Musings/Opinionated Articles

How the popular life lessons misinform us? How to benefit from them?

“Life is a university where you give the exam first, and then you learn the lessons.”

My favorite aunt quoted this line when I messed up an opportunity, and it stuck with me. Indeed, the lessons you learn from your experience are the best.

But why?
What about the lessons you learn from the success stories of many celebs?
What about the ones you listened to on the YouTube channel of your favourite social-media influencer?

Well, in a nutshell, most of these lessons misinform. They misinform because they are often being told with no context.

This context involves many things like your innate capacity (IQ, EQ), your privileges (family background, benefits of gender/race if applicable in your country/surroundings), your constraints (financial, responsibilities, emotional, health-wise, etc.)

Now, can the same lesson help two people with totally different context unbiasedly?

Do we think about that?


We analogize or take it on our ego and go for the plunge. We don’t do our due diligence before acting upon it.

It’s critical to do so.
Let’s see why it’s so.

First, all the success stories we hear are case studies of survivorship bias.

What’s that?

Let’s say: two people survived a jungle for 30 days against all the odds. Everyone applauded their tales and bravery. But it was later revealed that 98 more people went to the same jungle. What about their stories?

Their stories died with them.

Yes, we can assume that they didn’t do something that the two winners did. But what if there was something that wasn’t in their control? It can be luck, destiny, or something else.

That’s why we should always take the lessons we learn from others through a process. A process I call “Dissect to Understand”.

Here’s my process for you to try (Apply it on this process as well):

This process will allow you to learn the lessons and not merely copying them. Because everybody’s life’s question paper is different.

Copying it will waste your time, and you won’t pass the exam.

For instance, we heard that our favourite singer left his home for his passion for singing, and we want to follow suit. It’s good. But don’t take his success story to be a generalization. Don’t think that all the things that worked for him will work for you too.

So don’t do that.
Dissect his story – How talented was he when he left home? How he got his first break? How long he had to struggle? How he managed his expenditure before his first break?
Understand his journey and lessons
Understand your context – How skilled are you? What are your privileges and constraints? How much can you persevere? How will you take care of your expenses if you take the plunge?
Apply lessons – If you learnt how he honed his skill, do that. If you deciphered how he made his network, apply that knowledge. And so on.
Adapt and Reflect – Take feedback from reality. What worked for him might not work for you. Adapt accordingly.

It will allow you to learn a lot of lessons without experiencing them.

And believe me, learning some lessons through experience can cause you immense pain. And if you can learn through a little effort of thinking and applying, the pain would be far less.

There are many such lessons that I also learnt the hard way. And when I found them to be contrary to popular beliefs, I knew I need a better system.

Because like everyone else, I made the mistake of following many lessons without dissecting them. And some of them hurt me like anything.

It’s like going after the honey in a beehive because you heard you can get away if you use a long stick. (It might have worked somehow for someone, but if you do it, be prepared for the assault)

Here’s a list of some lessons I learned the hard way. I hope it will help you and motivate you to dissect to understand everything in your life. (Follow the thread of tweets)

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