Reverse Engineering Success: The Black Box
Subject: Success, motivation, Trial and Error, Failure
By Victor Antonio G.
Most of you know that I have a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology (the MIT of Illinois). And if you’ve read my book, The Logic of Success (www.TheLogicOfSuccess.com), you know that getting through engineering school was tough to say the least.
In our engineering labs, I learned a phrase and methodology that has served me well in the technology sector but also as an entrepreneur and speaker. The term “reverse engineering” was first introduced to me when a professor gave us a ‘black box’ and we had to figure out what type of circuitry was inside. The black box was literally a black box with wires running into it (labeled ‘inputs’) and wires running out of the other side (labeled ‘outputs’). The whole class had a bewildered look as if to say in unison, “How the hell are we supposed to figure that out?” Someone jokingly said, “I want to be an engineer, not a psychic!” The class laughed.
The professor went on to explain that you didn’t have to be psychic to figure out what was in the black box, you just had to clever. He then told us to apply a sequence of “input” voltages to the box and measure the “output” voltages. By applying different combinations of inputs, while monitoring the respective outputs, we were eventually able to figure out a “pattern” of what was going on. From there we were able to derive a “model” for what was inside the box. To test our accuracy, we were then asked to build the circuit model from scratch. Our grade depended on how well we were able to reverse engineer the black box.
The method of reverse engineering and figuring out what was in the black box has served as a ‘business model’ for going after my personal goals. Each of us has a personal goal or dream of what we want our life to be like. I know that when I first started out as a speaker, the only thing I knew was that I wanted to be a speaker. My biggest question was, “How”?
The speaking world to me was like a black box. I knew it existed, but I had no clue how it worked from the inside. Using the black box experiment as a starting point, I first had to define what I wanted my ‘outputs’ to be. The outputs in this case were my desired results (i.e., my goals, my lifestyle choices).
Here were the ‘outputs’ (results) I wanted:
1) I wanted to write a book and create a program I truly believe in.
2) I wanted to make over $100,000 a year speaking.
3) In 3 years, I wanted to get paid $5,000 to $10,000 per speech so I didn’t have to travel a lot and still be able to reach my annual financial goal of $100,000.
4) I wanted a lifestyle whereby traveling less and making more money meant more time with my family.
After putting together my outputs (desired results) in the next three years, I was now left with the task of figuring what ‘inputs’ I would need to achieve these results. This part was going to be tougher. I went through a whole laundry list of things in order to get the desired output. I won’t go into detail here on all of them, but here were the inputs that worked:
1) Had to design a consistent program (The Logic of Success)
2) Had to define my starting point or niche market. I chose the College Market
3) I needed to publish a book on my topic for credibility
4) I needed to get my speaking on video
5) Marketing to my niche was key
This is just a sampling of the ‘inputs’ that did help me achieve my outputs. There were many inputs that simply didn’t work or add real value. Here is a sampling:
1) Work with others to get you going
2) Join organizations in hopes of getting more business
3) Speaking for free at places that didn’t serve my niche
4) Attend ‘super’ expensive seminars (a few proved worthwhile, the majority sucked)
5) Design many programs instead of focusing in on one key program
Again, the list goes on but you get the idea.
Getting to where you want to ‘be’ in life requires you to reverse engineer your success. There will be a lot of ‘input’ testing (resources) and a lot of measuring of the outputs (results). What eventually happens over time is that you will begin to recognize a pattern of what inputs give you the best outputs. You will begin to see what works and what doesn’t.
In our engineering class, when we were all testing our black boxes with varying inputs, no one person got it on the first try. It was a three-hour lab session and everyone, including our team used up every minute.
As we were testing, and the results seemed confusing, not once did we think of giving up. Trial and error was accepted as part and parcel of trying to reverse engineer the black box.
Let me re-emphasize the two key points:
1) No one got it on the first try
2) When the inputs didn’t give the desired results, it was simply viewed as a combination that didn’t work. Testing and measuring repeatedly was seen as a ‘process’ toward success. It was “trial and error” not “trial and failure”.
Keep this in mind as you go out there in the world and begin to reverse engineer your success. You most likely won’t get it right on the first try, but over time, you will figure out the success circuitry and achieve the level of success you desire. Don’t get discouraged! Keep testing!
Forward this on to someone who is trying to succeed at a NEW CAREER.
Victor Antonio G., one of America's top business motivational speaker and author of “The LOGIC of Success”.
Copyright © 2005 by Victor Antonio G. All rights reserved. This article MAY be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, as long as the author’s name, website and email address are included as part of the article’s body. All inquiries, including information on electronic licensing, should be directed to Victor Antonio G.
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Victor Antonio G., Sales Influence All Rights Reserved 2002-2009,
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