Should we be suspicious of entrepreneurial stories?

A very intriguing TED talk by Tyler Cowen. Let me recap some of his main points:

1. People love stories.

2. No one describes their life as mess. People typically describe it as a journey, battle, novel, race, play, etc.

3. By telling stories, we are imposing order on the mess that we observe. When something is in the form of a story, often we remember it when we shouldn’t.

4. We should be suspicious of stories … and give in instead to “epistemological hovering and messiness and incompleteness … where not everything ties up into a complete bow and you are really not on a journey …  you are here for some messy reason or reasons and you do not know what it is”

We do get excited and inspired by entrepreneurial stories, so where does this leave us? I am personally very wary of extrapolating from individual stories, particularly in the form of “key takeaways” [my favourite are “work hard”, “believe in yourself”, “be persistent”, “challenge the status quo”, “take risks”]. We first need to understand why these things worked in the particular case before blindly applying them to another.