"If you want to succeed, double your failure rate"

Photo: Geoff Oliver Bugbee

So a man who picked a number that ended in the number 48 wins the Spanish national lottery. Insisting before a press conference it wasn't mere luck, he was asked by the assembled media about how he knew. "For seven nights in row, I dreamt of the number seven, and seven times seven is 48."

Leonard Mlodinow began today's IdeaFestival session and his book, The Drunkard's Walk, with that anecdote. For the next hour he explains through one demonstration after another how our pattern-loving selves, our anchors and prior beliefs about what we've seen - or think we've seen - is a feature of a world in a state of nearly infinite possibility. We really are a frail people driven to make sense of the world - and sometimes to our detriment.

I know what you're thinking. But there are positives. Don't take failure to pitch that book idea or business plan to heart because it may say very little about you. There must be talent, yes, and timing - duh - plays a role. Quoting an IBM pioneer on probability, he says "if you want to succeed, double your failure rate." So be stubborn.

It raises the probablity of being lucky.