Tag Archives: bbc news

Survivorship Bias

In my recent blog post I reflected on the wealth of news articles about highly successful people who failed their A Levels, or how everyone can be a millionaire I was reminded of this great XKCD cartoon.

They say you can't argue with results, but what kind of defeatist attitude is that? If you stick with it, you can argue with ANYTHING.

Every inspirational speech by someone successful should have to start with a disclaimer about survivorship bias.

Survivorship bias or survival bias is the logical error of concentrating on the people or things that made it past some selection process and overlooking those that did not, typically because of their lack of visibility. This can lead to false conclusions in several different ways.

These stories are designed to bring hope to some people, but I also feel they send a stark message to others that don’t need to worry about working hard for exams, because regardless of the result, you will become a millionaire!

News outlets at this time, never tell the stories of those who failed their A levels and never have financial success, which is the majority of those students who failed to make the grade. Many of these will though have successful and happy lives. They also never tell the stories of those who did succeed and went onto happiness and financial success.

So what’s your failure story?

You too can be a millionaire!

millionaires shortbread

Yesterday was A Level results day, for over 800,000 students they got a letter explaining the outcome for most of two years studying. For some it will be an amazing result and they will progress onto the next stage of their lives. For some there will be disappointment, and uncertainty.

For another 800,000 young people, September will see the start of their A Level journey whether that be at Sixth Form or at an FE College. I wish them luck and hope they work hard to achieve the success they desire.

One thing that they do need to realise is that despite the BBC News publishing stories like this one, The A-level failure who became a multi-millionaire, you do need to study and work at your A Levels.

The day Giles Fuchs learned he had failed his A-levels, his family gathered around the dining table for dinner as normal.

His father didn’t say a word during the meal, waiting until the plates had been cleared to turn to his son and say: “Giles, I hope you’re good with your hands.”

Hoping to prove his dad wrong despite the dismal results, the next day Mr Fuchs knocked on the door of the biggest estate agent chain in Northamptonshire to ask for a job.

Today a multi-millionaire 52-year-old, and co-founder and boss of UK serviced office business Office Space In Town (OSIT), Mr Fuchs says that the three years he spent working for that estate agency in the East Midlands gave him an invaluable grounding.

I do find that often news outlets, like the BBC News, publish these stories, which I am sure are all published with good intentions about giving “hope” to those learners whose A Level results weren’t as good as they hoped.

I think they also have a negative aspect to them too, which is the impact it has on learners who have yet to start their A Levels (or even their GCSEs). The message appears to be don’t worry about studying, even if you fail to get the results, you will still be a millionaire!

Lots of successful people, such as Richard Branson, Jeremy Clarkson, all messed up their exams, but still found success and became millionaires!

Looking back you can see stories across the news media on how it’s okay to fail, but you can still be a millionaire! Here is a list of just 15 people who succeeded despite exam failure.

News outlets at this time, never tell the stories of those who failed their A levels and never have financial success, which is the majority of those students who failed to make the grade. Many of these will have successful and happy lives.

They also never tell the stories of those who did succeed and went onto happiness and financial success.

Many people for whom GCSEs and A Levels were not the way to academic success may find success later with Access courses and going to University that way, or study through the Open University. Apprenticeships offer another route to success.

We can all be millionaires, but the reality is that most of us won’t be millionaires. Only 1% of the UK population are millionaires and a third of those live in London!

So do you want to be a millionaire?

Let’s not give up hope, but let’s celebrate success, celebrate hard work and effort. Let’s give a realistic hope to those who weren’t successful, show them alternative routes to academic success, or vocational routes into employment.