Posted on January 20, 2023  
by Noel Guilford

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz is a former Google data scientist and self-confessed data nerd. His research uses big-data sources to uncover hidden behaviours and attitudes, and answer questions like how to have a successful relationship, what makes us happiest and how start a successful business.

Not surprisingly – given its title – Don’t Trust Your Gut shows how our gut isn’t that reliable when it comes to taking big decisions.

On starting a business he debunks the myth that most successful tech businesses are started by 19 year old college drop-outs. When it comes to age, the entrepreneurs we read about aren’t representative. It turns out that the most successful business founders are in their early 40s and have honed their skills in a corporate career before going it alone.

Nor does luck play as big a part in business success as the media would have us believe. Using data from Collins and Hansen’s book Good to Great, Stephens-Davidowitz reveals that there is no statistically significant difference in the number of lucky breaks received by the most and least successful businesses. The actual difference, he says, is that the more successful companies were better able to capitalise on the luck they got. They recognised an opportunity that occurred outside of their control and made the most of it.

The chapters on what makes us happy – and miserable – based on millions of happiness measures are particularly revealing. Work (generally) sucks and makes us miserable, and sex makes us happiest of all particularly if its overlooking a body of water on a sunny day!

Don’t Trust Your Gut is full of fascinating stories which reveal how wrong we often are when we take decisions based on what we think we know rather than the data.

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