The One Thing You Have to Do to Win or You've Lost Already

The One Thing You Have to Do to Win or You've Lost Already
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I am connected to some really smart people, and some really funny people. There’s a lot of overlap of the smart people and the funny people.

Which is why I love Facebook. Every day my timeline makes me laugh out loud, and leaves me speechless in admiration. (Of course, every day I end up shaking my head in bafflement, too, but that’s mostly from the ads.)

This post from Steve McCurdy made me chuckle.

Studies have proven that 100 percent of lottery winners have THIS practice in common. Not 99 percent - not 10 percent... 100 percent of all lottery winners AND 100 percent of the winners of the Belmont Stakes yesterday have one practice in common...

They buy a ticket.

"Sure the game is rigged. But you can't win if you don't play." ~Lazarus Long (Time Enough For Love by Robert Heinlein)

True in life as well. Not all risks pay off. But inaction... never does.

Related: 7 Risks Every Entrepreneur Must Take

But then the obvious truth of it made me stop and think.

Once you’re in the entrepreneurial game it’s all about buying tickets. Taking risks. Putting your time, money and energy on the table and your heart on your sleeve. Knowing that the truth is; “not all risks pay off.”

But here is the difference between lottery winners and gamblers. A gambler, even when choosing the long shot, is making a guess based on available data. (Except for those folks who place a random bet just for the fun of saying they did it.) A person who plays the lottery (or places a bet at random) isn’t taking any data into account when they put their money on the table.

 In entrepreneurship, I find there are three types of risk-takers.

There are the “Looking for the Sure Thing” risk takers who only buy their ticket after exhausting all the research available and talking with a number of experts. Because they wait until the last possible minute, it isn’t unusual for the opportunity to expire while they're still riding the fence. They’re susceptible to the “sour grapes syndrome” and the “blame game.” If they miss the opportunity they revert to a belief that is was going to be a bad idea, anyway. If the horse they bet on doesn’t place, they find someone or something to blame.

There are the “I Did it My Way” types who make impulse choices and place random bets. They base their decisions on some mystical formula involving the phase of the moon and the song that was playing on Pandora when they went to sleep last night. They believe they’re listening to their instincts while they're actually tuning out their observations.

Related: 4 Lessons on Staring Down Fear and Taking Risks from Tightrope-Walker Nik Wallenda

Finally there are the “Calculated Risk” types who collect and analyze the data, check in with their gut instinct, then make a decision. Often they can’t articulate why they took the risk they did, but it’s a combination of data they can point to and share, data they’ve picked up by connecting seemingly random dots and advice they’ve gotten from people whose opinions they value. This type might get excited about doing something that’s never been done, or betting on a long shot, but they won’t actually place that bet until they’ve reviewed the relevant information. If playing the odds looks like the better bet, that's exactly what they'll do.

You’re going to miss a lot of great things if you’re only looking for the sure thing.

Because there is no such thing as a "sure thing,'' you have to place that bet, or buy that ticket, on the best information you have. Otherwise, you will be unintentionally deciding to take a pass on the opportunity. You’re going to stay stuck in “analysis paralysis” until the starting bell is ringing.

If you’re determined to do it your way, and your way is to fly by the seat of your pants, or just pull a number out of the hat, you might have a few chance wins but you’ll have a lot of offsetting loses, too. You might make the “rags to riches” trip, but if you take it as a sign that random is a good plan for business, you’re likely to find that ticket was for roundtrip fare and you’re back to your starting point in no time.

As with all advice, the admonition to “buy a ticket” needs to be taken with a healthy dose of entrepreneurial wisdom. Don’t lose your chance while drowning in data, but don’t treat your business like a lottery, either. It's true 100 percent of winners buy a ticket but consistent winners know when to play the odds, when to go for the long shot, and when to wait for the next race.

Related: 5 Quotes That Will Get You Off the Fence and Taking Action