Many things in life are the exact opposite of what we assume they are. For example, when it comes to personal productivity, we often think we need to work harder and do more to achieve more. That’s where counterintuitive life lessons come in.
More often than not, we need to do less. We need to narrow our focus.
In this article, I’ve summarized 5 of the most important counterintuitive lessons I’ve learned about different important life topics, running from achievement to mental health.
Note: The book links in this article are affiliate links, which means I earn a commission if you choose to make an order.
1. For every success story, there are countless failures
For every success, there’s an x number of failures. If there’s one hit song that everybody listens to for months, there are thousands of others that only a handful of people ever hear. That happens with all sorts of things; books, apps, and so forth. Thousands are produced each year. Only a handful succeed.
Failures are seldom recorded. History is full of success because no one cares about the failures.
This concept of overlooking the failures is called survivorship bias. People look at success and believe that they can somehow extract universal lessons.
The statistician and former trader, Nassim Taleb, explained why that’s not the case in his book, Fooled by Randomness:
“Mild success can be explainable by skills and labor. Wild success is attributable to variance.”
For example, just because Facebook’s CEO is a college dropout doesn’t make dropping out from college a good career idea. I’m sure there are plenty of other dropouts out there who aren’t as successful.
So every time you see a success story, always ask: “What about those who failed? What happened to them? Did they do the same things this successful person/company did, and still failed?”
This thinking allows you to see beyond what’s in front of you and create a more complete strategy.