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The survivor's bias

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

The survivor's bias says that many stories we call "success" are actually stories of survivals. just because Michael Jordan plays basketball and becomes rich does not mean it is each. Just because someone buys a lottery and won 100 millions dollars does not mean they just got lucky. Just because Jeff Bezos went to Princeton and then started Amazon does not mean anything.

Most people think that to succeed, you must avoid failures.

That is not true.

To success, you must make all the failures yourself.

Most business fail. Business is supposed to fail. The surviving ones are called success.


Many people ask:

  1. how hard it is to have entrepreneur ship success?

  2. why is it so difficult to make an MVP (minimal viable product)?

  3. what could turn out to be the risks of a venture?

  4. what should I do if I fail?

  5. why is entrepreneurship often difficult?

  6. is startup failures avoidable?

  7. how do you prevent startup failure?

  8. who do we blame for failures?

Entrepreneurship failure is unavoidable, unless you have failed here once before.

  1. The failure is due to your under-preparedness, but it is not anyone's fault. You only access that knowledge (or lack of) when you get there;

  2. Knowledge to avoid failures are not taught in schools or books. After you failed, you will recognize them everywhere in books. Before that you don't understand it applies to you.

  3. For most failures, by the time you find them you are already too close to them to avoid or mitigate.

A startup is analogous to taking a boat for a cross-ocean trip. There are countless holes on the new ship but you don't know them. You only know the holes are there until you are in the ocean. You only know that a hole will open up in the middle of the Atlantic when you are in the middle of the Atlantic.

It is situational knowledge. It is ad hoc knowledge. It means knowledge not in books.

You only learn things about school when you are in school. You only learn things on a job when you are on that job.

Great schools can not teach you about real life, because the knowledge is too expensive.

According to the Wikipedia, the survivor's bias is a full account of everything that played out.


  • You can not repeat others success. You can not avoid others mistakes.

  • The world hide a lot of things from us. The so called "success" is really survival and learning. The so called "mistake" is really experience.

  • All business are supposed to fail. Very few survived and we call them success.


How did people like Elon Musk and Marc Zuckerberg succeed?

  1. they did extraordinary things. They did not follow the routine.

  2. however, not following the routine is not the key. You have to be lucky. To be lucky, you must survive and stay on the game for long enough time.

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