Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Survivors Are Luckier Than You Think

At the start of World War II, RAF Bomber Command thought it could win the war without sending a single allied soldier into Germany. The plan was simple: if you couldn’t catch the Jerry’s in their factories, you could catch them in their beds. 

Executing the plan, however, wasn’t as simple. In fact, it was a disaster.

Bombers fell easy prey to the Luftwaffe during the day. And no bomber crew could hit its target in the dark.

Roughly three bombs of every 100 got within five miles of the aiming point. 

The Germans, on the other hand, proved much better marksmen.

By the end of 1941, Britain had lost 700 aircraft.

The RAF did its best to minimize its losses by strengthening the armour of its bombers. But the initial reinforcements did little.

Not because the armour didn’t provide better protection, but because it was in the wrong place.

If a bomber returned home from a raid, its fuselage was usually riddled with holes.


Credit: Martin Grandjean, McGeddon and Cameron Moll.

British engineers first thought they should strengthen the places that attracted the most fire. Believing the less bullet holes in the plane, the more likely the plane will survive the trip.

Compelling, but wrong.

If a plane makes it back with its wings looking like swiss cheese, it should tell you that those bullet holes don’t hurt its ability to fly.

But places that have little to no bullet holes? Those areas should be reinforced because bombers with that type of damage seem to never come back.

A conclusion that would have been much easier to make if we could have looked at the aircraft that were shot down or lost.

Drawing false conclusions from survivors happens all the time. You undoubtedly do it too, for the simple reason that our society tends to celebrate winners and ignore losers.

Rockstars. Celebrities. CEOs.  Nobel Prize winners. Gold medallists. Beauty queens. Tech giants. Billion-dollar companies. 

Success is everywhere. Which makes you think that making it big isn’t all that difficult.

But that’s a lie.

Behind every pop singer are 100 other singers whose albums will never sell. Behind them are another 100 without a record label. Behind them are another 100 who nobody’s heard of. And behind them are another 100 who are dreaming of starting a band. 

Survivors are luckier than you think.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach