Confirmation Bias

Have you ever noticed that nobody is allowed to be successful on the internet?

Woe unto you if you've bootstrapped a successful software company and want to help other people do the same. No matter how straightforward the steps you took were. If you write them down and share them, the Internet will respond by telling you that they had no bearing whatsoever on your success.

The real reason you succeeded were all those unfair advantages that you had. You were born into money, you see. Or at least you had some money that you'd saved at some point. And you had a successful blog. And powerful connections pulling strings for you. And you did it in the past when, as everybody knows, everything was way easier. The important thing is that your situation was unique and therefore unfair, so nothing you have to say matters.

Worse, if you do manage to persuade these people that you were in fact not all that rich or successful when you started out, and that the only connections you have were even more broke than you, well, you still don't get to give advice.

Because the sheer fact that you succeeded in building a business when other people have previously failed at building businesses is proof that your success was nothing but blind luck. What you're really seeing is Confirmation Bias and, again, everything you have to say is worthless.

You see this play out in roughly 100% of the discussions of successful bootstrapped businesses.

Which is annoying.

Because it misses the point.

You see, the biggest reason the business in question was successful was that our hero went out and built it. He actually tried. Chances are he tried lots of times with lots of ideas before he got this particular one to stick, but most importantly, he kept trying until he built a successful business.

The truth is that building a business is hard, and most of the time it won't work. You'll probably get better over time, but even then, you're still looking at maybe a 10% success rate. I personally know this all too well. Just about every software product I have ever built failed, dead. And yet I live comfortably on the profits of one of my products.

There's no contradiction there. And there's not really any Confirmation Bias there either. There's mostly just Math.

If you try something with a 10% chance of success enough times, eventually it will work. Think of it as Persistence Bias if you like, and it makes a lot more sense.

And that's really all those "how I built an X" writeups are describing: The distilled wisdom that got the author to the point where he had a 10% chance of succeeding, as it existed on the try that happened to be successful.

It's not something to dismiss. It's something to learn from.

Dismissing the author's wisdom and not trying to start a business will never, ever, in a million years, leave you with a successful business. Reading even the most ludicrously bad advice and using it to try to start a business will at least get you in the game.

You're nearly guaranteed to blow it the first few tries, but you'll learn from each of them. And if you keep trying, eventually you might be lucky enough to have some clown on the internet dismiss all your hard work as Confirmation Bias.

But remember, it's actually Persistance Bias they're accusing you of. And it's their loss.

Good luck!

Jason Kester

I run a little company called Expat Software. Right now, the most interesting things we're doing are related to Cloud Storage Analytics, Online Classrooms, and Customer Lifecycle Metrics for SaaS Businesses. I'll leave it to you to figure out how those things tie together.

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