M&Ms 59: Uncapping Luck
It is impossible to be the beneficiary of outsized luck with a big corporate job.
Your pay is capped.
Any variable rewards based on performance are capped.
Your promotions are capped. Capped at least by some time at level and often by other factors too.
However, unfortunately, it is possible to be unlucky with a big corporate job, as we have seen with some recent layoffs. We can extrapolate this and say that a traditional corporate job is asymmetric on the wrong side of luck; that is, you can never earn a lot more, but you can theoretically be fired at any instant.
On the internet, people often like to give advice on how to get lucky. So I figured I would take a shot at it myself.
Most of that advice usually says, "go and do things that make you more susceptible to luck." But not everyone seems to mention the obvious that it is impossible to get lucky when the only way you are earning is capped.
This isn't an essay encouraging you to quit your corporate job just so that you can become luckier. After all, we take a job because we need to earn and make a living, not necessarily for luck. We have families to feed and so on. But this post is meant to highlight that you should probably mix some uncapped upside potential, at least, alongside your employment if you do care to become luckier.
Let's run through a scenario so I can illustrate what I mean.
Let's say you are in a job that pays you a million dollars a year. Of course, this is not easy, but this is a hypothetical scenario, so bear with me. A job that pays you a million a year means it will take you 100 years to make a 100 million. That means you will never make a 100 million working that job because you don't have 100 years left in your life.
One day, I came to this silly realization sitting in a cubicle in Bentonville, Arkansas, while visiting Walmart's corporate headquarters. I said to myself, "Louie, the Walton kids are making 4 million an hour and don't have any cap on their upside. They then take that money and put it into other things that have no upside cap. You won't hit your personal goal of making 100 million in your lifetime even if you work for them for 100 years. And if you work really hard, you might just be able to increase their earnings to 5 million an hour instead of 4."
Of course, I get that you may not care at all about making 100 million. After all, I personally care about some other things far more than money, like a family and a good tribe around me. And yet some of you might care a little bit about the potential of making a lot more; maybe you have people you think you can help and so on; whatever your reasons are, they are yours, and this essay isn't about that, it's about getting luckier.
And so many people do get lucky and do make 100 million. Some make even more, and I have been fortunate in my life to meet many folks that have. None of them are much smarter than you or I, and contrary to popular belief, most didn't necessarily work harder than you or I either. Of course, I don't know how hard you work, but I do know I've worked hard and still didn't make that 100 million.
All of this begs the question of what those uncapped things are that these lucky people are engaging in. What might some things with relatively unlimited upside potential be? Can you and I engage in those activities or mix those into our portfolio?
Here is a list of things I've seen work for others that is not exhaustive or in any order:
A business you start, buy, or own, depending on the type of business and how much you are interested in expanding it.
A startup that you own meaningful equity in that ends up working out. Usually, the odds of real upside decrease significantly with stage.
A book, course, or any media you create is theoretically uncapped. Of course, it isn't easy to be the next J.K Rowling, but the upside is certainly not artificially capped. And it's still possible even though not probable.
An investment you make into something with exponential growth potential that works out.
A SaaS app or any software you build and sell for money is uncapped for all intents and purposes.
All of the traditional advice on getting lucky from folks on the internet applies here too. Usually, getting lucky involves gaining leverage over the world in some way. In his famous thread, Naval said one could get leverage over the world with code, media, capital, or labor. We can mix and match those forms of leverage, and as long as we continue with those things long enough, they begin to compound. That says that the longer we engage with things that are not capped on the upside, the more compounding will do its thing and make us even luckier.
It is important to highlight that two of those types of leverage Naval tells us about are free and permissionless, code and media; the other two almost always require approval from others. That means you and I could engage in those two at any time.
All the people I know who had outsized outcomes got incredibly lucky. Even if they'll never admit it, of course, they worked hard and all of that, and I am not trying to take anything away from them. But working hard at the thing that will never lead to an outsized outcome means we can never get lucky.
So all these people have one thing in common: they engaged in things with an uncapped upside.
So, my two tips to get luckier are: recognizing that getting lucky in some places is impossible no matter how hard you try is important; it was for me. To become luckier, for people like us, mixing in things to the portfolio that at least have the possibility of the uncapped upside is just as important. To mix those things in for us might mean starting that side SaaS project, collaborating on that book or podcast, or starting to write on the internet.
As that old saying goes, "you can't win the lotto if you never buy any tickets."
The Best Three Tweets I ran into this week:
A staff engineer (for anyone that may not know, that is, someone with generally 5-10 years of experience minimum) landed seven offers between 325k and 800k.
There might be a recession coming, but I have been saying it for a while; the only way out of that will be more efficiency and technology, not less.
And as someone that had to hire and work hard to retain great engineers, I know they will always be hard to find.
I have had to learn the hard way that Nick is very right.
For the rest of us that are not interested in taking massive risks, there are still many ways to take advantage of the above.
Many of the things with any sort of uncapped potential I mentioned above fall into that list.
Two Memes I Loved This Week:
This guy is in trouble, you don't want to miss Mom's OKRs.
That's it for this week and thank you for reading. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.
P.S. you can respond directly to this email and I will do my best to reply. I'd love to hear from you.