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Avoid what doesn’t work –  practice elimination

This is the third article of the 4 part series where I have tried to dissect luck and how to be lucky. While this one speaks about the technique of elimination to conquer luck, the other 2 reads are listed below for you:

The process of elimination is extremely powerful. 

And the fastest way to move you ahead of the average line in the bell curve. 

How does Elimination work? 

Remember when you attempted a multiple choice question in an exam with 4 possible answers. 

What is the probability of getting it right in the first attempt? 25% , right ? 

Now, suppose you know that one of the options, out of the four, is incorrect for sure. 

Maybe you ticked that incorrect option the last time, and failed at it, and so you know it now. 

So, you would eliminate that one. Realistically, you have only 3 options to choose from, while the others have 4. 

Your chances of success are 1 in 3, or 33% , 8% above others who have only a 25% chance. 

But what if you had failed earlier at 2 of the options and know them to be incorrect. 

You now have only one out of the two remaining. 

And have a 50% chance of success – 25% above the others. 

You are 2X more probable to hit the right answer compared to others. 

You have moved much farther than the average. 

One more failure, and you will have a 100% chance of hitting the right answer. 

Now, life may not have only 4 choices, but even if the success rate is 10%, you will get a decent chance to succeed if you have failed 7 times and learned. 

Elimination creates a disproportionate advantage over others. 

Learning is the key factor here. Only if you remember your lesson from last time, does the law of conditional probability, and therefore, elimination applies. 

How to practise elimination in the real world ? 

The way to practise elimination is simple : 

  1. Create checklists for what can go wrong based on your previous experience
  2. Avoid those inputs that are known to you to yield unexpected results
  3. If the result is still not as expected, include current input into your list 
  4. Try again after changing or modifying the input

Atul Gawande has pointed out strong correlation between success and checklists in his book – The Checklist Manifesto.

“ The researchers found that simply having the doctors and nurses in the ICU create their own checklists for what they thought should be done each day improved the consistency of care to the point that the average length of patient stay in intensive care dropped by half” 

The Checklist Manifesto, by Atul Gawande

Simply  by repeatedly avoiding what does not yield, you automatically move into the zone that yields. 

So, it’s time to prepare your own checklist now.

‘In the next part , the last of this series on “luck”, we will see how we can dramatically increase our chances of success by doing what is right, repeatedly.

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