Show me a number and I’ll show you how to get anal about it. A central theme in my life since childhood. First the marks. Must-score-more-than-x, self respect at stake. Gradually it became incentivized, must-score-more-for-bike. Then the stakes were higher. Must-score-more-for-job, etc.
Then came real life, more numbers. Salary. Temperature. Odometer. Speedometer. Targets. Age.
Those around me who took up investing gladly missed sex for the Sensex. CNBC’s morning coverage was a fucking headache with that ticker refusing to cease and desist.
Quantifying removes ambiguity, probably fools people into believing that if it can be measured it can be explained, or even controlled. Wrong. It’s the other way round.
The moment I quantify anything two questions always arise in my mind
- “so where is this going to go?” and
- “what can I do to make it change?”.
The need for control, you see. The need to play God. But I KNOW that number will consume me if I track it.
Twitter followers? Nice. Hmm. How can I get some more?
Salary figure? Nice. Hmm. How can I get a lot more? (Nothing wrong with that, eh?)
Pedometer? Swell. Now how fast should I run to get that calorie count ticking?
Very soon it’s the number that drives you. It makes you set thresholds and kill yourself trying to achieve them. Once you achieve them, there is no sense of victory. It’s as hollow as Pt Chaurasiya’s favorite instrument. The mark gets set higher.
A trivial example. I recently bought a car which shows me the fuel efficiency in nice glowing real-time numbers on the dash. Now I spend the better part of my drive to work trying out different driving styles to make that number go up. 25? Great. But what if I brake late on this slope and use the momentum to navigate this turn without….etc. You get the picture. The next day if that number doesn’t touch 25, I’ll be disappointed. Citius, Altius and all that jazz.
I’m trying not to make generalizations here but surely this drama plays out in all our lives on a daily basis. Fuel efficiency for me, outperforming the market for someone else.
That number on the payslip goes up by a finite amount every year. Both numbers, before and after, are etched in our minds. But real life happens between those numbers.
Sometimes I feel like breaking free. Drive for the pleasure, work for the satisfaction, run for the exhilaration, and let those ol’ numbers keep ticking to wherever they wanna go.
This post was chosen by Blogadda as part of its Spicy Saturday picks.