99 out of 100 times I try a business venture or a campaign, I’ve failed. As depressing as that sounds, consider that 3 times in my life, I’ve made over 7 figures.
In the world of business, you need just one home run to be a winner.
This isn’t baseball, where you need to have a 250 batting average. In entrepreneurship, you could try all sorts of things that don’t work out, but eventually land that huge deal (and execute it) that will have you set for life.
The ugly world of scientific experimentation is no better. The scientific journal Science estimates that 10% of physics experiments are “successful” while biomedical science is at 30%. The National Institute of Health estimates failure rates between 93% and 60% on their projects.
But failure has a real cost.
You might say, “Not so fast, Dennis. What if you’re a surgeon who kills 99% of the patients she operates on?”
Or would you get on a plane that crashes even just 5% of the time?
Depends on the downside risk of failure.
The majority of the experiments I’ve run are via the Dollar a Day Campaign Strategy. In other words, I’m testing one piece of creative at $1 a day for 7 days for a total risk of $7.
We’ll often go through hundreds of content variations x targeting variations to find a winner. But then put hundreds of thousands of dollars against proven winners.
With Rosetta Stone, we tested over 300 ads ranging from a Portland paramedic that spoke Spanish to shave critical seconds off a life- threatening situation to a businessman taking his wife out to Italy, ordering in fluent Italian. The winner, we spent over a million dollars a day and drove enough sales that Mark Zuckerberg mentioned it in a news conference.
Thus, spending a few thousand dollars on testing to find the right ad was a great investment.
A young leader muses on hidden failure.
Jacob Hastings, a 23 year old digital marketer from Dallas, Texas, had this to say:
The best way to find success is to try out multiple ventures, especially when you’re young and you have the most options available.
Don’t be a “sheep” and blindly follow everyone else in the herd, since there is no safety in the herd.
I used to think that entrepreneurs had a greater appetite for risk, compared to employees who want to “play it safe”. But that’s just not true in 2023. Since my friends at big tech companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook are getting laid off left and right. And the smartest entrepreneurs I’ve met are taking smart risks, instead of wild gambles.
At 23 years old, the biggest career risk I had would have been to continue to work a retail sales job. It wasn’t a “bad job”, but it didn’t have upward mobility, challenge me to grow, or give me the freedom to be able to travel.
Thus, my work now as an agency owner is as an INTRAPRENEUR, where I get to run my own P&L, but have the safety of a team, proven processes, and existing relationships to leverage.
If it’s worth it, you don’t count the costs.
Mark Horvath is a champion of the homeless– himself once being on the streets. He’s dedicated his life to giving the homeless a voice and to educate the population of what the true issues are in homelessness, instead of convenient political buckets. He’s driven a quarter billion views on his YouTube channel and produced several award winning films.
He says that if you truly believe in the cause, you don’t let a low success rate deter you.
Jared Hullick, one of my mentors from years past, would stay up until the sun came up to teach me how to do statistical analysis. I couldn’t believe how this whiz kid could build incredible data models seemingly overnight.
But he told me that he’s been doing it 90 hours a week for the last 10 years. And if you want it bad enough, you don’t count the costs.
Almost everyone I know who has been an “overnight success” has been toiling ignominiously for a decade before the camera ever got turned on.
Life as a lottery ticket.
If you had a 1% chance of winning the PowerBall tonight, would you buy a ticket?
Of course you would.
And you’d do it every single night where the odds were that far in your favor. I think of the movie “Dumber and Dumber”, where Jim Carey is trying to seduce a pretty woman. After getting rejected and being told his chances are slim, he gleefully and stupidly exclaims “So you’re saying there’s a chance!”
If you had a 1% chance of winning each time you ran a campaign— and you ran 50 campaigns– your overall chance of
Play 100 times and your odds go up to 63.4%. And if you’re willing to play 1,000 times, then your odds go up to a whopping 95.1%. Call it the 10,000 hour rule or stubborn determination, but this is why I’m not discouraged with a 1% success rate.