Posts Tagged ‘false equivalency’

Anyone != Everyone

June 3, 2010

“Surely not everyone” from Seth’s Blog:

A newspaper asked me the following, which practically set my hair on fire:

What inherent traits would make it easier for someone to becoming a linchpin? Surely not everyone can be a linchpin?

Why not? How dare anyone say that some people aren’t somehow qualified to bring emotional labor to their work, somehow aren’t genetically or culturally endowed with the seeds or instincts or desires to invent new techniques or ideas, or aren’t chosen to connect with other human beings in a way that changes them for the better?

The newspaper questioner was right, and Seth was wrong. The questioner suggested that not everyone can be a linchpin. Seth’s non-answer is that anyone can be a linchpin. That may be true, but there’s a difference between anyone and everyone.

Pick any trait where performance is strongly correlated with effort or time, and where there’s no or little predetermined correlation (e.g., no genetic bias, so most sports are out). Obviously anyone is capable of putting in time or effort to produce above-average performance. But not everyone can be above average.

I think this is a common mistake, and it goes both ways. One of the reasons I think some people dislike Tim Ferriss is that he is misread in this way. He writes about remarkable things he has done, such as becoming the National Chinese Kickboxing Champion, and he suggests that anyone could do such things. Readers object that if everyone tried these things, the techniques would not work, but they’re argueing against a statement he never made. Anyone could do it, but not everyone could do it.