Survivorship Bias…. I am convinced.

Survivorship Bias

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Top 10 this. Top 10 that. Chances are you were “drawn” to these things sprawling across everywhere as “click baits”.  Feel-Good-Look-At-Me-Awards/Pecs/Biceps/Abs… Chances are, a lot.

Don’t worry, I know I’ve been drawn to “click” onto these stories should I struggle for attaining “inspirations.”. Or when I am just simply down. Oh yes – when I am really down – no doubt people kept throwing out knee jerk “advices” and feel good “motivational quotes” around; claiming he/she has been through “worser” in circumstances in comparison to mine.

I’ve lately taken a break away from all that reading of nutrition, epidemiology and scientific journals for a while. I have been instead quite immersed in reading more on the subtler yet significant – causalities over what constituted us the way we are today.

Incidentally perpetuated over how we perpetuate the meaning of objectivities of what success is and how it can be replicated.  How “fames” and “successes” – can potentiate all sorts of misleading beliefs and outcomes.

Since the very late of 2016 – from having read Michael Smith’s blog “Critical Mas” on how he believed the fitness and health communities are subject and predisposed to such cognitive bias known as Survivorship Bias; I feel compelled to read more on this bias phenomenon and took a deep self reflection.

…And how perplexed I was – that this so much ignored underlying aspect remained left undiscussed. Typical in our midst of Pedestrian Normalcy of instant gratifications and attention-span deprivations.

So much so that I am compelled to ask; dear readers and viewers – as to whether this coincides with your current observation of normalcies of today that seemingly no matter what and where in all realms of sensationalism you see around us today – celebrities (or perhaps more convincingly – deceased celebrities), or iconographies in general; being recited over and over again for their intellectual worth as A DRIVING VEHICLE for rationalising almost any hypothesis? 

It doesn’t even have to spring from an external influence or a public speaker. But also their own selves, their own “prior” hardships and experiences, their OWN BEING – to serve as that same, egoisticaly, driving vehicle for rationalisations and moral comparisons?

…Yet we NEVER QUESTION how we underestimate our own remote proximities of integral coincidences against these individuals or “exemplary successes”; for whom of course their depravities are beyond any doubt painful – without all of us realising and admitting that everything is GOVERNED BY FORCES OF LEVERAGE anyway and anyhow?

I cannot help but these actually made me recall my first prior hardships of unemployment as I was exposed to so many unsolicited advices.

  • Do they – these people spouting out these advices – share my pathology or genetic enzymeatic makeup? 
  • Do they share every one of my minutiae life patterns and commitments for hitting that 250 reps depletion training?
  • Just because I refuse Friday nights beers binging (back when I was a white collar worker) in favouring of disciplining my insulin sensitivities all of sudden make me seem unapproachable, overly stoic and/or just not “likeable”?

So thus, it seemed fittingly viable that society today only reflects upon the favourable outcome-based results…And reward those and only those – who seem to be the most focused on just simply being that – positive.

Sometimes in life – one has to wonder – what preconditions them – these people – to have perpetuated this seemingly and suspicious all too familiar and similar – cheer-leading personality marketplace – Dismissing everyones’ integral socio-physiological or structural makeup complexities?


Enter the Survivorship Bias.

…Aka. casual throw away lines “Look at <famous people here> Do what they do!” or  “Cheer up! Just focus on the positive.” 

Yeah right. Simply  being “positive” helps. But these people do not realise to stand up “positively” you need strong grounds called biology, biomechanics, and quite simply – leveraged abilities. They neither addresses nor respects the presence/s behind HOW you are currently standing in your life.

They are not me. And I am not them. Their time, their hours – are not mine. Yet they have the audacity to preach a common solution in form of recycled “lessons”, quotes, statements and belief – and haphazardly apply it to all variables.

I have yet to this day in my life and career ever laid a word of such simplistic judgements on people. At all. Yet ironically they demonise by first inflicting a score on you. And then resorting on “borrowing” other people’s imagery of already-stood-up successes.

…Hence all seemingly points to this causality known as Survivorship Bias. A preaching scheme that you and I are subjected to for ONLY being attracted to the successes. Not validating nor concerning the FAILURE parameters behind those successes.

Their reply? – “Ha! What about all your quotation posters that you did! YOU DO FOLLOW ICONS, FAMOUS PEOPLE AND ALL!”

If I were asked to be as to WHO is my favourite “designer”, favourite “hero”, who do I look up to, icon, etc….I’d say truly nobody. Because they are outliers. Genetic outliers, Socio-economical outliers. More exceptions than the majority. “Life coaches” or Billionare investors susceptible to Gambler’s Fallacy.  

Consider also; that upon reading all of my quotation posters I have patiently gathered throughout the year/s for this project. The emotional differences between them and your run of the mill

I’d dare say in my defense – that all of my designed Humility quotation posters are themselves are to be as MORE towards Reflectional than they are Objectively closed in or straightforwardly “Motivational“. Or at the very least – I tend to look for source of inspirations that sparks more open ended discussion than there are objectified validations.

What if I ask you to DISTINGUISH THE DIFFERENCE between what is Motivational and what is Reflectional?

Let us now truly deconstruct those differences below.

Type 1/2

Motive. “Mo-tive”-ational quote statements. / Matthew Smith

Motivations are never arbitrary.

Motives are drawn by inner desire to have an “epi” or “on-top” of unmarked further gesture, or a sign that is not seemingly obvious ON TOP of an objective message. This is likely to be inspirational quotes that strikes purely for your egoistic pursuit. And likely to be “simplified”in a metaphorical sense that it tries to hide the subjective complexity behind it.

  • “Better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven.”  – Paradise Lost.
  • “Greed; for the lack of the better word – is good.” – Gordon Gekko.
  • “Be greedy when others are fearful and be fearful when others are greedy.” – Warren Buffet.

Look and listen closely around you and you’ll inevitably find similar patterns from everyday general conversations. By either friends (either real or numbered) or Coworkers, boss, you name it – similarly closed-objectified advices can also be found in everyday conversation during our times of need. Here’s some examples below:

  • “Never ever give up.”
  • “Seek and you shall find.”
  • “When one door closes, another door opens.”
  • “There is always someone who is worser than you. Suck it up.”

Here’s my favourite – “Cheer up!”.

See how linearly suspicious in how suggestive each of these are when we interpret them as “advices”?  After all – LOOK AT THE WORD motivational itself.

Mo-tive is “Mo-tion” or at least, a visual, end-process evidence of “movement”. Therefore in order to “move”, you need an objective leverage.

What “MOVES” you after all; IS what motivates you. But that alone is governed by its’ OBJECTIVE, surface outcomes. Not at a wider appreciation or reflectional understanding of its’ PROCESS. You are MOVED simply because you are MOVED in the hope for coinciding the same, objectified outcomes to THOSE SURVIVORS who throws around these quotes casually.

…But how are they understood as a learning experience? Nothing. Zip. Nada. Nil.

Don’t know about you, I’d certainly find it insulting if someone else were to linearly summarise ME – all that I do uphold and endeavour – in one encapsulated, objective statement as a motivational “lesson” to anyone else whose life’s circumstances and physiological or socio-economical minutiae differences were NOT accounted for.  

…Now compare to that with what I consider “Reflectional” statements.

Type 2/2

Reflect. “Re-flect”-tional.

Andrew E Weber /

Reflectional quotes are those that mainly do not speak for or towards any linear conformities but broadly more “flexible”; in a sense that it neither speaks for objectivities nor intrinsic egoism. More rather – statements that are incredibly – free of any cognitive bias and are open to the reader and viewer’s – interpretation.

In a sense – it is almost Nihilistic – that such unbiased inspiration/s can nullify any or all your pre conceived notions about life. These are statements that make you STOP and think. Pause to relate and to reflect your life’s current proximities to such statement.

These I argue as more emotively arresting, relevant for self progresses much more than the Motivational-type statements. Because being reflective means you are now willingly addressing any or all – the subjectivities behind every objectivities. These also – attempts at providing you every realisations between what is “excess” and what is “absent”.

What do I mean by this? I am all about distinguishing what is implicit and explicit.

Take the trait ego. Ego to me (as I wrote back in my previous article) – is the excess on whatever is obsessed. It is an excess of the explicit (influence, evidence, territory, strategy, vigour, honour, valour, victories/triumphs). As well as an abscence of the implicit (realisations, acceptances, essence, humility, and understanding).

Now tell me if ANY of these example quotes below ever states that you have to perceive things objectively from beginning to end in a linear interpretation. Or do things exactly in this way. Or that way only.

  • “There are no facts. Only interpretations.” – Friedrich Nietsche.
  • “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” – Socrates.
  • “99 percent of who you are is invisible and untouchable.” – Richard Buckminster Fuller.
  • “Thinking is difficult. That is why people judge.” – Carl Gustav Jung.

All of a sudden these are messages that lits up your brain. These statements simply remind you that there are subjectivities behind every objectivities so sorely needed for reconciling, reminding us all over and over – that nothing in life is black or white.

…And inevitably leading you to a more (hopefully) wiser self; able to differentiating yourself away from the thickening midst of today’s coerced, institutionalised Pedestrian Normalcy.

…Now hopefully, you get the picture. I can’t describe nor rationalise my point further. Because after reading the above, only YOU can initiate and perpetuate your own conclusion. But what stems from this is a call for a journey to fullfil YOUR curiosity to learn of life and the world beyond.

Having said all of the above, you might be inclined to think

“So what? We have to focus on being negative and all gloomy then?”

What if I’m here to tell you that it’s all just “fine”?

“Negativity”… is actually a good thing.

Now, as I’m writing this I am actually somewhat grateful I’m always somewhat seen as “negative”.

It is of no coincidence too, that I used to be that lone squid spending all my time in the library; despite even though I failed almost all of my tertiary subjects because I failed wishing to become a mechatronic engineer.

How or what does this “being negative” have to do with Survivorship Bias? I’ve begun to understand that it is not the measure of success that a man fights for himself, it’s the failures he embraces and endures from one to another in perpetual eternity.

Fair enough. I am never gifted a genetic outlier for being tanned or tall. Or that I am more than likely unable to provide enough leverages to keep a woman happy; given the past, and present stakes of attaining such remote possibility – be it rationalised by ways of utility, sexual or mutual-interests marketplace/s – remains chronically uneven and competitive.Despite all of that, negativity is what keeps me Authentic.

Because it constantly rationalises me – myself – of what I can and cannot do in the context of simply trying to do just that – survive. By consuming less resources strategically on the cyclical Ketogenic paradigm. Testing myself, my own adequacies – in body and mind resiliences – wherever and whenever I may be in life.

“Negativity” to me; is a spring of constant and consistent establishment – of awarenesses and realisations.  Positivity is only skin, the temporary result – of bliss and ignorance.

So, next time someone tells you that you are simply “juvenile” or “negative” all the time….I’d smile to them and say “Thanks, that’s because I am not blind over everywhere else around me.”

After all, my body is the embodiment of failures and experiences I endured. The skin? Is merely the success that covers it. “Utility” afterall – is only skin deep. 


Other Cognitive Biases

“Survivorship Bias” is just one of many cognitive biases as encountered in the realm of Economics, politics, applied mathematics and statistical science. The list is not exhaustive, but Anchoring, Bandwagon Theory, Selective Perception amongst many others – nonetheless remain unadmittedly evident and undiscussed in today’s pedestrian normalcy.You are free to agree or disagree, but you can never deny that perfection seldom exists from being simply human.

These are fascinating topics to immerse in as we are all in one way or another, including my own endeavours through life until death – are never invincible against external as well as internal – biases.


How you would react to the above Phenomenon of Survivorship bias? Do you think all this is nonsense? Or has nothing thus far ever caused you to think such thing as being relevant to your day to day normalcy? Let me know what you think below!!