Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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Someone on quora asked:

I tried out for a sports team at my school and didn’t make it. How can you still fail when you try so hard?

There is a quote I’m fond of from Star Trek: The Next Generation, when Data (an android) loses at a game despite having what he thought was a flawless strategy. Picard tells him “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.”

Fundamentally, life isn’t fair. Just because you put in all the work doesn’t mean you are guaranteed to get what you want. It may improve your chances, but chances are just that - chances. Sometimes other people simply work harder than you. Or maybe they have more advantages. Or maybe you got unlucky and the judges were having a bad day. There are a million other factors that could have affected the outcome other than how hard you worked.

But don’t be discouraged! Hard work is still important, much more so than talent. Because hard work and practice and muscle memory will push you past unfamiliar situations that talent cannot. And hard work overall contributes to improving your chances.

Want to improve your chances even more? There’s two things:

  • Learn from your mistakes. Figure out where you went wrong last time, and apply that to succeeding attempts. This increases the chance that life will go your way next time!
  • Make more attempts. Try and try until you succeed. The laws of probability state that flipping a coin once only has a 50% chance of coming up heads, but flipping a coin twice gives you a 75% chance of heads, flipping three times ups the odds to 87.5%. The more attempts you make, the greater your odds of getting there. Combined with learning from your mistakes, this is the easiest path to success.

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