A few years ago, back when I was at RapidMiner, the old CTO would have these sayings that stuck in my mind. He said one thing that’s helped me simplify my life since then. He said, “focus on what works, and stop doing what doesn’t work.”

I found that tidbit of wisdom to be simple but profound. I liked it so much that I even wrote a blog post about it.

The one thing I’ve also learned working at a startup is to keep things simple and stupid. via Neural Market Trends

I wrote that post almost 4 years ago and since then my life has continued to change and I’ve continued to focus on what works and toss what doesn’t work.

The reality is that sometimes you make mistakes and that’s OK. If, and only if, you course correct and fix the mistake.

Easier said than done, amiright?

No Plan B

The worst thing you can do is make a catastrophic mistake, one that you can’t come back from. That’s the scariest one of all because you didn’t just burn that bridge, you blew it sky-high.

The one way I make sure that I don’t make such a big mistake is to always have two options, at a minimum. If you’re making a change, whether it’s a system, a lover, a job, etc. It’s always best to think about what would happen if it all went tits up.’ Have a Plan B, another option in case you misread the market or the situation.

I’ve learned while working at a Startup is to do more of what works and jettison what doesn’t work, quickly. That’s the way to success, the rest is just noise and a waste of time. via Neural Market Trends

I know that many successful people will tell you that you should never have a Plan B and that you should go for broke. It’s so romantic and inspiring to say, “I never had a Plan B.” Those people are both lucky and stupid.

They’re stupid in the sense that they equated their success with their hard work whereas I believe that 90% of the time it can be attributed to luck. Their success was being at the right place at the right time.

A smart reader might ask, “how can I increase my luck then?” To which I say, “work hard at something, evaluate your risk, and have options.”

You might have a Startup or some business venture, you’re working hard at it but it’s not catching on. You have no customers or clients. What would you do?

You can work harder doing the same thing or you can step back and see what’s working and what’s not working.

In the above example, it appears that nothing is working and it would make me want to re-evaluate the risk of the endeavor. I would look at my options, should I close down the business or adjust something?

That’s the smart way, if you decided to double down on your original idea and ‘bet the farm,’ your probability of success is going to be low.

I’m not saying you should give up on your idea or your passion, just be smart about it and adapt if things are NOT working.

Nothing in life is easy, it never is and never will be. I’ve seen so many people blow up in life because they kept working hard on something that doesn’t work, ignored risk, and bet the farm with no way out.

Don’t be that guy or gal.