Asymmetric Opportunity

It’s possible to position yourself for luck. Taking consistent and intentional actions towards a particular goal can create serendipity, or situational luck. Consistent action pays off in consequential moments because it compounds the effort used into an exponentially larger force. It takes a lot of time, typically years, but this type of compounded effort leads to the self-reinforcing benefits of accumulated advantage. Taking intentional and consistent action on a daily basis is tiring and when effort is involved, it’s easy to get caught up in a sunk cost fallacy. In order to avoid the sunk cost mindset and maximize resources expended, its important to seek out as many asymmetric opportunities as possible.

What is an Asymmetric Opportunity?

In the context of accumulated advantage and the resources that are used to achieve it, think of symmetry as the balance between the cost of failure and the amount of reward. Therefore, seeking out asymmetric opportunities is a strategy of taking intentional and consistent action towards opportunities that have significant and multiple times the reward when compared to the cost or potential cost of failure. It’s about searching for opportunities that have an issue of balance. Where the reward provided in success is orders of magnitude larger than the consequences of failure.

A great list of examples.

Seeking out asymmetric opportunities is not about reducing the risk of failure. It’s about looking for unbalanced potential payouts for the costs of capital invested up front. In the tweets above, James and Naval both highlight writing a book as an example of asymmetric opportunities. The stakes of writing a book are relatively low. With self publishing tools so readily available through companies like Amazon or Gumroad, it’s relatively cheap to publish a book. Writing a book takes time, effort and more than likely some money to pay an editor (although not required). It’s also challenging to write something worth reading.

But once these costs are spent the book can be published and lives on forever. Whether the author cultivated an audience prior to writing the book or not will dictate immediate success but with writing a book, success can mean different outcomes. A published book can lead to many other opportunities besides money from sales. It only takes one reader to feel compelled to contact the author with a consulting opportunity for the asymmetry to appear.

Books once published have a nearly unlimited shelf life. They perform as a distilled representation of the authors value on an indefinite timeframe. When viewed over a long period of time, the up front cost and risk of “failure” seems small with the long shelf life a book provides. A book becomes an asset over time.

Seeking out asymmetry is a way to maximize the value of input resources. By working on these opportunities a person can increase the serendipity of positive outcomes. So, to increase serendipity and accumulate advantage over time, search for opportunities that in the long run have nothing to lose but everything to gain.

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