Courage and Ignorance

Courage often comes from ignorance. When Columbus was looking into a Western route to Asia, he deliberately ignored the scientific consensus at the time: In view of the estimated radius of the earth, the voyage would simply take too long on the open seas and he would perish. Thus, it would be impossible to make the trip with existing maritime technology. He stubbornly set sail anyway. Fortunately, he hit upon the Americas along the way, which saved him from a miserable, yet predictable fate.

The Role of Luck

In modern times it’s common to put courage on a pedestal: We admire and emulate the courage of successful entrepreneurs and celebrities, while at the same time ignore the courage of the vast amount of struggling entrepreneurs and non-celebrities. There is a fine line between courage and luck. Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey and Richard Branson made it, yet there are probably 1000s of unknown Elons, Oprahs, and Richards who took the same amount of risk, were unlucky, and failed. 

Baseline Thinking

A helpful approach to avoid the trap of overconfidence from ignorance is to apply baseline thinking. A baseline is a probable outcome of an initiative. For example, the baseline of success of mergers is 30%. In other words, 70% of all mergers will not achieve their objectives. Once you have established a baseline for your initiative, you can adjust the probability of success by making an honest inventory of your skills and assets. Is it more likely that you improve on the baseline, or not?

Baseline thinking allows you to combine courage and knowledge. Properly used, it will make you unstoppable.

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