Things that frost my shorts: quasi-science edition

There was an op-ed in the NYT this weekend, titled:Is Music the Key to Success? by Joanne Lipman. author of the book “Strings Attached: One Tough Teacher and the Gift of Great Expectations.”

I have no doubt music helps. I usually work with music. One of the benefits, for me, of the internet, is constant, high quality music whilst I work. It is inspiring, it masks the irritations of other people with in noise distance, etc etc.

In the article, Lipman talks about how nearly-world-class musicians took the disicipline, training, etc, benefited from their music careers:

Almost all made a connection between their music training and their professional achievements.

Well, thats great, and is probably true. But, she only asked successful people who had had a background with musical training (of significance).

I put the question to top-flight professionals in industries from tech to finance to media, all of whom had serious (if often little-known) past lives as musicians.

I call this exploratory analysis. Preliminary data connection. How many people of equivalent musical ability did not achieve that level success? How many are mid-level managers? Or more importantly, how many turned away from this definition of success and did something more important to them (raising a family, say, or work that let them come home at 5pm to be with their kids?).

And of course, there are no controls. What about people with visual art careers? What about people who were serious sport successes (at even the collegiate level)? One of my favorite colleagues played Division II football in college. His view is that after that, everything in life is easy.

What about shams (in the experimental design sense)? What about people who were successful scientists and then became artists? Did their science inform their art?

What about people who were not quite so successful at music? Are they in equal proportions in the leadership roles? Are successful and not-successful musicians, artists, sports figures, and what the heck, bloggers, successful at something else, too?

There are ways to isolate, in experimental design, the effect of a factor. I suspect that 1) people who are driven, are driven whatever they do. I suspect that physical intelligence (of a surgeon, a sports player or an artist) can translate between disciplines.

Yes, it’s good to be exposed to culture. But this article doesn’t show correlation, let alone causation.

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