October 19

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Survivorship Bias

Most people have never heard of survivorship bias. But it effects more of our perceptions than we think.

Survivorship bias - It's when we look at qualities of a small group that succeeds, and assume these qualities apply to everyone.

Let's take entrepreneurs, for example.

Many people who have built successful businesses work 90 hours a week. And so, we assume that, in order to build a successful business, it requires working 90 hours a week.

Because that's what the successful people (the "survivors") did.

But there's a problem with this.

Because there are also tens of thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs who worked 90 hours a week and didn't succeed.

And, there are successful entrepreneurs out there who manage to work 25 hours a week.

But what if you're thinking about entrepreneurship yourself? And you buy into the survivorship bias? You'll either work yourself to death, or decide it's not for you. When in reality, there are other ways to be successful.

Survivorship bias affects piano lessons and piano students as well.

What are qualities of some of the most successful piano students in the world? They practice several hours a day and come from families who are very serious about music.

But again. That's survivorship bias.

Because there are plenty of piano students to practiced around the clock, burned out, and failed.

And there are also plenty of piano students who figured out how to succeed practicing just one hour a day. Or even less.

But because of survivorship bias, parents will consider pulling their kids out of lessons. Why? Because their kids aren't "those kinds of students" and they're not "those kinds of parents." When in fact, there are all varieties of successful piano students and piano family dynamics in the world.

Survivorship bias is one of those many tricks the mind plays on us. So if you think you might be a victim of survivorship perception, try this.

You see people who succeeded at the thing, creating your perceptions.

Try to find the people who did the same stuff the same way and failed.

And try to find the people who succeeded by doing something different.

Then you'll have all the information you need for an informed opinion.

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For parents, students, and anyone else who believes that music can and should be a meaningful part of everyone's life.

About Jonathan Roberts

I am the founder and director of the South Shore Piano School, and I have been teaching the piano for nearly 20 years. My work centers around bringing music to the lives of kids, parents, and adults in an enriching, meaningful way. At the South Shore Piano School, my incredible colleagues and I accomplish this through skill-based teaching, community, and an innovative, people-first business model. You can read more about me here.


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