Magicians provide an excellent example of a ‘mistake hierarchy.’ A good card magician knows that many tricks depend on luck and that luck is a fickle friend. So, you tell the audience you’re going to do a trick. Without telling them what kind of trick, you go for the one-in-a-thousand effect, attempting the most difficult one first. It almost never works, of course, so you glide into a second try, for tricks that work one-in-a-hundred times. When that fails, as it almost always does, slide into the third-level trick, which only works about one time in ten. If all else fails you go for the failsafe effect, which won’t wow the crowd out of their socks, but at least it’s a trick that works.

It is common for people to wish for something big: “I’ll win the lottery. If that doesn’t work, I’ll get promoted at work. If that doesn’t work, I’ll go back to school.” The problem with this approach is that the different plans are not aligned. Your plans should be more like a staged defense: If they breach the wall, we’ll fall back to the keep.

Go for something big and have a backup plan right behind it in case it fails and one behind that and one behind that…

Author's Bio: 

Tad Waddington says he achieved literacy while getting his MA from the University of Chicago’s Divinity School where he focused on the history of Chinese religions. He achieved numeracy while getting his PhD from the University of Chicago in measurement, evaluation and statistical analysis. He achieved efficacy as Director of Performance Measurement for Accenture. He is currently seeking to achieve a legacy with such books as Return on Learning and Lasting Contribution. To find out more, go to