TED: Secrets of success in 8 words, 3 minutes by Richard St. John

Richard St. John spent more than a decade interviewing 500 people he defines as successful, and presents his distilled version of his book in just 8 words, and 3 minutes time.

Of course, to be scientifically correct, Richard should have interviewed at least as many people that have not become successful, to avoid what statisticians call selection bias. Nassim Taleb in his famous “Black Swan” came up with his own name for the same thing – he calls it “the silent evidence” (by the way, the book is a good read and definitely deserves a post on itself).

I guess, we’ll never know how many people exerted the same 8 traits and never got successful. Based on Richard’s “scientific” approach, we can come to a conclusion that brushing one’s teeth is an important road to success, since all(?) successful people undoubtedly do so. Of course, that wouldn’t fly, so we can presume interviewees were asked to identify behaviors they practice, but others don’t, or the questions were implicitly perceived as such. In any case, that’s not very scientific – why guess when you can actually ask the less fortunate? I’d bet it wouldn’t be nor that fascinating, not that inspiring once done. My hypothesis that it could all be distilled in 1 word, 1 second, and no book – there’s only one secret of big success, and it’s called LUCK.

Selection bias is an insidious beast. Please forgive me, as I cannot back the following story up with links or references, but I have once read of a study which confirmed “beginner’s luck” phenomena – casino players were indeed more lucky when they were just starting. The reason? Simple – those beginners who blew all their money away tend to never return to a casino, while the lucky ones tend to become the very “casino players” that got interviewed in this research.

Anyhow, I don’t want to dismiss John’s findings whatsoever, as I am sure they’re all very applicable to success in life, albeit maybe you shouldn’t really count on becoming the next Thomas Edison or Bill Gates by following them. Since you’ve probably spent more than 3 minutes reading my thoughts on it, why not spend another 3 minutes listening to a much more educated man:

Original video on TED.com (might be better quality).

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4 Responses to “TED: Secrets of success in 8 words, 3 minutes by Richard St. John”

  1. TED: Secrets of success in 8 words, 3 minutes by Richard St. John | Casino Orleans Says:

    […] post by Artem Boytsov’s Mind 19 November 2008 in Casino Orleans […]

  2. TED: How juries are fooled by statistics by Peter Donnelly « Artem Boytsov’s Mind Says:

    […] of experiments correctly. If we all had better education in this area, we maybe wouldn’t be interviewing successful people so […]

  3. Mike Says:

    I would add my 9th word here – “WATCH”. Watch what other successful people do, learning success by example is invaluable. And of course NEVER EVER listen and look at losers 🙂 But that’s actually a part of the PERSIST word.

  4. Artem Boytsov Says:

    Good advice except that since PERSISTENCE is the key, winners will likely to look as losers to you – so how are you going to distinguish who to listen to? 🙂


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