Success is merely luck…
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.”
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: the aforementioned self-development gurus, as well as any famous movie star like Leonardo Di Caprio or Brad Pitt. There are many lessons to be learned from these incredibly hard-working successful, but still, only 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 very same roles. 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.
OK, Morra. I’m on the lookout for redundancy, efficiency, and brevity.
P1. I see no redundancy in P1. It’s brief enough for the amount of information it handles. But it’s VERY inefficient because, when we’re finished reading it, we don’t know what the gurus claim, what Worthen claims, or how she makes her logical error.
It may seem like a very tall order to accomplish all three of those goals AND provide the background needed to understand them, but, . . . . you can short-hand. Set your hook. Then provide the background.
Suppose in your very first sentence, you explain what you mean by “survivorship bias.” If you capture your reader’s interest with the concept, she’ll be on the lookout for the fallacy in the background you provide. YOUR version imagines that the reader will be patient enough to slog through the particulars BEFORE you grab her interest.
Suggestion 1: “There is no formula for success and anyone who says there is suffers from survivorship bias.”
Suggestion 2: “Lucky men think they’re brilliant; their advice is valuable only to the lucky.”
After saying something arresting that illustrates the fallacy, all readers will recognize “survivorship bias” without your having to explain it much.
How does your first paragraph sound AFTER one of those brief introductions?
In her opinion article, “The Podcast Bros Want to Optimize Your Life,” dated August 3rd, 2018, the author, Molly Worthen [falls under the spell of] the self-improvement advice of entrepreneurs and self-help gurus. She ignores “the structural injustices that place real limits on what’s possible for many people.”
Does that make sense? It’s much harder to hold a disinterested reader’s attention long enough to follow a logical sequence than it is to use the CONCLUSION as a hook to pull them into an explanation that CONFIRMS the truth of the rule.
Let’s keep this conversation going, Morra. You’re a strong thinker, and I’m enjoying the exchange. I won’t react to the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs until I get your reaction to the 1st.
Revise it if you think my advice is helpful, but make the changes to your LTE for Portfolio post, and put THAT post back into Feedback Please if you want to play some more.
Professor, I have not focused much on the grammatical aspects, more on the content of the draft. if possible, I would like feedback regarding whether my attempt to reduce redundancy has been successful. I feel like I am unnecessarily overstating some things. However, if those things were to be only stated once, it would result in a trade-off between concision and persuasiveness. I hope to discuss this issue in person with you as well.
Always a delicate balancing act, Morra. One way to be sure your point is not lost is to incorporate it in more of your claims, often with the addition of just a careful word. If we want to be sure an entire article passes judgment, we use the language of responsibility and blame throughout: responsibility, failure, accuses, flawed, unjust, you get the idea.
That’s general advice, not specific to your work here. I’ll return to make specific notes another time.
Thank you for your feedback, Professor! I will certainly rise to the opportunity to improve this draft as much as possible.
I apologize for the late reply. I wanted to take my time reviewing and revising even drafts of drafts, to make sure it is understandable.
I will be sure to elaborate on my choice of Di Caprio as an actor.
Morra, I will not have time to do a thorough feedback session for you this morning, but I do want to express my admiration for your very fine first draft. We’ll have plenty of time to revise it over the next few weeks, and I have no doubt you’ll rise to the opportunity. I’m eager to hear why Leonardo DiCaprio, of all actors, is the best example of non-replicable good fortune. Further, your clever deployment of the survivorship bias to discredit the entire cadre of gurus is a technique that will certainly undermine their claims.
I look forward to our interaction here.
Please let me know how you feel about the feedback so far, Morra. Much as I like to give advice, I very quickly start to ignore students who don’t keep the conversation going.
1. Respond to this feedback with a Reply.
2. Open your post in Edit and make revisions.
3. Update your post without creating a new one and without changing its title.
4. Leave me another Reply to alert me that you’ve made changes.