Survivorship Bias: The Barrier To Our Happiness And Success

Last updated by Lauren Hart

“Wow, if he/she was able to succeed, I can too”. That’s how we embark on years and years of trying to do something and failing. It’s called being a victim of survivorship bias, and it happened to me for a long time. But what is it? Why can survivorship bias contribute to a sense of failure about our lives? It’s important to learn to think about those who have failed, so as not to be deluded. Let’s explain.

Survivorship Bias: The Barrier To Our Happiness And Success

What is survivorship bias?

Let’s start with the basics and the origins of survivorship bias. It was Abraham Wald, the famous mathematician of the Second World War, who coined the term 🤔.

Indeed, the Royal Air Force had asked him to analyze the bullet holes on aircraft returning from combat (the survivors) to protect vulnerable areas. By reflex, we would tend to reinforce the places where there were impacts, but Wald thought instead about the planes that hadn’t returned. Indeed, if they didn’t come back, it meant that they had failed and that the bullets had hit places where the other planes had no holes. By this deduction, Wald therefore reinforced the parts of the plane where there were no bullet holes, to maximize the number of planes that returned from combat and therefore increase the number of survivors.

The plane that explains survivorship bias

Abraham Wald reinforced the parts that weren’t hit ✈️

It’s all very well to talk about aircraft, but what does that really tell us about how you can make a success of your life? Well, survivorship bias teaches us that we shouldn’t draw conclusions based solely on the “survivors”, on what is visible. Otherwise, the consequences can be disastrous 😥...

>>> Read; Why I'm scared of failure

The norm: success stories

This cognitive distortion therefore has an impact on our perception of reality. When we focus only on the survivors, the successful ones, we get a partial view of reality. What about the rest? It’s forgotten and with it, all the people and stories that haven’t had the same success 😕.

Unfortunately, these are the silent majority, of which most of us are a part. It’s obviously a question of appeal, it’s more glamorous and interesting to constantly highlight those who have succeeded. By continually highlighting success stories, we make them the norm and believe that everything is easily achievable, whereas there are many other things to take into account.

📌

A lot of young people want to become influencers nowadays, because it’s a job that’s talked about a lot, looks incredibly easy and seems to make a lot of money. It’s true, influencers are everywhere, we see loads of them on social media, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to achieve this status. We don’t see all the people who try hard, and we often forget those who are in the shadows and end up giving up.

👋 You may be interested in this article: 6 Tips to put an end to limiting beliefs

Why is this cognitive bias a problem?

Survivorship bias is delusional. It’s always those who are successful that are in the spotlight, and it feels like you’d only need to write one book to be the next J. K. Rowling or the next Stephen King 📚. Of course, the same goes with all fields, because as I said before, success stories are always praised and highlighted.

Yes, the survivors inspire us, they make us want and hope that we can do the same. The worst of it is undoubtedly the inspirational speeches they make, explaining that they’ve worked enormously hard, that they’ve invested a lot and that this is the reason for their success. Except that this is another bias, because one parameter is often forgotten: luck.

👋 You may be interested in this article: What does Ikigai mean?

There’s no such thing as equal opportunities

Yes, what leads someone to success is often the delicate parameter of luck. I’m not saying that there isn’t work done beforehand, but the right meeting in the right place at the right time is what tips us over the edge towards success.

Especially as we often forget that there’s no such thing as equal opportunities 🤷‍♀️. We’re led to believe that this is the case, but there are factors that often have an impact on our success, such as our social origin, our gender, our skin color, or even our religion. We don’t all have access to success in the same way, because society isn’t fair and is made up of injunctions and norms.

💬

Let me tell you my example. I always believed that I could succeed in a particular field. But only very recently I realized that despite investing 12 years, I couldn’t succeed. Not least because I’m a fat woman and society is fat phobic. People, algorithms and the media are much less interested in people who are overweight, because it’s not the norm. Unless you use this difference to your advantage, you can’t succeed.

The pain of failure

The reason I’m talking about this today is that survivorship bias has had a huge impact on my life. For a long time, I suffered by comparing myself to others, to those who had succeeded, and above all, I didn’t understand why it didn’t work for me. It even led to developing symptoms of depression, because I’d put so much into it that I ended up making myself exhausted.

That’s the real problem with survivorship bias, it’s all the suffering it causes the silent majority. You feel pathetic because you’re failing, and it’s difficult to take a step back and look at things in a more positive light. Of course, it’s less depressing to take an interest in those who have succeeded rather than those who have failed, but if you don’t, you’re deluding yourself.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t try, no, but we need to look at reality fairly and be aware of those who have failed. As such, we protect ourselves from disappointment and the feeling of dissatisfaction, or worse, the feeling that we’re failing in life...

Editor’s note: Success at all costs

Lauren explains perfectly how focusing solely on the success of a few can lead to failure. Indeed, it’s important to look at things in a relative and holistic way. Nor is the pursuit of success at all costs a goal, or at least the only goal, that we should be chasing. Whatever our lives, we all have something heroic and glorious within us. We need to be aware of this and look for a path to fulfillment that suits us, rather than trying to become someone else.

🤗 Understanding yourself, accepting yourself, being happy... It’s here and now!

#BornToBeMe

Be sure to check out these articles too;

Article presented by Lauren Hart

Writing is a beautiful means of expression that I cannot do without. It has allowed me to channel my hypersensitivity, plus I love writing about psychology and personal development. For me, self-understanding is the best way to move forward!

Read our latest articles here:

The Unbearable Habit Of Cutting People Off, Let’s Put A Stop To It!

If there’s one thing I don’t like, it’s getting cut off when I’m talking. I get the impression that what I’m saying is of no importance to the person in front of me. So yes, maybe the person we’re talking to is afraid of forgetting their train of thought and rushes the words out of their mouth, but still. The icing on the cake? It’s when there’s no excuse and it happens all the time. What an unbearable habit cutting people off is!

Friendship Test: How Well Do You Know Your Friends?

One day I learned that one in two friendships wasn’t reciprocal. This figure is quite disturbing, but in the end, it’s not that surprising. When you become an adult, your priorities change, and sometimes you drift apart or make new friends... and forget others! To find out where you stand with your friendships or to get to know each other better, there’s a very effective method: 50 questions to get to know each other by heart and (re)connect.

How Can We Identify Repetitive Patterns And Get Out Of Them?

For a long time, I had the feeling that I was repeating the same mistakes. For example, on more than one occasion, I missed out on a career opportunity. All because I was convinced I was useless… Unfortunately, I bet I’m not the only one to have observed this kind of repetitive pattern. This kind of cycle is vicious, so how do you identify it and get out of it? Now that I’ve learned how to work on it, I’ll explain.

Is Not Giving A Damn The Secret To Happiness? Really?

I often get told to take things less to heart. I admit that as a hypersensitive person, I put my heart and soul into everything. Perhaps a little too much because that tends to generate anxiety. So in the end, is not giving a damn about anything the secret to happiness? Well, I’ve tried to delve into the subject with my research, and it’s not quite as simple as that. Here are some explanations.

Forbidden Love Story

“Deny thy father and refuse thy name; or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I’ll no longer be a Montague.” I think everyone’s guessed where this quote comes from! It is, of course, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. I’ve always loved this story of forbidden love, and I’m not the only one because this play has stood the test of time. On the other hand, I find it much less enjoyable to experience forbidden love. You don’t know whether it’s better to give up on it or get burnt... I’ll tell you all about it.

I Hate Having My Photo Taken, But Why?

One of my hobbies is photography. You’d think then that I’d be very comfortable in front of the camera, but no! The reason I do photography is to get behind the camera and take photos of other people. Ok, I sometimes take self-portraits, but as soon as someone else takes my photo, I hate it. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, which is why I’ve decided to talk to you about it today.

Get to know me! 🌻

Our February Challenge: The Month Of Self-Love And Pampering

When we think of February, do we think... icy feet 😬? Okay, it's not particularly known for that (even though it's true). No, when we think of February, Valentine's Day comes to mind. However, this celebration feels too commercial, putting pressure on couples and making singles feel guilty about being solo. So, instead, we thought we could create a little self-care challenge for you.

Wengood's favorite tunes 🎵

Wengood's playlist

wengood

  1. Only LoveBen Howard
    4:08
  2. Invalid date
  3. Fix YouColdplay
    4:55
  4. Beautiful DayU2
    4:08
  5. Thinking out LoudEd Sheeran
    4:41
  6. White FlagDido
    4:00
  7. Lay Me DownSam Smith
    4:13
  8. Nine Million BicyclesKatie Melua
    3:15
  9. Put Your Records OnCorinne Bailey Rae
    3:35
  10. Summertime SadnessLana Del Rey
    4:24
  11. Imagine - Remastered 2010John Lennon
    3:07
  12. Shake It OutFlorence + The Machine
    4:37
  13. Space Oddity - Love You Til Tuesday versionDavid Bowie
    3:46
  14. What A Wonderful WorldLouis Armstrong
    2:19
  15. With Or Without YouU2
    4:56
  16. HelloAdele
    4:55
  17. Don't Stop Me NowQueen
    3:29
  18. Skinny LoveBirdy
    3:21
  19. WingsBirdy
    4:12
  20. Californian SoilLondon Grammar
    3:41

How to detect a narcissist

How to detect a narcissist

How to soothe an anxiety attack

How to soothe an anxiety attack