In 1986, college basketball prodigy Leonard “Len” Bias was selected as the second overall pick in the NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics. It seemed like he had everything needed to become one of the best basketball players in the world.
There was just one problem. Bias had developed a cocaine habit. And two days after he was picked in NBA draft, he passed away from an overdose. Today, many sportswriters consider Bias to be the greatest basketball player who never played professionally.
What the tragic story of Len Bias illustrates so well is a simple rule we all learn in math class: Anything times zero is always zero. It doesn’t matter what the other numbers are — if you multiply them by zero, the answer will inevitably also be zero.
1 x 0 = 0
128 x 16 x 0 = 0
1,577,404 x 99,503 x 6.76 x 0 = 0
Len Bias had incredibly high “numbers” in terms of talent, support, and track record. But in the end, none of that mattered. Because as soon as he added the “zero” of his cocaine addiction to the equation, the end result was zero.
That’s the profound insight behind this simple mathematical fact: All of your talent and hard work can be entirely eradicated by just one weak link the chain. Let’s have a look at some examples:
So, no matter what you want to accomplish, examine the most critical factors in getting there. Tease out and strengthen the weakest part of the chain. That way, you’ll ensure all your hard work isn’t for nothing.