Omission Bias

Everyone sees bad actions that didn’t turn out as planned. No one sees the actions you didn’t do that could have failed. As a result, it’s easy to decide doing nothing is better than sticking your neck out. Over the long run, in my experience, that’s a false assertion. It’s better to fail while trying with that neck way out there than not. The reason this is true even though it feels “dangerous” is because patience and experience compound over time. The safe play that others choose to “omit” or not doing anything on, doesn’t calibrate any judgment capabilities they have on what will be successful and what won’t in the future. As a result, the person who doesn’t take action doesn’t learn anything. The person who sticks their neck out over and over inevitably has some failures, but also some successes. The great thing about that is their asymmetry. Failure is usually much lower down side than the upside of success, if it’s not, why take the risk in the first place?

Most people are biased to not failing, to omit the bad experiences. Of course, when it comes to learning, building a robust model in your mind of what a great story is, or what a good painting looks like, it pays to know what a bad story and an ugly painting is. Omitting those wouldn’t allow you to pick out a good painting because your mental model only contains good paintings, so any painting will be categorized that way. Without those failures, the picture of success is equally reduced. We need to know what failure looks like, so we can know success when we see it.