Doodle Card #250 – Survivorship Bias Can Destroy Us


Survivorship bias can destroy us.


We can’t be free from biases. So we had better keep the ones that can help us, and recognize the ones that can hurt us.

What are the biases that can hurt us? Survivorship bias is one of them, although you might not agree with me.

Survivorship bias, or survival bias, is all around us. If you pick up any business how-to books or self-help books at the bookstore, they are most likely a pile of survivorship biases. When you read one of the most successful blogs in the world, you probably read the writing with full of survivorship biases.

Here’s another example. Over decades, we Japanese are brainwashed into believing that sleeping less and working harder is a sign of competence. When I was in high school, we were told that if we study hard and sleep for four hours everyday, we would be able to pass an entrance exam for university; if we sleep for more than five hours, we wouldn’t. Many business gurus in Japan are proud of being a short sleeper and tell people that sleeping less is the key to success. THESE BELIEFS ARE ALL NONSENSE; nothing is based upon scientific facts. And if someone pointed it out, other people would say, “Oh, you are losing the mental battle.” These people might have forgotten that it makes no sense to win the mental battle if we lose the war — and our physical & mental health. And many Japanese people are actually losing their health by being forced to work longer hours and sleep less.

I’m not saying that all survivorship biases are not useful; they just aren’t always applicable to everyone and every situation. It is good to learn the best practice of other people, but we have to evaluate them carefully. And if we use them, use with extreme care. Bestseller authors or business gurus will never be responsible for the outcome of what you do — they are busy making themselves successful.

Oh, by the way, survivorship bias doesn’t exist in my writings. Because I am just an ordinary person who still struggles to survive.