Do elite trappings create success? (Causation vs. correlation)

Does a ski trip to Aspen make you a successful bond trader, or do successful bond traders go skiing in Aspen?

It's college acceptance season, and worth considering an often overlooked question:

Do people who are on track to become successful go to elite colleges, buy elite cars, engage in other elite behaviors… (Defining elite as something both scarce and thus expensive).


Do attending these colleges or engaging in these behaviors make you successful?

It matters, because if you're buying the elite label as a shortcut to success, you might be surprised at what you get.

There are certainly exceptions (for professions that are very focused on a credential, and for the economically disadvantaged), but generally, most elite products like college are overrated as life changers.

It turns out that merely getting into Harvard is as good an indicator of future success as actually going. It turns out that being the sort of person that can invest the effort, conquer fear and/or raise the money to capture some of the elite trappings of visible success is what drives success, not the other way around.

The learning matters a great deal, and especially the focused effort behind it. The brand name of the institution, not so much.

Don't worry so much if some overworked admissions officer or grizzled journalist fails to pick you. It might mean more that you could go, not that you do.

Does advertising on the Super Bowl make your brand successful? I think it's more likely that successful brands advertise on the Super Bowl.