Winners are rare.

Unicorn startups, top sports players, successful Youtube creators, Nobel laureates. They are all rare.

By looking only at winners in order to learn from them, we are succumbing to the survivorship bias. We don’t know of all the others that probably did a lot of the same things as the winners and sometimes better, only to not see the same outcomes.

Winners inspire us.

But following what they have done is no guarantee of success.

They are paths of reasonable likelihood.

Ultimately, we have to chart our own paths to success.

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Inputs are the things that we control — how we approach a situation, the due diligence that we do, the preparation and the effort we put in, the thoroughness we bring.

Outputs are a function of the inputs and some extrinsic variables that we do not control — luck, environmental factors.

Outputs are what really matter to us. It is the consequences of the actions we take and the end result of the paths we choose.

However, even a chimpanzee hits the bulls-eye once in a while while a professional dart-thrower misses by a mile once in a while.

Our focus should be on optimising and standardising our inputs to maximise the probability of achieving desirable outputs.

The outputs themselves are a consequence.

We shouldn’t beat ourselves up over them.

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One of the many quotes by Homer Simpson is, “We haven’t tried anything and we’re all out of ideas!”

We shoot down our ideas all the time. We do it even before we consider it as a possibility.

This is a good evolutionary trait to conserve our resources and effort in order to spend them on the ideas that are most likely to have a return on the investment we make.

This helped us out when the resources we had and the safety with which we could explore new ideas was very low.

There was no appetite for taking on moonshots.

But, fast forward to today, and a lot of the scarcity and fears we face are the ones that we can dismiss instead of the ideas that they are preventing us from pursuing.

Today, very often, the safe thing to do is to take the moonshot.

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Streets in Indian cities appear chaotic when compared to streets in Europe. The traffic patterns seem impossible to navigate on Indian streets when seen through the eyes of a European.

However, there are millions of people who successfully navigate these very streets every day.

The problem only arises when we try to navigate a chaotic environment by applying the rules that are made for a different environment.

Navigating an environment successfully first needs us to understand the rules of the environment.

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John F. Kennedy’s historic words, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country,” challenged every American to contribute in some way to the public good.

His inaugural address inspired children and adults to see the importance of civic action and public service.

Replace ‘country’ with any meaningful part of our lives — our jobs, our relationships, our communities — and the statement holds equally true.

It is what we can do that makes the difference.

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Growth is what we can measure and observe.

When we go from one level to the next, then we experience growth.

But, when that doesn’t happen, it is easier to focus on what the difference is and what we are missing about the next level that can help us get there.

However, a pre-requisite is to excel at the current level we are in.

This requires an awareness of where we are, and what we need to do to first be really good at the current level that we’re at.

Then, the next level appears by itself.

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When we find ourselves in circumstances that we feel we cannot influence, apathy sets in.

That’s when we go through the motions with little to no interest.

The opposite is to feel empowered, to feel like we can go out and make a difference, to feel like we can take control of the situation.

When you find yourself slipping into apathy, find something that you can influence.

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Kumara Raghavendra

Kumara Raghavendra

Writer. Comedian. Product + Data Science @ Booking.com. Discovering the world, one idea at a time.