Perspective

by abclarke

The Worst Month of my Life?

Folks who’ve worked with me know that I love data.  Regular readers of my blog have probably gathered that too.  But I’ve also maintained that numbers don’t tell the entire story.

And this week, I have a great example of that in action.  Take a look at my most recent training numbers and you’ll see that things have been spotty.  I’ve vacillated between strong weeks and weak weeks.   Looked strictly numerically and it would look like things are not going well.

And if you think things look spotty this week, wait until you see next week.  I already know I’m going to miss almost all my goals this week.  Why?  Because starting Sunday morning I came down with the worst flu I’ve had in 9 years!  I wasn’t able to stay standing for more than 5 minutes until about 2 hours ago (Tuesday around 1pm).

Yup, looking at all that data, and you’d think that things are sucking pretty hard right now.

And yet, I’ve just had one of the best months of my entire life.  What gives?

Another Perspective

What happens is that numbers cannot and do not catch an entire story.  They are useful to be sure; you can bet the numbers saying I’m struggling with my swimming goals are helpful.  You can bet I weigh more now than a month ago.  But they don’t capture everything.  In the best of cases, they only capture what you intended to measure – and often they don’t even do that.   So you have to be careful to always look at numbers in context.

And here’s the context: In my case, the numbers I’m publishing are tracking my fitness goals, but they are not tracking my other life goals.  And despite a few weeks of missing gym goals and despite being so sick I couldn’t sleep for more than an hour at a time for 48-hours, some pretty amazing things have gone down lately in the other goals in my life.

What the Numbers Don’t Show

First, for those who don’t know, my wife J has been applying for teaching positions in Neuro-Oncology.  Her New York fellowship ends in June, and she’s now about to begin the first non-training phase of her medical career.  About three weeks ago, after a long process, she accepted a teaching and clinical research position at UCSF in San Francisco.  That means that come July we’ll be returning to the Bay Area.  We’re both extremely excited.  J is really excited about the job, and even though we love New York, being here has also taught us something valuable: we’re Californians at heart.

Secondly, I’ve been working on my company Vlideshow for about 5 months now.  Up until now it’s been a one-man-show, but over the past 6 weeks I’ve been working part time with a potential business partner in the Bay Area to see how well we might work together.  It went really well, and last week I travelled out for a quick trip (sorry for those I didn’t stop by and visit, but it really was a working session) to see how thing went in person.  The answer: things went pretty well, and just this week (and I still hope it’s actually true and not flu-induced wishful thinking on my part) he has accepted my offer to join me full time as a co-founder in Vlideshow.

To borrow a phrase from my friends Mike and Rick, I’m as happy as a pig in shit right now.

That’s a lot of really exciting change in four weeks, and one that doesn’t show up via metrics.  So despite the flu, despite a couple of aches and pains, and despite the fact that I’m probably 4-6 weeks behind on my swimming goals, looked at in context, the numbers look great.

The Point

The point is (despite letting folks know I’m returning to California) is that you must treat data as just one part of a story.

Think of it like the sound-track in a movie: it tells you something about what’s happening on the screen, but you’d be a fool if you didn’t open your eyes and watch the movie to see the actual story being told.

– Art