You’re Not Skillful Until You Know When You’re Lucky

Claude C Hopkins, the godfather of modern marketing whose 1923 book Scientific Advertising is still (shockingly?!) relevant, thought all advertisers should do some form of direct mail advertising first to learn how to fail.

Not because they broadly needed to be humbled, but because they needed to be aware of the numbers game that was going to continuously humble them the rest of their careers.

Others might only learn to play by luck, celebrating wins when they come and counting them up to good processes. Hopkins thought that wasn’t good enough.

Knowing the metrics, like how many messages went out, how many sales resulted, etc. was the only way to know if you actually had skill and weren’t just lucky. This is what made an ad man successful, to Hopkins.

“Figures that do not lie puts men on their mettle… Then and only then can you apply to anything else.”

Skill only comes after we understand the impact of luck. If that means getting exposed to the numbers of the game, we better get that exposure early on, no matter our field. It’s a hard world out there and there’s massively difficult work to be done.

If skill is the goal, science is our game.

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