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To the editor:
Success is a luck-based random variable. Hence, the advice of famous entrepreneurs will only be useful to the lucky. In her opinion article “The Podcast Bros Want to Optimize Your Life,” dated August 3rd, 2018, the author, Molly Worthen, enamored of the self-improvement advice of entrepreneurs and self-help gurus, becomes victim of the survivorship bias by ignoring the “structural injustices that place real limits on what’s possible for many people.”
Thorough personal research as a longtime passionate entrepreneur has led me to a simple conclusion: the odds of becoming famously successful out of an ever-increasing global population are massively against us, less likely than even the 1 in 200 million chance of winning the lottery. Gurus typically suffer from the absence of the breadth of statistical analysis, which would take into consideration not only those who made it, but also those who failed in becoming successful. That results in an inability to make accurate recommendations to large audiences. Other exemplary cases of the bias are all famous Hollywood movie stars we know and love, e.g. Leonardo Di Caprio or Brad Pitt, who, despite their diligence, were still lucky at the end of the day. Not everyone wins in the game of life: the public will never hear of the lessons learnt by the thousands who failed auditions for Pitt’s roles for example, which in turn leads to the skewed perception of the possibility, probability, and difficulty of any endeavor.
Instead of demotivating us, the survivorship bias is meant to disillusion us by making us skeptical of potential moneymakers. Each of us is already a miracle, defying the odds of at least 1 to 400 trillion simply by being born. What we need to do is focus on finding the proverbial needle in a haystack – our personal and unique life formula for success using the resources at our disposal. If even that is to fail, the evolutionary primary goal of species’ procreation and caring for the next of kin will surely motivate us to do the best we can.