Farming luck with a portfolio of small bets

Aug 10 2020

We inhabit a world full of uncertainty, complexity, and randomness. Our ability to predict the future is very limited. Trying to predict the exact outcome of future events is foolhardy.

A more practical approach is to farm luck , by making many survivable small bets with tremendous potential upside. We will be right at least directionally . This allows us to not just be robust against randomness, but benefit from it. Or as Nassim Nicholas Taleb would call it: antifragile .

We can't control when luck will strike. But we can increase our exposure to it. We can broaden our surface area of luck . This is similar to the way a large surface area helps organisms absorb nutrients in nature: a mycelium in a fungus, or the villi that line your small intestine.

(Left): Illustration of mycelium. (Middle): Mycelium of agaricus bisporus, image by Rob Hille. (Right): Intestinal villi. Image by Science Picture Co/Getty Images

Naturally, not every small bet will work. Recently, I spent $50 and a few days developing an online course to help those who are learning to code structure their learning. Only had $10 in sales. I have since decided to refund it all, and release the content for free. But even in the "failed" bets, one can reuse and repurpose components to create additional value - to grow an audience, to build good will, to improve SEO etc.

As your portfolio grows, a question that arises is how to distribute your time and resources. Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and Warren Buffett's longtime business partner, has a solution for us - what he referred to as the fundamental algorithm of life : repeat what works .

Bets that you make compound in value over time. They grow not just as individual projects, but as reusable building blocks that complement each other as well. You learnings also compound over time. The more bets you place, the more you expand your skill stack. You get better at identifying opportunities, at implementing, and at growing them. A portfolio of small bets gives you exponential growth in multiple ways.

All you have to do is start. Start small. Start something stupid . Bet on yourself.

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