The Law of Large Numbers is a theorem that states that the average of a large number of trials should be close to the expected value.
For example, if a casino loses money on a single spin of a roulette wheel, they can rest easy knowing the law of large numbers guarantees them a profit over time. That is, over the course of hundreds of thousands of spins, the lopsided nature of the game, which has a substantial “house advantage” built into it, will manifest and a profit will be realized.
In this way, a casino mathematically makes money every time the wheel is spun, regardless of the actual outcome of the spin, and this is why they’ll do just about anything to keep you in the pits, hooting and hollering.
This fundamental mathematical truth isn’t just for casinos and insurance companies, though–it has a profound relevance to all of our lives…
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Success in any field or endeavor is little more than a function of the law of large numbers.
That is, in the game of life, you’re the house, and all you have to do is keep spinning the ball. However you spin it doesn’t matter–fast, slow, clockwise, counterclockwise, it’s all the same. The advantage is yours, and every spin racks up a small profit in your favor, whether it pays out immediately or not.
In my experience, the thing that really sets apart successful people from the unsuccessful isn’t luck, the brilliance of their ideas, the people they know, or anything other than the will to keep the wheel spinning.
They treat their businesses and work like numbers games and focus on what they can truly control: their actions. The secret to making a bunch of sales? Engage a lot of prospects. To building that killer app? Create a lot of versions. To writing that book that’s been sitting inside you? Write words, one after another, every day.
The quality of your relentless work almost doesn’t matter. Total spins is what really counts. Quality is of secondary importance. Technique will inevitably improve with repetition, whether you like it or not.
Botched presentations, horrendous bugs, and awful prose may not seem like progress, but remember, those spins count. You’ve already profited from them.
This framework also teaches us to focus on the process, not the long shots. I pity the people I know that lack the energy, drive, and will to just spin the wheel every day with vigor and instead spend an inordinate amount of time meditating on and calibrating the one magical whirl that they hope will hit the jackpot. And that then curse the gods and kick the table over when it misses.
I don’t pray for good luck or big breaks or financial windfalls. I sit down every day and do the work it takes to keep the ball moving, confident in the knowledge that, over time, I can’t help but win. And when I do, I don’t count my lucky stars or act surprised. It has nothing to do with fate or any other unknowns or uncontrollables. It’s just the natural course of things.
For example, I started Muscle for Life in March 2013 with no previous experience building and running Websites, and I got the wheel turning by writing about 10,000 words of content for it per week and spending hours every day answering emails, social media messages, forum posts, and what have you. It now receives over 800,000 visits per month and will break 1,000,000 monthly visits by the end of the year.
My partner Jeremy and I spent almost eight months and tens of thousands of dollars spinning a little ball that would become Legion, doing all kinds of things that paid nothing upfront–surveying potential customers, researching formulations, vetting manufacturers, crafting the brand identity, and other such “speculative” activities. Well, Legion is going to break $1.5mm in sales this year–its first year in business–and can very easily do at least triple that next year.
So, here’s the lesson I’ve learned well: don’t put much stock in immediate success or failure, which are often outside of our control. Play the long game and place your faith in what you can control–the law of large numbers–and it will pay out eventually.