To the editor:
In her opinion article “The Podcast Bros Want to Optimize Your Life” dated August 3rd, 2018, the author, Molly Worthen is a proponent of heeding the self-improvement advice of entrepreneurs and self-help gurus, such as Tim Ferriss, Joe Rogan, and Aubrey Marcus. While acknowledging their influence and vast life experience as a group, the author makes a critical logical fallacy known as the “survivorship bias” by not elaborating on a key argument she herself made in the beginning of her article, regarding the “… structural injustices that place real limits on what’s possible for many people.” While the aforementioned gurus have had their fair share of failures, according to statistics, they are considered to be the lucky ones: there are many more who have been candidates for the same positions, but who failed. Their stories and the lessons they learned will never be shared with the public.
As someone with a passion for entrepreneurship and someone who has been making money as an “entrepreneur” before adolescence, I have acquired a decent amount of knowledge about personal growth. The realistic and inevitable conclusion based on years of research is simple – the odds of becoming famous and/or successful are against us. Even winning the lottery, the chance of which is 1 to 200 million, is more likely than to become the best out of a seven-billion global population that is only expected to rapidly grow. Hence, it is extremely dangerous to follow the advice of successful individuals: their recipes of success take into account only their personal experiences and, therefore, do not paint the whole picture of any endeavor. To prove this point, it is necessary to revisit the survivorship bias, great examples of which are movie stars like Leonardo Di Caprio. There are many lessons to be learned from incredibly hard-working successful, but lucky, examples. However, there is perhaps greater value in the lessons that are not heard of due to them not being taken into consideration. Thousands, if not more, have auditioned for the roles he has played. Unfortunately, the public will never hear of the lessons learnt from those attempts. Not everybody wins in the game of life.
With all things considered, it is important to note that just the odds not being in our favor should not demotivate the rest of us from doing the best with what we have. Each of us, by simply being born, has already defied the odds of at least 1 to 400 trillion and is a miracle in every single way. The survivorship bias is not meant to make us cynical or depressed. Its purpose is to disillusion us, to make us skeptical, and to help us to find the proverbial needle in a haystack – the individual formula for life that will work for us. If nothing else works, evolution has got us covered: we can fall back on our primary goal of reproduction and caring for the next of kin, which will surely motivate us to do the best we can.