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Discover The Formula To Success Defined By Big Data And Network Science

Xavier Rigoulet
July 21st, 2021 · 7 min read

By subscribing to the Newsletter, you will receive a pdf document summarizing the takeaways of this book. It will help you to catch at a glance what you need to do to succeed.

Do you wish to be more successful than you currently are? What if we could find the inherent principles of success? In this article, we will look at what are the principles leading to success as defined by Albert-László Barabási.

The author invites us to discover the keys to success in his 2018 book, “The Formula”. “The Formula” is the result of research leveraging the use of Big Data and Network Science to uncover the rules underlying success.

Albert-László Barabási collected and analyzed data to find patterns and understand them. From there, he extracted five laws of success. While the terms “Formula” or “Laws” can be problematic or sound off, here it has to be understood as a way to formally describe the patterns that his team and he found in the data.

Albert-László Barabási distinguishes performance and success. The former is about what one can do while the latter is about how one is recognized in relation to their performance.

In this article, we will discover the five laws of success along with some ideas to apply them ourselves, so we can find more success along the way.

Without further ado, let’s get right into it!

1st Law Of Success: Performance Drives Success, But When Performance Can’t Be Measured, Our Networks Drive Success

In this part, Albert-László Barabási emphasizes the importance of being skilled to be successful. To illustrate his point, he mentions the story of Red Baron, a famous german aviator during World War I. Red Baron is recognized as a deadly ace who shot down 80 allied planes. He fled a bright red plane and was extraverted. It helped him develop a robust network of people familiar with skills to pass the legend across time.

Albert-László Barabási goes on by mentioning another aviator, a french one, René Paul Fonck. You might not know about him, and myself, although I am french, did not know him either. Interestingly, Barabási explains that others described René Paul Fonck as highly talented as a fighter pilot. In fact, he was even more capable than the Red Baron, and it is claimed that he shot down 127 German planes.

Another proof that René Paul Fonck was more talented than The Red Baron is that the latter died during a battle while René Paul Fonck has survived them all and died in 1953, many years after the end of the war.

Success is about how you and your performances are perceived by others.

The takeaway here is that it is crucial to work on our skills. For example, I spend time every day to get better in my specialty, but while it is essential to upskill over time, it is even more important to network.

Suppose performance is easily measurable, for example. In that case, if you are a champion runner, you will get plenty of recognition. Still, more often than not, it can be challenging to rank people according to their performance, especially when it is not easily measurable, for example, in music or arts. This is where the network will show its importance.

You might be the most skilled person out there; if nobody hears about you, nobody will be able to provide you with an opportunity, simply because they do not know you and do not know how others perceive you.

For example, one thing that you can easily do is to optimize as much as possible your LinkedIn profile and be active on the platform.

After all, if you already have an account, why not try to get the most that you can out of it? It means connecting and engaging actively with others to grow your network and post regularly, and commenting on what others say, in brief, to be active.

2nd Law Of Success: Performance Is Bounded, But Success Is Unbounded.

Next, Albert-László Barabási explains that while performance is bounded, success is unbounded. What it means is that performance does not always reflect success. Even for experts, it might be challenging to differentiate between top performers. It means that “performance is bounded”.

You might not need to perform exponentially better than you do right now to experience exponential growth in terms of success.

Albert-László Barabási and his team found no limit to the success that someone can get, and in many cases, success leads to more success.

The advice given in the book is that if you are interacting in an environment where it can be difficult to measure performance, it may be better to find different ways to stand out from the team. For example, you can collaborate and emphasize teamwork. Such an attitude would lead to increased productivity of the group, as well.

Unless you can compete to be a top performer in an area where performance is easily measurable, do not seek success in an area where performance is easy to measure.

Also, Albert-László Barabási explains that the key to winning is to compete a lot, so keep showing up. Once you start winning, you are more likely to continue to succeed because success will build upon itself over time.

You might hit a plateau in terms of performance but it does not mean that you cannot get more success.

3rd Law Of Success: Previous Success x Fitness = Future Success

Here, the author explains that future success is dictated by previous success multiplied by the fitness of your idea or product. It means that while your product or your idea is essential. If you got some win before, you are likely to get more. Also, if you brand yourself, then you are the product, and fitness relates to you.

Here ‘fitness’ is how you can retain positive attention and regards from others. Online, it would be how well you present yourself, the quality of the content you share, the design of your website, your recent activity.

For example, we end up rating things positively because our peers have done so. Social influence plays a big part here in predicting success. Popularly breeds popularity in the same way that success breeds success.

And let’s face it, we are all more willing to buy a product if many customers already gave many positive reviews. Also, if we pass by an empty restaurant, we might be more tempted to think that the food is not pleasant.

The takeaway here is that getting positive reviews, views, engagement, followers, and so on Social Media will positively impact your brand. It is also essential to actively network and connect with influential nodes in one’s network.

As you receive more and more positive feedback, it will get easier over time. This emphasizes the idea of perseverance and that every small success is essential.

However, it might take time, so one has to be patient. Even if the results are small at the beginning, it’s worth it to keep pushing. The compounding effect of the process will take place, and success will come.

4th Law Of success: While Team Success Requires Diversity And Balance, A Single Individual Will Receive Credit For The Group’s Achievements

Albert-László Barabási found through data that the more a team has a clear leader, the more the team is likely to be successful. And success is not based on actual performance but perception. So, the more someone is perceived to positively impact a team, the more likely he is to receive the credits for the team’s achievements.

Committed leaders with a vision and determination seem to work well. However, if there are too many strong players, it can impact the team’s performance as egos get in the picture. Albert-László Barabási emphasizes that communication is essential and has to be done in a meaningful way. Email is not a great medium of communication for problem solving and creativity. Team members need time to talk to each other.

The takeaway here is to provide visible contributions and build your reputation for what you want to be recognized for.

5th Law Of Success: With Persistence, Success Can Come At Any Time

Albert Einstein said that a physicist’s great discoveries have to happen at an early age, and in fact, Barabasi confirmed this.

However, Albert-László Barabási also points out that young researchers are more productive, and since they publish more papers, they have more chances to encounter success.

What the author shows here is that age predicts productivity, and productivity predicts success. To him, each completed project has the same probability of success, but because people tend to complete more projects at a younger age, they increase their chances of success.

Success has no age limit because creativity and innovation have no age limit. The key to finding success is to keep putting your work out into the world, regardless of your field of specialty.

Albert-László Barabási explains that to be successful, we need an idea that can be set as a variable r. Success depends on what Albert-László Barabási calls our Q factor: our capacity to turn an idea into something tangible, whether that’s a product, a discovery, or something others can benefit from.

This gives the following equation of success S:

S = Q x r

The iPhone is an example that illustrates this phenomenon.

This principle illustrates the importance of perseverance. One should keep pushing and be resilient to be successful.

However, if you repeatedly fail to break through, you might be headed in the wrong direction. Working hard is good but working smart is better. If you keep failing, you might need to change direction.

Albert-László Barabási wanted to be a sculptor, but he realized he was not good enough at it. He became a physicist, but it’s through Network Science that he met success.

Finally, work like your current project is your most important one. It will give a better chance for your Q factor to shine.

Do not stop producing good work and do not think that age is a limiting factor.

Closing Thoughts

Albert-László Barabási offers us an exciting insight into what it takes to be successful.

We went through the 5 Laws of success according to the work of Albert-László Barabási and his team:

  • 1st Law: Performance drives success, but when performance can’t be measured, our networks drive success
  • 2nd Law: Performance is bounded, but success is unbounded
  • 3rd Law: Previous success x fitness = future success
  • 4th Law: While team success requires diversity and balance, a single individual will receive credit for the group’s achievements.
  • 5th Law: With persistence, success can come at any time

In summary, the path to success is to keep producing a lot of work in public, to network while providing value to the community, and to craft your image, so people will want to remain connected with you.

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