Luck favors the prepared

the_black_swan_the_impact_of_the_highly_improbableI have just finished reading “The Black Swan” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. I can heartily recommend it. Tom Peters calls it the best business book of the decade.

The book covers a very current subject, with the global meltdown of our financial institutions in the process of unfolding. His basic thesis is that a few events, which nobody can predict, can have a major impact on society, you as person etc. Think 9/11, the astonishing business success of Google, the current financial and economic crisis etc. He calls these events Black Swans. You can have them with both positive and negative outcomes.

I also remember reading this post from Seth Godin a few months ago. It really changed my view on the role of business books. It is all about action: if you do not want to change anything in your behaviour the read is a waste of time. So, I took his advice and these are the three things that I am going to change in my behaviour.

  1. “Luck favors the prepared” as Louis Pasteur said. He knew something about accidental discoveries. You make them more likely by being exposed to the maximum amount. In his case, this meant “keep researching”.  In my case, as an entrepreneur, this  implies to keep trying new things and new routes to an existing opportunity in order to make serendipity happen – finding things of value you weren’t looking for in the first place.
  2. “Collect opportunities”, as Nicholas Taleb calls it. Seize any opportunity, or anything that looks like an opportunity. Being exposed to positive Black Swans is one thing, realizing you are getting a lucky break is equally important. This would mean that you cancel anything you have planned if some big-shot client or business partner is willing to meet. Which sounds logical but isn’t because everyday live and rhythm can make you more or less numb for these kind of signals.
  3. I have always had the tendency to plan rigorously but this habit has been put to the test by the arguments of Taleb. Planning: yes, but to a certain extent. See your plan as a rough guideline only which has “to be tinkered with”, as Tom Peters would say. Better yet: be prepared. One killer question in the book: think about the one or two most defining moments in your life for a second. Were they planned? Wow…

What business book would you recommend and why?


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