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Delusions and Perseverance – The Narrow Path to Success

September 12, 2021

Last week, I told you a story about Ed the Entrepreneur who went through the difficult ordeal of going through 500 rejections. Near the end, he was at the last of the investors that would possibly fund him. And the story ended with YOU. It was your choice on what would happen to Ed the Entrepreneur.  

This is the classic trope I see all over social media. Persevere at all costs, especially for your dreams. There is no price too high to pay for your dreams. 

The problem isn’t with the advice. The problem is the context of how this advice is offered.   

There’s always someone who makes a long list of their failures. And the last and fine part of their list, they say that they succeeded. This “proves” that perseverance is key. 

However, there are some ideas worth quitting. They are called “bad” ones. What is a “bad” idea? One that is not based on reality. What is something not based on reality? That’s traditionally called a “delusion.”  

People believe delusion is about having a false understanding of reality. It turns out (according to the DSM) the most harmful aspect of a delusion isn’t really related to whether someone believes in something that is false. Rather, the most harmful aspect of a delusion is that it is a fixed belief that does not change if given evidence to the contrary. 

That is the crux of what delusions really are. If you have an idea but are unwilling to accept evidence that your idea might be false, then you may be investing in a false sense of reality. And adding more! This unwillingness to change is a death sentence for anyone trying to succeed in the world. 

Let’s go back to Ed the Entrepreneur. Ed has an idea that he believes will change the world and make him billions. However, Ed was rejected 500 times during that process. It is likely that he received evidence his idea needs tweaking. At least 500 data points of evidence. What did he do with this evidence? Now that he’s on his last investor pitch, has he learned enough to improve his chances of success? 

Structuring your efforts as mindless perseverance through adversity does not help you succeed. 

Structuring your efforts as a probe on the true nature of reality and adjusting your approach to match reality will always lead you to success. Doing this in a repeated way is also called perseverance. It’s also called the scientific method.

Dr. Eric

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