You visit a magical street market full of mysterious vendors selling all manner of wonderous objects and creatures.
One merchant catches your eye. He sells magical livestock.
You walk up to his stand, and he tells you he has two things left for sale, and both cost the same amount.
“The first thing I have for sale is a magical goose,” he says. “If you dedicate your sole focus to raising it for a full year, it should lay a golden egg.”
You know a single golden egg is worth enough to provide for yourself and your family, so this opportunity sounds perfect. Dedicate a year of your life to raising something that will, in turn, provide everything you and your family need? It’s a no-brainer.
And the great thing is you only have to take care of a single goose throughout the year. How hard could that be?
You immediately purchase the goose without hearing about the other animals he sells.
You put everything you have into raising the goose because you know when it lays its golden egg all your effort and sacrifices will pay off, and you’ll be able to support yourself and give your family the life they deserve.
After a full year, it’s finally time. Egg Laying Day has come.
You reverently sit the goose on the Payoff Pedestal and wait with bated breath for the goose to produce the goods.
As it sits there, it stares off blankly.
Then finally it pushes out…
A squeaky fart, and nothing more.
The goose doesn’t lay anything.
All your efforts over the past year—all the blood, sweat, tears, time away from your family, and sleepless nights—didn’t pay off.
Enraged and confused, you storm back to the merchant demanding to know what happened.
“Ah, yes, you left in such a hurry I didn’t have a chance to tell you. The goose has a 50% chance of laying a golden egg. After all, nothing in life is 100% guaranteed! Haha…”
You were so sure the goose would pay off, you were blinded to the possibility it wouldn’t…
An Eggs-cellent Opportunity
You stand in front of the merchant, slumped over with the weight of self-doubt and regret.
“I want all my customers to be satisfied,” the merchant says. “So may I offer you the other thing I still have for sale?”
He pulls out a large cardboard box with dozens of small holes cut out of the top. You hear high-pitched chirping coming from inside.
“These are magical chickens. Like the goose, they each have a chance of laying a single golden egg if you raise them for a year. But, each chicken only has a 5% chance of laying an egg.”
“However, I sell 100 chickens for the same price as a single goose. Most people choose the goose because they think it’ll be easier to focus on one large animal than many smaller ones. But personally? I prefer the chickens. Here, take them as a gift. I hope they bring you better fortune than the goose.”
Would you accept the merchant’s gift?
Here’s why you should consider it…
Taking a Gander at the Odds
Each chicken has a 5% chance of laying a single golden egg at the end of the year.
5% sounds like way less than 50%, which is why most people opt to buy the goose.
This is how many creators approach their projects. They put everything they have into a singular thing—a business idea, product, partnership, whatever—and hope it’ll work out.
Because you hear stories of people who went all-in on a single project and achieved massive success.
But you don’t hear about all the times people invested everything in a single project and it didn’t work out—nothing more than a squeaky goose fart in the wind.
Then they’re left looking back on all the sacrifices they made pursuing it filled with self-doubt and regret.
But you’re typically better off going with the chickens.
Because yes, individually, each chicken has a 5% chance to lay an egg (way less than the goose).
But collectively, 100 chickens have a 99.4% chance of laying at least one golden egg.
This is a critical concept to wrap your head around that most creators neglect.
Hatching the Right Strategy
Part of entrepreneurship is learning to mitigate disappointment.
It means mentally preparing yourself to hear “no” 99 times in a row:
- People won’t buy your product.
- People will offer to help, then bail at the last minute.
- Collaborations you were sure would work out fall flat.
- A piece of content you worked on for weeks will get zero traction.
The list of dead ends that are part of the life of being a creator and entrepreneur is endless.
One way to mitigate all this pain, stress, and uncertainty, is to assume you’ll face 99 dead ends for every 100 attempts.
Remember, if you put everything into raising one goose, you may have a 50% chance of success. But you also have a 50% chance of failing and having nothing to show for it.
But if you instead spread your efforts across 100 chickens, it’s fine if 99 of them don’t work out.
You only need one to lay an egg, and you have a 99.4% chance of that happening at least once.
That’s the beauty of this approach: You only need one out of those 100 attempts to pan out to succeed.
But there’s a secondary benefit to this approach…
When you raise 100 chickens, you learn real quick what works and what doesn’t. So the likelihood that only one out of those 100 will work out is super low.
If you spent three years raising chickens, how much better do you think you’d be by the end at creating an environment that increases the chances each chicken lays a golden egg? Maybe by the end of three years, each of your chickens has a 10% chance of laying a golden egg because you’ve figured out how to raise them correctly.
You’ll learn a fuck-ton more, and faster, raising all those chickens than you will a single goose.
The same goes for projects you build.
Every time you attempt to build something is an opportunity to learn, grow, and iterate.
Attempt 4 will be better than attempt 3. Attempt 87 will be orders of magnitude better than attempt 32.
Stick with it for a few years, and you’ll make hundreds of attempts, and hundreds of iterations.
You’ll learn what works and what doesn’t.
And you’ll significantly increase the likelihood that at least one thing you build succeeds.
Because remember, all you need is one golden egg to succeed as a creator.
Most of the time, success as a creator and entrepreneur comes down to volume and iteration, not intensity.
You can put everything you have into a project, and it may not work out. But you don’t have to put everything into one project or idea.
By experimenting and creating more, smaller projects, we minimize the risks of entrepreneurship while maximizing our chances of success.