We should not look at the failures of successful people

  • Survivorship bias lets us judge the actions of successful people as effective, as these actions seemed to have taken them past a filter of some kind. We do not, however, see the people who were not successful, which skews our view of the overall effectiveness of a given strategy.
  • When looking at failures of successful people, the public perception is therefore flawed. We should not concentrate on the things they failed at, as these failures did not prevent them from achieving success. We should look at the mistakes that they DID NOT make, as these are likely the mistakes that made competitors fail.
  • Compare this to what mathematician Abraham Wald said about bullet holes in returning fighter planes during world war II. When reinforcing the armor of the planes, you want to focus on the areas where there were no bulletholes. Logically, planes that were hit in these spots never made it back in the first place, so reinforcing the planes in these areas should be prioritized. If there are many bulletholes in a part of the plane, it meant that the planes took heavy fire to these parts quite well already and further improvements were not needed.
  • This idea was taken form Book - How to┬áTake Smart Notes, but the ideas and examples likely stem from other sources