How to Become Successful

Make your failures temporary and your successes permanent.

Right there is how to become successful.

Make your failures temporary and your successes permanent.

That, simply put, means to engage in activities where the potential upside is compounding, whereas the potential downside is temporary.

Take, for example, submitting a book to a publisher. A potential failure exists: reject, which is a one-off instance. A potential success opens doors.

Take another example, asking someone out. A rejection stings for a few minutes. But the potential upside is a lifetime partner.

For contrast, take bank robbing. The upside is a single, one-time extraction of money. The potential downside is a felony on your criminal record. The potential upside is temporary, the potential downside is permanent.

I first came up with this principal when I noticed that a series of sustained, incremental improvements in a procedure can offset occasional failures to properly follow the procedure.

Put another way, suppose you are adopting a diet for loosing weight. Now suppose you are always making sustained, incremental adjustments to your diet based on what works for you. Then it doesn’t really matter that fail to follow your diet sometimes, so long as you always get back on track. The failures are temporary. The diet is sustained.

I am not the first person to remark that this general principal works. However, putting it in such mathematical terms as I have can allow us to elaborate as to why.

Behavior is not discrete, but continuous. Opportunity begets more. If a success is “temporary”, it does not have this effect. But if success is “permanent”, then its ripples always run in the background, opening the door for other permanent success.

This is the simple process of recursion. One-offs make for interesting stories, causing a misplace in focus (context in my last article). Actual success is caused by each of the little actions that hurt in the moment but are forward-looking.

Why am I giving this advice here? Because ostensibly everything on this blog is at least tenuously connected to just one of two things: networks, and recursion.

Facing a difficult decision or situation? You can take the “pros” and “cons” list a step further. List each temporary “pro”, permanent “pro”, temporary “con”, and permanent “con”.

Have I practiced what I’m preaching? Not that much, which is a case in point; I’m not that successful yet.

That’s all I want to say on this topic. Expect a meatier post next week.

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