I’ve written before about the anecdote from the book Art & Fear before about the ceramics teacher who found out that focusing on quantity is better than focusing on quality. I was reminded of the ceramics class again when I learned about the law of large numbers the other day.
The law of large numbers essentially states that if you take a large enough sample size for a specific attribute, the sample will eventually reflect the average of all of the whole population. A very practical example of this is when Francis Galton had a group of people at a fair try to guess the weight of an ox. Even though the individual guesses would vary significantly, the average estimate of the large number of people at the fair turned out to be incredibly accurate.
Taking Advantage Of The Law of Large Numbers In Your Life
There are two ways that you have the advantage of the law of large numbers:
- You can have a large number of people trying out something once.
- You can try a large number of experiments yourself.
Since we don’t have a large number of people who can live our lives for us, we are limited to trying a large number of experiments ourselves.
You could take an approach where you will focus your energy on one single defining success. But the problem with this approach is that if you fail, you have missed your singular goal. On the other hand, if you try many different routes to success, you may find that some approaches are failures, while other paths might be wild successes. On the whole, you will average out to having success. There are two caveats that you should be aware of:
- To take advantage of the law of large numbers, you must throw yourself into your work with your whole heart. This means that you will have to accept extreme failures and amazing successes.
- “Average” is where you set your sights. Do you want to be average of the most successful people, or the average of the most empathetic, or the average of the blandest? Whatever group you focus on, you will become the average of that group.
Use the law of large numbers, and the concept of the wisdom of the crowds to your advantage. Focus on releasing a lot of solutions, and you will find that you are drawn to a stable position of success.