Successful people somehow are godfathers for beginners and hope for failures. Successful people have marked name with golden ink by massive achievements. A beginner that are about to start job for life goals or failure who have been falling since long times love to read and copy successful people’s life events.  

Steve Jobs, for example, many of his biographies highlights his passionate temper. As being one of the factors in Apple’s success.

Or take Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg neither of whom finished university, a fact that has attracted a lot of admiration in media.

But trying to learn and copy from successful people can be dangerous.

highly successful people
highly successful people

We called it survivorship bias.

One of the most famous examples of survivorship bias in action was during World War 2. When a statistician named Abraham Wald asked to study how best to protect airplanes from shut down.

At first, the approach of his research group has been to look at the planes coming back. And see what they hit the worst and then reinforce those areas.

Wald, however, realized this approach missed a valuable part of the picture. The planes that hit but that had not made it back. The planes they were looking at were just the survivor.

The bullets holes they were looking at actually indicate the areas a plan could hit and keep flying.

These were exactly the areas that didn’t need reinforcing.

In other words, if you do not want to misled by survivor bias you have to look at the whole picture.

Survivorship bias can turn up in lots of places.

A gym will share an example of people who have successfully changed their body shape in a short amount of time. But won’t discuss all the other people who gave up along the way.

Or a 40-year-old car that is still running well will have people saying. They don’t make them as they used to ignore all other cars from the period that broke down and had to be scrapped.

 Even in sciences, there is a currently worry about how general prefer to publish studies with significant results with studies that fizzled out or show insignificant left unpublished.

The result in these entire pictures is a skewed picture of the world.

And it is the same with the example we were looking at earlier.

If you look at successful people like Bill gates and Mark Zuckerburg, it comes to higher education you are ignoring all others.

People that didn’t go to university and the data if you include them show that average earnings for this group as lower while you do not have to end university to earn a lot.

successful people
successful people

If you look at the whole picture it is clear it does help.

And what about those entrepreneurs with passion temper that did not succeed.

It is the same with all the remarkable qualities successful people tend to talk about.

Without looking at all others who took a big risk or hard to courage to ignore conventional advice.

We do not know if these qualities help or another option.

They are irrelevant and the success of people you are looking at this is the result of other factor or just dumb luck.

In his 2012 books, Michael Mauboussin describes a man. He inspires by a succession of a dream to believe he would win the Spanish national lottery.

If he could purchase a ticket number whose last digit was 48. 

After getting hold of such a ticket amazingly it turned out to be a winner. Later when an interviewer asked why he had picked that number? He said I dreamed of the number seven for seven straights nights.

And seven times seven is 48.

Success can be help by a temper may be a lack of higher education give you an advantage. And maybe enumerating dreaming can make you rich. But until you consider the whole picture you might want to think twice before trying to learn from successful people.


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