The illusion of control

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Few important facts

  • 1) Fact 1: Facebook tried to create a clone of Snapchat after it failed to quire it. That Clone failed
  • 2) Fact 2: Microsoft failed to replicate the Ipod when they created Microsoft Zune
  • 3) Fact 3: Google Tried to copy Facebook twice by creating Orkut and Google plus but both failed

How resourceful do you think Facebook, Microsoft and Google are?
The 3 companies have infinite amounts of cash, they have the best talents and all the resources needed to do anything.

How come then all three companies failed to achieve those goals?
How couldn't Facebook with its 1 billion users crush Snapchat?
How come Google with all of its money couldn't make its social network popular?
How come Microsoft failed to create a music device that appeals to people?

For the first instance there might seem like there are logical answers but in fact there aren't. While some reasons can be pointed out for some of those failures still sometimes its hard to understand how a resourceful company can fail to do something.

Are we really in control?

Just like resourceful companies can fail resourceful people can also fail. The legend says that passionate people who are very smart and persistent usually succeed, but is that always true?

90% of start-ups usually fail. People who are extremely passionate about certain things and who are very small can still fail. But what's the explanation? and how come can a person who did everything right fails?

The reason this question is confusing to you is that you are trying to answer it without coming near an assumption that you already made long ago. This assumption is that we are fully in control.

People who assume that they are fully in control usually get puzzled when they see things going in the wrong direction. A person who does everything right then fails usually ends with a crushed self esteem.

After all if smart and passionate people always succeed then this person must be a a dumb person because he failed, right?
No that's totally incorrect simply because a smart and passionate person can do everything right and still fail.

A real life example

You can practice driving for 10 years and become an expert then one day make an accident because someone else who don't know how to drive crushed into you. Now lets look at this event from different angles:

  • 1) Had you been a bit late you would have been safe: Had you forgotten your keys at home then went down 5 minutes late this accident wouldn't have happened to you
  • 2) Had you been a bit early nothing would have happened: If you woke up 5 minutes earlier that day then the accident might have not happened
  • 3 Had that person been early or late the accident wouldn't have had happened: If the same happened to that person then he wouldn't have crashed into your car

There are so many other angles from which the accident can be analyzed but most of them point to one thing which is that we are not fully in control of the events that happen to us in our lives.

Moreover a single event can lead to multiple future events.
What if the person who crashed into your car later became a friend a told you about a great business opportunity that changed your life?
What if that accident made you disabled?
What if that person owned a company then hired you to get over the guilt he felt?

As you can see we are not fully in control simply because we don't live alone. In my previous article How luck works i explained how so many things can happen to us that change our course of life without our intervention.

The illusion of control is the tendency of people to overestimate their ability to control events.
The truth is that we are not fully in control.

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