“Survivor Bias” In Direct Selling

Art Jonak

Is “Survivor Bias” a big reason why distributors fail?


The bad news is, yes it is.
The good news is we’ve figured out how to fix this HUGE problem. But first, a quick background story.

During World War II, the Navy tried to determine where they needed more armor on planes, to minimize losses to enemy fire. They ran an analysis of where planes had been shot, and their conclusion was to add armor to the areas that showed the most damage: the wingtips, central body, and elevators. That’s where the planes were getting shot the most.

Statistician Abraham Wald disagreed and noted the analysis only considered the aircraft that had survived their missions — the bombers that had been shot down were NOT part of the damage assessment. The holes in the returning aircraft only represented areas where a bomber could take damage and still return home safely.

Wald proposed the Navy add armor to the areas where the returning aircraft were unscathed: to the nose, engines, and mid-body. Of course, most of his colleagues thought this was crazy. After all, that’s not where the planes were getting shot. Except Wald realized what the others didn’t: the planes were getting shot there too, but were NOT making it home.

The damaged portions of returning planes show where they can take a hit (red dots) and still return home safely; those hit in other places do not survive. (Image shows hypothetical data.)

The Navy thought it was analyzing where aircraft were suffering most. What they actually analyzed was where aircraft could suffer the most damage without catastrophic failure. They weren’t looking at the whole sample set, they were only looking at the survivors.

After the war, the Navy was able to study the planes that were shot down, the ones who didn’t make it home. And they found Wald was correct. Wald took “Survivor Bias” into his calculations when considering how to minimize bomber losses to enemy fire. His work is considered seminal in the then-new discipline of operational research.

So what does this have to do with Direct Selling? EVERYTHING.


For decades companies, leaders and trainers in Direct Selling have had a strong bias towards only studying successful companies and distributors. In other words, we predominately studied the ones who made it, the survivors.

We’ve been guilty of survivor bias. And it’s been getting in the way of finding how to INCREASE our success rates.

Taking a cue from Abraham Wald, two years ago we began to study companies and distributors who did NOT make it. The more research we did, the more excited we became. Why? Because the conclusions have been nothing short of astounding.

In the failures, we found “blind spots” to success. In accepted “best practices” we found “fatal flaws.” In common “encouraged behaviors” we found “catastrophic consequences.”

We found large missing gaps, even completely fundamentally flawed principles, in many trainings and systems. Survivor Bias has steered many of us off course.

Here’s the good news. Once your eyes are opened, and you see the Survivor Bias flaws in Direct Selling, you’ll be thrilled as the solutions become clear. Some are so simple, you’ll literally slap your forehead thinking “of course!” Some are a bit more nuanced, some require deeper thought. But I know this much… you’ll love the increased success rates for you and your team!

Here’s the even better news. At this year’s Mastermind Event, I have an entire session dedicated to “Unlocking Hidden Growth Lessons From Decades Of Survivor Bias in Direct Selling.” And that’s just ONE session from the three days you’ll experience at Mastermind 2019. We’ve done the research. We’ve done the deep thinking. We’ve done the heavy lifting.

And here’s the best part: you and your team will get it ALL, LIVE at Mastermind 2019. If you don’t have your tickets yet, get your tickets today.

Yes, by studying the ones “who did not make it home (those who quit the business, or flat out failed)” we’ve learned how to sponsor more distributors, how to keep them longer and how to move them up the ranks faster. And you’ll learn it all in this brand new masterclass session.

Here’s to Your Success!

— Art Jonak
Mastermind Event Presenter

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“Survivor Bias” In Direct Selling

Art Jonak

Is “Survivor Bias” a big reason why distributors fail?


The bad news is, yes it is.
The good news is we’ve figured out how to fix this HUGE problem. But first, a quick background story.

During World War II, the Navy tried to determine where they needed more armor on planes, to minimize losses to enemy fire. They ran an analysis of where planes had been shot, and their conclusion was to add armor to the areas that showed the most damage: the wingtips, central body, and elevators. That’s where the planes were getting shot the most.

Statistician Abraham Wald disagreed and noted the analysis only considered the aircraft that had survived their missions — the bombers that had been shot down were NOT part of the damage assessment. The holes in the returning aircraft only represented areas where a bomber could take damage and still return home safely.

Wald proposed the Navy add armor to the areas where the returning aircraft were unscathed: to the nose, engines, and mid-body. Of course, most of his colleagues thought this was crazy. After all, that’s not where the planes were getting shot. Except Wald realized what the others didn’t: the planes were getting shot there too, but were NOT making it home.

The damaged portions of returning planes show where they can take a hit (red dots) and still return home safely; those hit in other places do not survive. (Image shows hypothetical data.)

The Navy thought it was analyzing where aircraft were suffering most. What they actually analyzed was where aircraft could suffer the most damage without catastrophic failure. They weren’t looking at the whole sample set, they were only looking at the survivors.

After the war, the Navy was able to study the planes that were shot down, the ones who didn’t make it home. And they found Wald was correct. Wald took “Survivor Bias” into his calculations when considering how to minimize bomber losses to enemy fire. His work is considered seminal in the then-new discipline of operational research.

So what does this have to do with Direct Selling? EVERYTHING.


For decades companies, leaders and trainers in Direct Selling have had a strong bias towards only studying successful companies and distributors. In other words, we predominately studied the ones who made it, the survivors.

We’ve been guilty of survivor bias. And it’s been getting in the way of finding how to INCREASE our success rates.

Taking a cue from Abraham Wald, two years ago we began to study companies and distributors who did NOT make it. The more research we did, the more excited we became. Why? Because the conclusions have been nothing short of astounding.

In the failures, we found “blind spots” to success. In accepted “best practices” we found “fatal flaws.” In common “encouraged behaviors” we found “catastrophic consequences.”

We found large missing gaps, even completely fundamentally flawed principles, in many trainings and systems. Survivor Bias has steered many of us off course.

Here’s the good news. Once your eyes are opened, and you see the Survivor Bias flaws in Direct Selling, you’ll be thrilled as the solutions become clear. Some are so simple, you’ll literally slap your forehead thinking “of course!” Some are a bit more nuanced, some require deeper thought. But I know this much… you’ll love the increased success rates for you and your team!

Here’s the even better news. At this year’s Mastermind Event, I have an entire session dedicated to “Unlocking Hidden Growth Lessons From Decades Of Survivor Bias in Direct Selling.” And that’s just ONE session from the three days you’ll experience at Mastermind 2019. We’ve done the research. We’ve done the deep thinking. We’ve done the heavy lifting.

And here’s the best part: you and your team will get it ALL, LIVE at Mastermind 2019. If you don’t have your tickets yet, get your tickets today.

Yes, by studying the ones “who did not make it home (those who quit the business, or flat out failed)” we’ve learned how to sponsor more distributors, how to keep them longer and how to move them up the ranks faster. And you’ll learn it all in this brand new masterclass session.

Here’s to Your Success!

— Art Jonak
Mastermind Event Presenter

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