Thursday, May 5, 2011

When Success could mean Failure, and Failure could mean Success.

My hypothesis for this post is that sometimes success also means failure and failure may not turn out to be as bad as one thought.

I have had considerable experience at failing and at succeeding. For me personally success is a double edged sword. Its like a trap which opens and gobbles you up when you are good at succeeding. The result may not be as good as one anticipated.

In my class, we had all sorts of people, some were intellectually sharp with probably high EQs while others were dumb and spent most of their time bumming around, getting into fights and were destined for failure. This was my opinion of my classmates 5 years ago, but now, 5 years down the line, the exact opposite is true. The failures have succeeded while the successful classmates are trapped for eternity as a result of the opportunities there success got them.

Success has a lot to do with ambition. The more ambition someone is, the higher he will aim and the more risk he will take on because he believes in himself. That is the trap of being successful. They are sure to go into fields where the superstar effects takes control and the distribution are skewed. These fields or distributions are also known as extremistan by Nassim Taleb. Most of the intellectual superstars that dominate intellectual pursuits are concentrated in Physics. So most of the really bright students in my class decided to pursue higher degrees in Physics because they believed that they too were capable of becoming superstars, unaware of the type of distribution they were getting into. Their pursuits are dominated by fat tails and winner take all effects. The more successful they are the more they will be sucked into such fields. Have you ever seen a really bright student opening up a garage somewhere or starting his own business, they would never stoop that low. Their success keeps on narrowing their path for them until at the end there is no way to go back and their is nothing forward. The brightest students in any class end up doing PhD which mostly is a vow of poverty. They eventually fail, while the truly lucky few make money.

The people who bum around are the ones who will eventually succeed. They will not be able to get into or succeed in truly competitive fields and quickly fail and drop out. They look for niches where there is less competition and that is where most of the success will come from. The riches lie in these less competitive fields.

When you fail, then it either tells you that you are not good enough or that this field is not good enough for you and is over saturated and you wouldn't enjoy the endless competition and low returns. Failure tells you to move on, towards greener pastures, towards success. So generally, the bigger the failure, and the more you fail, the more you will be pushed towards success.

IBM's Watson said, to increase your success, increase your rate of failure. The failures will push you towards success. And if you succeed in the first few attempts, then remember that it might well be a trap and there are greater riches that you will miss out on.

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