We used to use research studies to draw scientific conclusions. Now we use data to draw erroneous conclusions and sell books. Sometimes the BS-busters are the biggest BSers.
Yesterday I watched a video of a guy explaining why American millionaires have an average college GPA of 2.9. Something about college being about rules and millionaires don’t follow rules they make them or break them. Also successful people stick with long-term goals.
OK, makes sense. My college GPA was 2.8. Grad school was 3.5 but that’s a whole different story; I was on a mission.
Then I got to wondering about the average GPA for all college grads. Grades have been gradually rising over the years but, if you look at the data over a period of decades, say from 1980 to 2000, the average GPA is, wait for it, about 2.9. How about that?
Maybe business success has nothing to do with GPA and the guy’s entire explanation is trite nonsense. I mean, if I’d spent more time in class and studying and less time cutting class and partying, does that mean I would have been less successful? Doubtful.
Come to think of it, who uses GPAs? Recruiters. And what are they recruiting for? People who might be good at a job, not people who will become millionaires. So the whole question is pretty much irrelevant, when you think about it.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of U.S. millionaires do have a college degree. Now that’s relevant, but not very controversial.
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The guy in the video, by the way, is Eric Barker, promoting his WSJ bestseller Barking Up the Wrong Tree. I checked out his blog which has a huge following. He describes himself as sort of a myth-buster type who uses studies and data to tell you how to be happy, successful, good at life, yada yada. Yup, another one of those.
Some of what he writes makes sense to me and he is somewhat entertaining. The studies and data, not so much. For example, he says that everyone thinks confidence is so great but overconfidence creates problems like hubris. He needed reasearch to figure that out? But people just eat that stuff up these days, don’t they?
What did I learn from that half hour of my life I’ll never get back? Some people use studies and data to dispel myths and expose BS and, in the process, create a whole new set of myths and BS for someone else to dispel and expose. And round and round it goes.
Related: The ‘Scientists Say’ Trap
If the average reader simply understood the difference between deductive and inductive reasoning and that correlation does not imply causation nobody would buy any of that stuff. But they don’t. C’est la vie.
The exercise also reinforced why I don’t watch videos or read blogs. I’m pretty sure that 99% of it is nonsense to get followers and sell books. Then again, you can probably punch holes in that probability pretty easily. Holy shit, did I just out myself? Gotta quit doing that.
Image credit JD Lasica via Flickr