Selling the Probability Instead of the Possibility

The space of possibility is inspiring, fuels the self-help industry, and keeps people making vision boards, stuck in a fantasy about bridging the gap between who they are and who they want to be. But it's probability that determines whether we experience the reality we crave.

  • Is it possible I'll stand in for Slash the next time Guns and roses performs? Yes. Is it probable? Hell no.
  • Is it possible I can start in an NBA game with Lebron? Yes. But the probability of that is zero.

It's comfortable to sell people on what's possible, but if you sell them on what's probably you'll make promises that you can keep.

Recently, I started doing one on one work with clients. When they tell me their goals, I have to assess the probability of whether or not I can help them achieve that goal. I had an aspiring author ask if I could help her get national media attention, a literary agent, etc. Given the platform, I didn't feel it was probable, so I told her that. By not becoming a client, she saved herself a lot of money, and I saved myself a lot of headaches.

When I asked Ryan Holiday how much of his success was because of who his clients were, he said something along the lines of "I'm not the alchemist." Even the best book marketer in the world isn't going to make a New York Times Best-Seller out of someone who has no audience.

When the team at Digital Natives started working on the marketing for my recent book, I asked what I might expect in terms of moving the needle on book sales. They were smart and said they'd never feel comfortable committing to a number. But, I'm still referring anybody who asks me about a good book marketing team to them.

When we don't consider the probability, we're likely to make an insane decision that won't yield good outcomes.

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