If you haven't already, check out Ozark. Jason Bateman is great. Laura Linney is, well, Laura Linney. Every time Julia Garner appears, you'll smile with anticipation, because her Ruth is a scene-stealing machine. The writing is exceptional. The plot never stops twisting. The dialog is crisp, clever, and constantly drives the story forward.
Perfect example: When Marty (Jason Bateman) explains to Ruth why he put the family's money laundering operation on hold:
"I'm not going to start laundering money until I feel completely safe," Marty says. "We hired over 200 people in this place. The law of averages tells me the FBI already planted an agent."
"Then you should have f-ing vetted people better," Ruth says.
"Well, it was just me and one other human at a desk," Marty says. "How can you trust that?"
"What the (heck) else is there to trust?" Ruth asks.
"Listen," Marty says. "As individuals, people are completely unpredictable. Okay? One person making one bet... I couldn't possibly tell you what they're going to do. But the law of large numbers tells me that a million people making a million bets? That is completely predictable. Completely ordered.
"So," Marty continues. "You give me a million people walking into this place, I can tell you that 3 percent are trying to cheat us while another 1.2 percent will have been sent here to try to catch us committing a crime. There will be a pattern to how those 3 percent are trying to cheat us, and those 1.2 percent are trying to catch us.
"Give me a little bit of surveillance and a little bit of time... and I'll find that pattern."
Granted, that approach isn't analytics rocket science. (Nor is it being applied to a legal business.) But any business model based on predicting behavior relies on the law of large numbers. Insurance. Subscription services. Amazon. The bigger the data set, the more accurate the predictive analytics.
Best of all, the law of large numbers can also apply to you, both professionally and personally.
One example: A few years ago the co-founders of a relatively successful company complained about how hard it was to grow their customer base. "It sucks," one said. "We have to call ten potential clients for every client we actually land."
I said, "Hey, that's great, because now you know what to do: If you need five new clients a month, create a system that allows you to call fifty potential customers. As long as you keep selling at a rate of one out of ten, you'll always hit your goal."
"That's stupid," the other said.
Since I'm used to hearing that my intellect has been weighed, measured, and found wanting, I pressed on. "No, it's not," I said. "If you must get five new customers ever month, that's what you need to do. In the meantime, you should work to improve your pitch so hopefully you can someday turn that one out of ten into one out of seven or one out of eight. But for now you know how to reach your goal. You just need to do it."
Like the two co-founders, we often know, or could easily calculate, our "number." We just don't embrace it, because thinking probabilistically doesn't come naturally.
But when you think probabilistically, you begin to see success as the game it really is. Success starts with rolling the dice a certain number of times. The more cold calls you make, the more new products you develop, the more ideas you solicit from your team, the more pushups and sit-ups and miles you log on the treadmill... you get the idea.
That's how great salespeople overachieve. That's how great investors succeed. That's how great writers, great inventors, great entrepreneurs or anyone great at anything succeeds.
Their success is based on skill, but it's also based on numbers -- the larger the numbers, the better, because working the law of large numbers almost always leads to improvement.
Put in the work, and your rate of return steadily increases. Putting in the repetitions -- while also trying to increase the quality of every repetition -- is fundamental to steady, lasting improvement.
So take the Marty Byrde approach. Look at your numbers, professional or personal. Work to create more numbers. Then do a little surveillance, put in a little time... and you'll uncover the patterns that lead to even greater success.
No matter what your goal.