Good Will Hunting & Your Optimum Rate of Failure.



Have you ever considered how frequently you’d like to fail?

Do you have an Optimum Rate of Failure?


If at first this seems silly, chew on it for a moment.

Everyone should have an Optimum Rate of Failure.


And it’s not zero.

It can’t be zero.


Zero means you’re not willing to risk anything – won’t try anything new.


You’re afraid.

Afraid of being challenged.

Afraid of being wrong.

Afraid of looking dumb.


It’s the Good Will Hunting conflict.


You gotta get out of your comfort zone.


If you are a quarterback who never wants to throw an incompletion, you can get away with swing passes to the running back. You can mix it up with a few wide receiver bubble screens. Sooner or later the defense will put eight men in the box and dare you to throw the skinny post.


Even then the odds are less than 50-50, but you take it.


Or your replacement will.


If you’re at Goldman Sachs running arbitrage deals, you’ve got an Optimum Rate of Failure.

It’s not zero.


Especially when it’s other people’s money – you need to push that risk to the brink where there’s a chance you’ll lose the bet.

Play it too safe every time and your returns will be too low.


That’s why it’s called Risk vs. Reward.

There is no Reward vs. Reward.


Well,  there is I suppose….


The professional game of Reward vs. Reward will get you a weekend with Bernie Madoff and the SAC Capital guys.



Want to take your new Optimum Rate of Failure for a test drive?


Here’s a quick, no BS method to speaking Construction Spanish to help solve problemas.

Quickly review this decision tree below.

Screen shot 2013-08-28 at 10.02.43 PM


As you walk your job, spot Spanish-speakers and ask if there are any problems.


¿Hay problemas?

(i proh-BLAY-mahs)

Are there problems?


Easy enough, right?

Problemas is a Spanish Twin – nearly identical in both English & Spanish.

Hay is pronounced like the thing in your face and means “Are there” or “There are.”


Now, you’ll either get a answer or a NO answer.

If it’s , ask this to identify the location of the problema.






Once you see the problema, say some combination of the following:


OK (oh-KAY) OK 

Excelente (ayk-say-LAYN-tay) Excellent

Gracias  (GRAH-syahs) Thank you


Now, if the answer to ¿Hay problemas? is NO, thank your lucky estrellas and say some combination of the following:


OK (oh-KAY) OK 

Excelente (ayk-say-LAYN-tay) Excellent

Gracias  (GRAH-syahs) Thank you



It’s the same.


This is not hard.

Hay (Are there) and Dónde (Where) are the only truly new words.


So what should your Optimum Rate of Failure be?


Set your target at 60% to get out of your Zona de Confort and to set low expectations. You can surpass 60% easily.


Here’s how.


Study this for 10 minutes, ideally with un compadre. Then try it on-site 5 times in the next 2 days.

The first 3 times you should expect failure.

You’ll try it, you’ll feel awkward, and then bail, pretending to make an urgent phone call.

Screen shot 2013-08-28 at 10.02.43 PM


That’s cool.

You are planning on failing.


So start 0-3 and then groove into your last 2 conversaciones.

2 out of 5 = 40% success rate.

60% Failure Rate.







Bradley Hartmann is founder and El Presidente at Red Angle (, a training and consulting firm bridging the English-Spanish (and a bit of Polish…) language gap in the construction industry.    

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Categories: Construction Spanish

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1 reply


  1. Why you should add “PS” to your company’s business cards. « the red angle

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