ignoring numbers is a big mistake in both business and in life

Sometimes people hate me …

It’s not because I’m not a nice guy, I am.

But I’m a number’s guy.

The older you get, the more you realize how life is all made up of numbers.

That doesn’t mean they are always right…but they are helpful in predicting outcomes whether it’s in business, with relationships or even our health.

It’s hard for us to swallow sometimes.

I mean to think that despite our free will, we are all somewhat linked to a random percentage is hard to take.

It’s a fact that someone we know, over the course of our life, will be the victim of a violent crime, that 50% of marriages end in divorce and only a handful of your friends will live to see their 80th birthday.

Let’s take a look at some interesting numbers:

  1. Approximately 1 out of 4 injuries to major athletes involve the wrist and, or the hand.
  2. The Chinese bamboo tree only sprouts in the 5th year in which it grows 80 feet in just one season.
  3. Only one person in two billion will live to be 116 or older.
  4. In America, each year 1,125,000 students drop out of college each year.
  5. Roughly speaking, losing something makes you twice as miserable as gaining the same thing makes you happy.
  6. 50 per cent of your overall sense of happiness is genetically determined, and so cannot be altered.
  7. Another 10 per cent is attributable to general circumstances (educational level, income, whether you are married or single, etc.) that are difficult to change.
  8. The best news is that the remaining 40 per cent is derived from your day-to-day behavior and the way you think about yourself and others.
  9. One in seven Americans can’t locate the U.S. on a map.
  10. An estimated 1.17 million deaths occur each year worldwide due to road accidents
  11. In 1950, only 7% of Americans dyed their hair, now 75% do.
  12. The world has been at peace only 8% of the time over the last 3,500 years.
  13. The average American kid catches 6 colds a year, the average kid in daycare catches 10.
  14. Nearly 6% of all marriage proposals are made over the telephone.
  15. Ice covers about 15% of the earth.
  16. Most babies are born in August and September.

Humans like to believe they are in control of their destiny, and in many ways we are. However, we live in society with lots of moving parts and when one object comes up against another object a mini-chain-reaction is started.

I’ve always considered myself a good cyclist.

I started late (13?!) and have ridden most of my adult life. I love it.

The freedom, the wind whipping through your hair (I used to have some I swear), zipping past cars stuck in traffic and getting a good workout in the process.

But despite my years of experience riding on some of the craziest roads in the world I still have accidents…of which my only error was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Just a month after I escaped death in the tsunami, I ran straight into another bicycle because they didn’t look when they left their office.


Next thing I knew I was lying on the sidewalk, unable to move my arm.

The other person, fine.

Pretty much anything can and will happen, it’s just a question of when and where.

I was reminded of this when I read a FB post the other day of a fellow ISBer (International School of Bangkok).

Sadly, she became yet another statistic. One who lost her life before her 40th birthday at the hands of a random stranger.

A stark reminder that on this planet we are at the mercy of the numbers.

“Some do, some don’t. 3 do, 7 don’t.” That’s what my mentor, Jim Rohn, used to say and I’ve found it to be true.

But the same concept can be applied to investing, studying, preparation, dietary habits, exercise and pretty much everything you can think of – there’s a number that applies in one way or another.

So if all life can be broken down into numbers, what does this mean to us?

It means we must play the odds.

Think of life (and business) as the great casino.

And just like winning in Vegas we must do our best to place the odds in our favor. How do we do that?

Here’s my 4-step formula to beat the house.

  1. Don’t gamble.
  2. Learn the odds
  3. Position ourselves to win by studying the game
  4. Stick to the plan

Simple right?! Not quite. Unfortunately, emotions do get the better of us.

Greed causes us to make bad decisions. So do rashness, ignorance and laziness.

But that doesn’t mean we should stop.

The dice are in our hands, and we just have to do our best to win.

Unfortunately there are times when even our best efforts, we lose.

Sometimes it’s bad luck, sometimes someone else beats us to it…whatever the reason we can’t give up hope. We just have to brush ourselves off and get back up.

It’s corny advice but it’s true.

The only time we are truly defeated is when we give up.

And that we are in control of.

Years ago I would have said, “May the Gods look down on you,” but I have learnt that we do play a part.

Today I prefer to refer to the line, “God helps those who help themselves.”

In other words, if you do your best (and I really mean your best) then you have a shot at winning.

Good luck,

Adrian Shepherd

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