Vishal Biyani

17 May 2020

Universal Laws of Success

One of the best episodes I recently heard on Art of manliness where guest Albert talks about network theory and the five laws of success they found based on research.


Performance drives success if it can be measured but where the performance is difficult to measure - the network drives the success. For ex. in Arts - performance is difficult to measure, whereas sports - numbers speak for themselves. There are professions/pursuits which fall in between the spectrum (academia)

But does not mean mindless networking works - you need to understand the power laws and functioning of networks and position yourself better there. And this applies to startups as much to art.

A classic example is “Red Baron” who got much more popular despite René Fonck being far superior in terms of performance as a pilot in WW1. The red baron painted his plane RED - despite common wisdom that you should paint plane with colors that hide.


Performance is bounded but success is unbounded - which really translates to the fact that the performance No.1 and No.2 may be hardly distinguishable but the success varies widely. The best is not 10X better than others but may be slightly better.

In fields where network drives success - you can game for a while but eventually quality of the outcome derives long term success. For ex. Authors buy books in bulk to get to NY TOP 100 list but if book is not great - it won’t stay there for long.


Future success = previous success x fitness/competence of node in network. Humans are risk averse and they end up picking people with some track record of success. Even if you do work - the first endorsement matters for subsequent success.


Team success needs diversity and balance - but the credit for success is often given to a one or few individuals - based on perception of community. For building perception it is important to speak/write and involve in community. But for one to succeed - you have to strengthen the credit in one area of work in which you work with a successful person to start with and then build your own identity


With Persistence - success can come anytime and age does not matter as much. Age reduces productivity (Due to responsibilities, family etc.) but does not reduce creativity

Great example- John Fenn -first research paper at 32, mandatory retired 70 from Yale, kept going, started at Virginia CU at 76, Nobel at 85, worked till last days before death; “Your chance of success is shaped by your willingness to try repeatedly for a breakthrough”

Summary of Tweetstorm on same topic here: