Why You Should NOT Believe Success Stories?

Wrong interpretations and pseudo-facts make them more motivating.

Wrong interpretations and pseudo-facts make them more motivating.

The tingling sensation, the motivating feeling, the hope of winning, and the urge to achieve something are what you get instantly by reading the success stories.

The success story describes one sample and concludes based on that one sample.

A fact should be backed by enough samples and a fact should be a fact. Not an emotional tale.

To come up with a fact you need large samples. As the sample cases increase, the accuracy of your conclusion increases. Success stories are based on one to a few samples.

Just take a fair look at the below picture, before continuing reading.

During World War II fighter aircraft were sent to attack the enemy beyond boundaries. Enemies were counter-firing the aircraft sent. Only a few aircraft returned. Based on analyzing the returned aircraft they mapped a chart to find the vulnerable spot of the aircraft.

The above chart’s red dots denote the places the bullets were hit. Statisticians found that the two zones of the aircraft (middle of the wing and area between cockpit and tail). Because based on the above chart, those are the places that were hit very few times.

So they decided to reinforce the aircraft in areas with high red dots. That is where they were targeted a lot.

But it is a very wrong approach that led to a wrong conclusion. Why?

They only considered aircraft that returned to the base safely. Those aircraft that took the hits, sustained and managed to reach base. That is, only data from survivors are considered. The aircraft that took a few hits in those two vulnerable zones were down and never returned to base. Those data were entirely ignored.

This is called “Survivorship Bias” 1

Image credits: Refinitiv
Image credits: Refinitiv

We often ignore the data from people who lost or who didn’t reach the top despite their struggles. We often give disproportionately more importance or weightage to the data offered by the winners regardless of how they reached the top.

Credit: The Decision Lab
Credit: The Decision Lab

I just want to tell you I have huge respect for successful people who reached the top against all the adversities. Yet I am going to say what I want to.

Don’t follow the winners’

You never know their full story after all it is told by themselves.

Their stories are inspiring, and motivating. I hate the more emotional, less factual ones.

They tell how hard they worked. Vaguely. They only share the pseudo-actionable steps to reach success but never the real actionable steps.

The formula for their success may be true and efficient. Maybe only for them. Or for a few like them. They proved that it does work. Only for them. It is not proven to work for everyone. If so, then it is not a single person’s success story.

Not many share their true stories. They add spices to it to make it interesting and attractive.

The point is, their path is not for everyone. Different parameters are involved, not everything can’t be suitable measurement for everyone to become successful with a single success formula.

We want something promising. Emotionally motivating. We see what we want to see. We want to see success stories of us, if not, then others. We don’t want to choose our own path.

The success stories look promising and proven when it is not. While finding our own path to success is not so promising because we don’t know it yet.

I believe the harder people work, the luckier they get.

Yet, no one knows which tide comes when. I don’t believe hard work is everything. But I believe in staying in the game and not quitting.

Most winners make money out of teaching you how they won.

Just a fun story. One man earned $100000 by selling his secret of “making $100000 in a day”. He sold that secret to 1000 people for $100. The secret he sold is, asking them to sell the same secret to another 1000 people for $100 in the same way he did.

We often ignore the story of strugglers who weren’t succeeded., Yet.

We may have a huge portion of knowledge and wisdom to gain from someone who struggled more than the winner. Out of 100, if only one wins, then it is not fair to take that ‘one’ as a sample for your calculations.

It is only fair to consider the reasons why everyone couldn’t win. What are the parameters and factors involved? What are the factors that favored the winners and not the strugglers?

It is not about finding lame reasons or blaming something (Which is not in your control). I am just asking to do a reality check. Beware of your desire deceiving you from the facts.

Success stories tell the possibility. There is a seamless number of possibilities waiting to be found by each of you reading this.

Double down on what works for you

Do what works for you. Double down on what gives you results.

Keep yourself in the game until you find out how it works.

People in search of their own success stories don’t waste their time reading/watching others’ success stories.

All the best for your success story. Don’t copy write it.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survivorship_bias

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