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Don't pay for startup advice

30 Oct 2014

What a lot of the startup world is like

3 Key Tips For Winning The Lottery

I've spent the last few months conducting interviews with over 50 unicorn lottery winners (jackpots over $100 million), and I've learned an unbelievable amount about what it takes to win. Below is all of this feedback distilled down into the 3 most critical tips, tips that can help you win the lottery on your own!

1. Be mindful when picking your numbers

One piece of feedback was universal among the winners: pick numbers that are meaningful to you. Your birthday, your children's age, 13, the numbers that appeared on your most recent fortune cookie, or something else that is meaningful to you. This is absolutely critical to your chances to win.

Warning: Avoid the machine generated random numbers! Not a single lottery winner we surveyed used machine generated numbers.

2. Maintain a positive attitude

Playing the lottery will sometimes feel depressing. There are going to be a lot more losses and bad days than wins. But you must understand that if you keep working hard and keep your head up, it will turn around!

3. Avoid Scratchers

Don't limit your potential! Scratchers normally top out at a few thousands dollars. It takes the same amount of time and effort to play a scratcher as it does to play a $500 million powerball jackpot. Use this to your advantage. Every year there are about 5 jackpots that matter, spend your effort going after them!

Learn more about winning the lottery


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Though the above fictitious example is obviously extreme, a large percentage of advice from successful startup people contains similarly high levels of survivorship bias. This doesn't necessarily mean that all of the advice is bad, but a lot of it is. And the really tricky thing is the person giving the advice probably doesn't even know if the advice is actually good or bad.

So my startup advice to you is don't pay for startup or entrepreneurship advice1. When you pay for advice, not only is the advice probably bad, but the person selling you the advice is actively trying to convince you it is good. So in addition to having to judge the advice itself, you have to deal with extra doses of false confidence in salesmanship intertwined with it.

Save your money and effort – there is more than enough free advice out there. And while free advice still might be bad, there is, surprisingly, a much higher chance that it is good. When the objective of selling you the advice is gone, the population left that is still giving advice is a lot more trustworthy2.

1 Of course my advice may or may not be good, I don't know. But on the plus side, I'm not selling you anything.

2 There is still a lot of ego involved, which can cloud things. A good heuristic is just to assume all advice is bad unless proven otherwise. Also I realize how self-referential this is.