors appeared almost random. Yes, it is true, without being what I am, I could have never took complete or even partial advantage of them. But they were random.
The people that mattered most in my life and shaped me in what I am today – mentors, teachers, collaborators, partners, girlfriends, soul-mates, were random people. People I’ve meet mostly by chance.
For example, in one of my most intense experience in my life in the romance sector, I’ve meet that person because a nightclub was boring and I’ve decided to go somewhere else. Serendipity? Yes, I guess so.
The same can be said about my professional life. I’ve met those people almost by chance. They were there. They were always there. So are the people that will shape my life from now on. But it wasn’t a long process. It was a pure random encounter. And the thing is that I had the 80% that allowed me, in some cases, not all of them, to take advantage of the 20% opportunities.
An analogy that I’m not sure if it makes sense is this. If you sharpen the axe, the trees that you need to cut will appear. How? Beats me. They simply appear. They appear because you have a sharpened axe and sharpened axe have the purpose of cutting trees.
I don’t understand the causal relationship between being ready for something and that opportunity appearing but it seems to work. When you are ready to do something, you’ll get the opportunity to do it. Even if the opportunity was there all the time, now you understand it, you get it in tangible terms, you understand the ways to make it work.
But why does this keeps me awake right now?
Because I feel fooled by randomness. A long time ago I’ve read this book, with the same name, by Taleb. And it dealt with the same thing. The randomness factor in our life. How we like to think that we are in complete control of our lives but we are not.
And this leads me to an interesting conclusion.
You see, one year ago, I had no idea that I will be here. In this place, in these circumstances. Yes, I knew that I will work hard. Yes, I knew that I will invest in myself. Yes, I knew what road I’m going to follow.
But if you told me my current circumstances which are not bad at all (but not brilliant either) one year in the past, I would have laughed. It would have made no logical sense. Why would I get here? What would be the point? Why here, why now?
And this leads to a flaw in our thinking – our thought, our belief that logic is omnipotent and logic is without flaw. But logic is based on the basic assumption that what happened yesterday will happen today. It is based on patterns. It is based on predictability.
Yet, predictability doesn’t work all the time unless it is in a perfect closed system. Life throws you different stuff. And this surprises me in so many different manners.
In other words, reality is so complex that it is impossible to predict based only on past outcomes what will happen in the past. We are biased towards believing that there is a sequential order to things. Yet, there isn’t. Things are more random that than.
This leads a bit to nihilism since there is no real purpose to life but that’s OK.
And what’s the conclusion, the practical conclusion to this late night rant?
Well … invest in what you can and let other things happen. In the self-improvement circle there is a cliche. This is “some people make their life happen, they are creators and some people instead have things happen to them – victim of circumstances”.
But it is not a black or white situation. Instead I tend to believe that we are 80% creators of our lives, in the best possible circumstances, that being the outer limit and 20% will always happen to us. Good or bad. Or better said, that will advance our goals or not.
And that’s the conclusion.