July 9

Why You Think Other Creators Are More Successful Than You

Mental Health

Do you ever find yourself thinking your other content creator friends are more successful thank you? Whether you're a musician or a YouTuber or a gamer or a podcaster or dozens of other types of creators, it just seems like most people around you are having more success than you.

There's good news and bad news, and it's actually just the same piece of news; you're right. 

But it's not as dire as it sounds. In fact, it's a bit more psychological than it is matter-of-factual. In some ways, you can think of it a bit like that old motivational quip: "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't — you're right."

However, it's also thanks to a mathematical concept that can be used to explain a lot of things, including why it feels like you're always waiting too long for the train.

Confused? Let's dive in a bit. 

Renewal Theory and The Inspection Paradox

So when it comes to how you perceive others as more successful than you, there are multiple factors at play. But they often boil down to a mathematical concept related to probability: the inspection paradox. 

The inspection paradox essentially shows how two perspectives can be both factually accurate wild totally different. This article refers to it as a statistical illusion, while this one states that it's actually not a paradox at all. In either case, inspection paradox is a component of renewal theory, a segment of the mathematical study of probability. If this isn't any less confusing than a few paragraphs ago, let's use an oft-cited example. 

If you ask a student the average class size at their school as well as the president of that school, you may get two wildly different answers that are both representative of a true reality. The president of the school may tell you the average class size is 20, while a randomly selected student may tell you it's 250. That's because you're just more likely to ask a student in a large class of 500 students than you are a student in an intimate class of 10. 

If you're not quite seeing how the inspection paradox explains why all your friends are more successful than you, just stick with us. 

Why This Niche Probability Concept Matters 

The inspection paradox shows us that sample sizes, timing, and perspective all matter as much as the question itself. As Scientific American notes, "Scientists need to stay diligent about the inspection paradox and the biases it can cause. To conduct a study on average university class size, for example, one must specify exactly what one means to measure and tailor the polling methodology accordingly."

This concept can also be used to mislead, because you can almost certainly find statistical support for a pre-determined belief if you approach it with the end in mind. (Remember, "Whether you think you can or you think you can't — you're right."). 

And while the inspection paradox is used to better hone things like transit times, machinery maintenance, and web development, it's also an important concept to keep in mind for your own mental health. So let's see how to use it to put your own view of your success in perspective. 

So Are My Friends More Successful Than Me Or Not?

Alright, now let's try to apply the inspection paradox to your perception of your success and the success of those around you. Seriously, once you grasp this concept it can be really helpful for your mental health, especially on those days where it feels like nothing is working.

Because as much as we love to celebrate others and root for our peers, sometimes it's just like — hey, save a little success for me, you know? 

In every network of people (or in this case, creators) in which creators have an unequal amount of success, the majority of creators will be above the average amount of success and yet below average within their immediate perspective. Let's use one metric, flawed as it may be, as an example: TikTok followers. 

Let's consider a group of four creators. Creator A knows Creators B, C, and D. Creator B only knows Creator A, and Creators C and D only know each other and Creator A. Creator A has 1,500 followers, Creator B has 500 followers, and Creators C and D each have 1,000 followers. The average number of followers for this group as a whole is 1,000. 

Both Creator C and D are experiencing a perfectly average amount of success, but because in their network they know somebody more successful than them, they will feel less successful. 

This is even more likely with social media, where a user is more likely to be exposed to people in their network "more successful" than they are, even though within the network as a whole they may actually be above average. 

Or as Scientific American succinctly states, "[Their] local perspective on [their] immediate friend circle tells a different story than the global perspective of [their] status in the network as a whole."

What To Keep In Mind

Alright, hopefully this little mathematical meandering helps provide a bit of clarity. If you're still a bit confused, let's zoom out a bit and think of it this way: perspective matters. 

How you feel in the moment is often not indicative of how you feel overall. And your success "status" within your network in the moment is likely not representative of it overall. Both when you're experiencing a lot of success and when you feel like you can't catch a break.

The important thing to remember is that within these networks, we're all likely to be exposed to circumstances that seem to be better than our own. And yet, we must remember that our circumstance is most likely, to borrow a golf term, "par for the course." 

It's natural to seek motivation, just as it's natural to try to compare yourself to others. Remember that, at least when it comes to the inspection paradox, you're in charge of your own perspective and have the ability to reinforce it. Whether you choose to do so in a healthy way or in a way that feels defeatist is up to you.


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