👩‍🎓 Harvard's fake study

and why you'll believe anything

In 1953 Harvard surveyed their graduating class of MBA students to find out how many of them had specific goals.

Turns out:

- Only 3% had written goals and plans

- 13% had goals (just not written down)

- 84% had no specific goals whatsoever

10 years later the 3% of students with written goals were making 10x more money than the rest.

Cool right?

Except that this study never actually happened. (Harvard confirmed it doesn’t exist)

And to think, 1000s of online sources and gurus like Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, and Brian Tracy have quoted this study!

This one probably wasn’t intentionally fabricated - most likely a bad case of the game "telephone" on a global scale. (Interestingly, more recent research from a different school did find a link between written goals and higher results)

Although, you might be surprised to hear that wikipedia maintains an ongoing list of currently 76 records of intentional misconduct connected to 1000s of falsified scholarly papers and research across all scientific disciplines. And I’m sure there’s plenty more fakes still undiscovered.

So yes, unfortunately there are “scientists” out there who make up stuff that you and I take as gospel.

But why are we so gullible to believe it?

Neil Postman has a theory.

In 1990 he spoke about the dangers of computers and the Information Age at the German Informatics Society. He shares an “experiment” he’d been doing for about 5 years at the time where he’d ask a colleague in the morning whether or not they’d read the New York Times yet.

As long as they said they hadn’t yet, he’d follow up by saying something like:

"Well, they did this study to find out what foods are best to eat for losing weight, and it turns out that a normal diet supplemented by chocolate eclairs, eaten six times a day, is the best approach. It seems that there's some special nutrient in the eclairs -- encomial dioxin -- that actually uses up calories at an incredible rate.”

Or even.. “The neuro-physiologists at the University of Stuttgart have uncovered a connection between jogging and reduced intelligence. They tested more than 1200 people over a period of five years, and found that as the number of hours people jogged increased, there was a corresponding decrease in their intelligence. They don't know exactly why but there it is.”

The responses he got (sadly) ranged from genuine curiosity, to something like “oh yeah, I’ve heard something like that before”.

Human nature is to think “I wouldn’t fall for that..”, but how would you even know?

Neil Postman says “in a world without spiritual or intellectual order, nothing is unbelievable; nothing is predictable, and therefore, nothing comes as a particular surprise

From the dawn of photoshop, to deepfakes, to the rise of AI chat bots and countless generative AI programs creating art, coding, web design, even music - we seem to be losing our sense of reality faster than we can adapt to these new technologies.

It’s now a regular occurrence for me to have to question whether what I’m watching on YouTube is, in fact, “real”.

When technology makes anything possible, why doubt anything at all?

Because it’s good practice.

No, I’m not advocating to become a doubtful pessimist.

But even the most spiritual believer in miracles is kept safe with a healthy dose of curious (even skeptical) questions.

Especially because we’re extra vulnerable to believe anything that confirms what we already think.

All I’m saying is that when someone tells you some fact that seems totally legit, consider why it might be true AND why it might be false.

Ask about the source, even look it up yourself, and consider whether that source might have ulterior motives (like when tobacco companies funded research linking smoking to better mental health - nice try, Camel!).

While the world gets crazier, the habit of asking a few more questions can make you much wiser.

Wisdom is not believing anything. It's developed by discerning what's true and what isn't, and by questioning your own assumptions.

Next time you hear something sensational, practice asking yourself BOTH questions:

- How might this to be true?

- How might this to NOT be true?

Try and come up with at least 3-5 reasons for each side - then maybe look up the source yourself before deciding one way or another!


"Don't wait until you have free time to start a fitness program.

Because when you get busy again, you'll stop.

The best time to start is actually when you're busy.

Learning how to fit it in when time's are tough means you'll stick with it over the long haul."

Thanks for reading!

- Kody

P.S. This has always been one of my favorite songs! Awesome movie, too 😄