Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison (The Doors), Janis Joplin, Brian Jones (Rolling Stones), Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (Grateful Dead), Pete Ham (Badfinger), Chris Bell (Big Star), and more recently Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) and Amy Winehouse…
These are just a few members of the now notorious “27 Club” – infamous musicians who all tragically died at the ripe old age of 27. This club also includes many other notable actors, artists, and entertainers as well. Causes of death range from addiction, to suicide, to freak accidents. Creepy coincidences? Seems like a lot doesn’t it? In psychology, the mental shortcut or cognitive bias known as the availability heuristic fuels this notion that information that we are more aware of, or that can be recalled easily, must have more significant meaning. For example, we assume plane crashes and child abductions are way more prevalent than they actually are, because these things make the news and are in our face frequently.
So because we’ve heard of so many of these famous “27” fatalities, we falsely assume that there’s something more to it than there actually is. When you choose to expand your perspective to consider all of the other musicians, actors, artists, and entertainers who have not died at the age of 27, you start to realize the very low statistical percentage that this group actually represents. But that doesn’t make for good headlines, stories, or folklore does it?
The choices we make today put us in positions to experience our outcomes tomorrow. Good, and not-so-good outcomes, and everything in between. While I do believe, sometimes shit just happens for reasons unknown, I’d argue that this happens the minority, not the majority of the time. So are the “27 Club” members just an unlucky bunch then? Hardly… they were all very well-known and accomplished in their fields. Getting lucky, or unlucky then, is largely a matter of preparation mixed with opportunity. And both of these areas involve the choices you and I make moment-to-moment. Choices to excel at what we do; and choices to put ourselves in positions to win.
The unpopular point here is that the 27 tribe made a series of choices, over time, that put them into the places and circumstances that ultimately, directly or indirectly, led to their early deaths. Just as they also made choices that put themselves into positions to accomplish so much, so young. You gotta look at it both ways. It’s called critical thinking, and it’s critical to your success.