How To Win Without Succeeding

Tennis Lessons For Ordinary People


How To Win Without Succeeding - picture of Roger Federer playing tennis.

How To Win Without Succeeding - Failure is The Norm

The concept of "How To Win Without Succeeding" may sound counter-intuitive but it reflects reality.

Most motivational speeches have an anecdote that features how someone overcame tremendous odds and yet came home a winner.

The personal development and self-help world is steeped in case studies and analysis of success. Numerous studies have been undertaken on successful people to understand what it was that they did to become so successful, how they did it and when they did it - and we are led to believe that we too can achieve comparable success if we replicate this.

We are told by the self-help gurus:

“You can be anything you want to be, if you put your mind to it.”

“Your thoughts have resonance and if you think enough positive thoughts for long enough, they will manifest.

But that is just not true.

This focus on success is very odd given that:


Success is the exception rather than the rule

Every scientific discovery, every new invention, every great innovation, every new idea of substance is the product of innumerable failures.

Most people do not realize all of their dreams. Most of the time, most of us fail. Hard work, skill, focus and persistence are not enough without the randomness of chance and the alignment of many factors, principally being in the right place with the right offering at the right time in the right environment.

For every successful business person there so many more who have failed - over 95% of new businesses fail.

Many people do not find the life-partner of their dreams.

Failure is the norm. Most of the time, your plans do not work out as you wanted them to.


Understanding Our Forgotten Failures

"The first reason to turn towards failure is that our efforts not to think about failure leave us with a severely distorted understanding of what it takes to be successful. " (Oliver Burkeman)

Here are some pointers to help you understand:


  • Winners are not the norm - failure is the norm and winners are the exception. People like Bill Gates are the exception, the anomaly. Modelling yourself on Bill Gates will not make you into a major success.
  • Winners are outliers – they do not represent the common experience and they do not tell the whole story
  • Survivorship bias – a cognitive distortion that skews your understanding when you wrongly assume that success tells you all you need to know and thus you overestimate the real odds of success.
  • Ignoring the base rate data - that is, the odds of success (or failure) based on prior probabilities. In practice this means ignoring the percentage of a population or universe of data which has a particular characteristic. Successful people usually represent a very small subset of all those in their field.
  • Confusing co-incidence and causation - success is often attributed to a correlation or causation that just does not exist.
  • Craving a credible and coherent success story - the successful exceptions feed your need to believe that if they can do it so can you.
  • Inflated perception of your chances of success - you need to be cautious of advice from the successful and deeply realistic with your understanding of reality.


Where does all this leave us? The notion that you might fail can really slow you down. But it’s not the failure itself that’s the problem. The problem is your relationship with failure.

A good failure is a powerful learning experience.

So accepting your limitations, and embracing failure as an opportunity to learn, improve and grow, what next?

Well this is where you can gain valuable insights from the world of tennis about how to win without succeeding.






How To Win Without Succeeding By Avoiding Losing

Charlie Munger - quote about winning by not doing anything stupid.

"Amateurs win the game when their opponent loses points, experts win the game by gaining points. " [Shane Parrish]

Simon Ramo, a scientist and statistician, wrote a fascinating little book in the 1970s: Extraordinary Tennis Ordinary Players.

Ramo identifies the crucial difference between the winner’s game and a loser’s game.

In his essay, The Loser’s Game, and referencing Ramo's work, Charles Ellis calls professional tennis a “Winner’s Game.” While there is some degree of skill and luck involved, the game is generally determined by the actions of the winner

Amateur tennis is an entirely different game. Not in how it is played or the rules but, rather, in how it’s won. Long and powerful rallies are generally a thing of the past. Mistakes are frequent. Balls are constantly hit into nets or out of bounds. Double faults are nearly as common as faults.

Over many years' of observation and analysis Ramo had concluded that there were 2 games of tennis. One game is played by the professionals and the other is played by the rest of us.

Ramo found that 80 percent of points in high-level matches between professional players were the result of winning shots and only 20 percent the result of unforced errors by one’s opponent.

In contrast, the dynamics of matches between amateurs were reversed. Eighty percent of points came from unforced errors.

An amateur player seldom “beats” an opponent; rather, the player who makes the fewest mistakes, who simply continues to keep the ball in play, usually ends up winning.

From Ramo’s perspective, if you want to win at tennis, you have to adjust your strategy to your abilities.

For the “ordinary” tennis player, this means understanding that amateur tennis is a “loser’s game” where success comes from avoiding losses.

The point is that most of us are amateurs but we refuse to believe it. This is a problem because we’re often playing the game of the professionals. What we should do in this case, when we’re the amateur, is to invert the problem and focus on how to win without succeeding:

Rather than trying to win, we should avoid losing.






How To Win Without Succeeding By Avoiding Stupidity and Unnecessary Errors


Charlie Munger quote about the value of knowing what you don't know.

Two examples:


[1] NETWORKING & REFERRALS

Key Point:

Accept that just because someone you know and trust believes something to be true, does not make it so [until corroborated by market data] it just means that they genuinely believe it to be true.

Specifics:

Starting out

  1. Due diligence is the start [and usually the end] of all new relationships.
  2. Knowing the right questions to ask and asking them.
  3. You are only ever as good as the weakest link in your/your buyer/supplier’s end–to-end process - a major dependency and one to be identified ASAP.
  4. Ask for and insist on process from the outset – see non-compliance as an early warning signal.

 First impressions

  1. First impressions [instincts & intuitions] can be right.
  2. Don’t be over-awed or impressed by wealth, prestige and power.
  3. Don’t rely on people’s own assessment of their worth – without corroboration from your own direct experience.
  4. Don’t rely on someone else’s assessment of a person’s worth – without corroboration from your own direct experience.

 Developing the relationship

  1. The importance of: good communications, good relationships, controlling emotions and not burning contacts.
  2. You really cannot truly know someone’s strengths and weaknesses until you have been in action with them for a long time i.e. 12 months+
  3. Knowledge is subordinate to results.

  Early warning signs

  1. Identify early warning signals of “talk-walk” gap.
  2. Look for early signs of those who “punch above their weight”.
  3. Be wary of people who are distrusting and overly protective of disclosure – they are often hiding something and/or untrustworthy.
  4. Ambition in a partner is a good thing but identify early warning signals of people who: “don’t know what they don’t know, and don’t know that they don’t know”.







[2] DECISION MAKING & EXERCISING JUDGEMENT

Key Point:

Understand and know how to avoid: [1] Cognitive Distortions - the psychology of human misjudgement; and how to apply [2] Mental Models.

Specifics:

  1. The first and most obvious point is to understand and be fully aware of these cognitive biases and cognitive distortions.
  2. Understand the power and pitfalls of Heuristics i.e. the mental short cuts that we all use all the time in everyday decisions.
  3. Understand the forces at play, especially the boundary between knowing what you do know and what you don't know. Understand your Circle Of Competence.
  4. When making important and significant decisions, invest the time to apply good Thinking Skills to the whole decision making process.
  5. Pay particular attention to First Principles Thinking and Second Order Thinking
  6. Understand and apply Mental Models








How To Win Without Succeeding With The Balanced Toolkit


Here is how it all hangs together.







I have listed above - with references and resources - some examples of how to win without succeeding in significant areas in life and business  and where we can all take steps to increase our chances of winning by losing less.

This is a long game and if you engage you will find that the route to winning will take you along the road less traveled.

Feel free to contact me to discuss further if any aspect of this resonates with you.








How To Win Without Succeeding - Further Reading

The Long Game

The Challenges Of The Road Less Traveled

Delayed Gratification

The Law of Response and Outcome

Embracing Uncertainty & Failure Is The better Option

Alive Time vs. Dead Time

Your Relationship With Failure

The Secret Of My Success

The Luck Factor - The Power Of Expectation

Secret Of Success - Identify Your Core Desire

Your Point Of Focus - Is Helping You Or Hindering You









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