305: Make business decisions like a poker player

Think about professional poker players, they are fully odds-based. There is some emotion in the game in bluffing and reading opponents, but for the most part poker players and playing the odds. On every turn in every hand, they’re asking themselves what the opportunity cost of playing the hand is, what the potential winnings are, and what the odds of success are. Business owners should have this same line of thinking in their lives for any given opportunity: how much does it cost you, what are the potential winnings, and what are the odds of success?

Any opportunity will cost you resources in the form of time, money, or energy, and often it’s two or even all three of these. Many people chase venture-backed startups with low odds of success and high potential outcomes, but that turns into devoting three years of their life for a 2% chance at success, and a person playing the odds would never do that.

The desire of poker players is to put themselves in a better situation after each hand, and great entrepreneurs think about it the same way. You can take one big shot at the beginning, hoping to high a home run, or play slowly by making low-risk, profitable bets. Far too many entrepreneurs read about Steve Jobs and Elon Musk and try to hit the jackpot, but professionals play to win money.

It’s helpful to start thinking about your desired outcome. If you want to become a billionaire, then your best chance is in trying to hit a home run. But if you want to achieve financial independence, become self-employed, and gain some freedom back in your life, you can play the small games over and over to reach that with way less risk.

To get the snowball of wealth creation rolling, you want to generate wealth in the first ten years of your career. That means every six months you invest is is 5% of that critical period of your career, and the reward better be huge and certain to invest five years of your life to something.

Look at businesses, concepts, and ideas where the odds are good for success, where the average person is still doing well. This means no restaurants, or passion projects, or venture-backed ideas. Look at businesses that are operational, that aren’t sexy, and where you can pick your competition. Not a lot of smart people think it’s fun, which means a smart person can do really well.

People let their ego get involved and start with selfish, self-serving business ideas. They want to do what they’re passionate about, and nobody wants to be cleaning, building, and sweating. But that’s why the odds are strong with a great potential result.

Avoid irrational thought processes, you need to look at the world in an unemotional way. There are things you can do to stack the deck in your favor and create wealth through small bets with high odds of success.

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I started the Sweaty Startup in December of 2018 because I believe the Shark Tank and Tech Crunch culture is ruining the real spirit of low-risk entrepreneurship.