facebook twitter instagram linkedin google youtube vimeo tumblr yelp rss email podcast phone blog external search brokercheck brokercheck Play Pause
Embracing Uncertainty: Focus on Probability When Making Decisions Thumbnail

Embracing Uncertainty: Focus on Probability When Making Decisions

Key Takeaways:

  • Luck plays a more significant role in the outcomes we achieve than we may want to admit.
  • Calibrate the likelihood of achieving your goals, division, or company.
  • Contingency planning and greater flexibility can help you if your probability of success is low.

Humans have a natural inclination to categorize and seek order in our lives. This often leads us to think in rigid, black-and-white terms, especially when making decisions. However, this binary approach can be limiting, particularly in the complex and unpredictable business world. Instead, we should embrace a mindset focusing on probabilities and preparing for various outcomes.

The Role of Luck in Success

Many entrepreneurs and executives simplify their decision-making process to a series of yes-or-no questions. For example, they might wonder, "Will the client buy or not?" or "Will the deal close or not?" While this approach seems straightforward, it must account for the nuances and uncertainties inherent in any business situation.

The self-made Super Rich—those with a net worth of $500 million or more—tend to think differently. They focus on probabilities, asking questions like, "What is the likelihood that the deal closes?" or "How likely is it that the client buys?" This subtle shift in thinking can have a significant impact on their success.

Two major determinants of professional success are the quality of decisions and luck. While many people emphasize and discount the former, the super-rich understands that numerous factors beyond their control influence outcomes. They recognize that luck often plays a critical role and aim to make quality decisions consistently, hoping that favorable external conditions will follow.

Understanding Hindsight Bias

After a decision has been made and its outcome is known, people tend to draw direct lines between causes and effects—this is known as hindsight bias. This bias can lead to overly simplistic interpretations of success or failure. For instance, when things go well, people might attribute success solely to their decisions, overlooking the role of luck. Conversely, when things go poorly, they might blame external factors without acknowledging flaws in their decision-making process.

Embracing Uncertainty

Admitting uncertainty can be challenging, especially for those accustomed to success and control. However, acknowledging unpredictability is a crucial step toward becoming a wiser decision-maker. By understanding that decision quality and luck influence outcomes, you can better calibrate your confidence and improve your decision-making process.

Start by thinking in probabilistic terms. Identify uncontrollable factors and estimate their potential impact on your decisions. This approach allows you to set realistic expectations and develop a range of possible outcomes.

Scenario Thinking and Contingency Planning

Scenario thinking involves generating alternative futures and asking "what if" questions. For example:

  • "What if a competitor acquires the company and eliminates redundancies?"
  • "What if the client moves forward faster than anticipated?"
  • "What if I want to expand my business internationally while minimizing taxes?"

By considering these scenarios, you can reframe situations in more insightful ways. Instead of asking insightful ways. Instead of asking if a deal will close, you might estimate a 50% probability of success, allowing you to plan accordingly.

Flexibility and contingency planning are essential strategies for navigating uncertainty. By building flexibility into your plans, you can adjust as situations evolve. Developing contingency plans ensures you have alternative strategies ready if things don't go as expected.


Shifting your decision-making mindset to focus on probabilities rather than certainties can enhance flexibility and decision-making capabilities. This approach acknowledges the role of luck and prepares you to adapt to various outcomes, ultimately increasing your chances of success. By embracing uncertainty and thinking probabilistically, you can make smarter, more informed decisions that better position you to achieve your goals.

VFO Inner Circle Special Report

By John J. Bowen Jr.

© Copyright 2024 by AES Nation, LLC. All rights reserved.

This publication is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. The author and publisher are not liable for any actions based on the information provided.

We Are Committed To Understanding Your Needs