So how do you keep score?

In the last post the concept of metrics came up. I think it would be worthwhile to spend some time discussing metrics: what they are, how they come about, and the implications of having (and not having) them.

Let’s start with a example because, well, it’s an example.
I was recently watching a documentary on extreme sports with a focus on the cameramen that accompany some of the most daring of dare-devils. These “in the shadow” guys perform the same feats in the same conditions with the same risks and needed skills as their more celebrated cohorts. It can even be argued that their’s is a more difficult task as their focus is not solely on completing the action but on documenting someone else completing the action with the additional encumbrance of camera equipment (so both mental and physical obstacles)!

One sky-suit diver (those dudes who jump off rock faces wearing what amounts to a flying squirrel suit) commented that through an entire flight he was solely fixed on the dude in front of him, not being able to note the changing dangers of rock cliffs, air currents and the ever-approaching ground below. The documentary interviewer (Bryant Gumbel) questioned this cameraman as to why he didn’t seek the celebrity of being the point-man, the one of attention and focus? “After-all” quipped Gumball, “You are performing the same “extreme” action.”

Later in the documentary, Mr. Gumbel made the additional comment that these cameramen are not paid “that much.” I may be reading too much into this statement, but it seems to highlight that


The metric for determining value or success is money.

And this does seem like a very easily and accessible metric for guys. We typically receive a salary or payment for the work we do professionally, we keep bank accounts with numbers that readily note aspects of this metric: up/down, more/less. We can even get fancy with percentages and rates of difference. This metric of financial accumulation hits on many triggers for us in the real world and I’m not suggesting it’s a bad one.


But is it the only one, or even the most salient one?

Why the lack of acknowledgement, as a metric, of performing an activity for the sake of its enjoyment. After all, this was the reason given multiple times by the cameraman himself. Do we disbelieve him? Or do we just not share his framework of what is worthwhile?

A metric seems to be a way in which we keep track or keep score of what we consider worthwhile or important. Perhaps as a way of rationalizing why we do the things we do. It’s a way to measure or apply a scale that we can then assess to determine whether we’ve achieved or not achieved what we want. Then, if the metric is dynamic enough, we can even determine how far off we are in our short-comings or how far over we are in attainment.

Two core components of metrics seem to be that they be valid – that is measuring the thing we want to measure; and that they be reliable – that is providing feedback that can be used repeatedly over time.

So, in application we have our enjoyment from hobbies, and this enjoyment can then becomes a metric. Similarly we can work for money and for enjoyment, possibly combining metrics – fancy! As we all experience though, enjoyment is somewhat less measurable than money. How then do we use enjoyment as a metric? And how can we get realiability? This becomes a concern and maybe one reason that we shy away from using these types of metrics in favor of the the bank account which is easy to understand and consistent in use. I’ll shirk from providing an answer here.


But the point is to consider these other metrics: enjoyment, relaxation, excitement, etc. because they are very much a part of life and when experienced can do much to make life fulfilling.

Another benefit of applying multiple metrics is that all your eggs aren’t in one basket. Meaning that if the bank account is not the sole indicator of life’s value then an amount of stress can be alleviated. Sure it may suck to lose money, but if you just got back from a trip in which you scaled the face of that daunting cliff that resulting experience may mitigate the negative impact of a bank loss and your overall big-picture satisfaction of life.

Not only do you expand your immediate range of awareness, you lessen the opportunity for dissatisfaction. Win-win!

So a next step is to consider areas of life. Understand what they offer you that you deem worthwhile, valuable, important, etc. Then determine how they can they be assessed in a way that is valid and reliable. Begin considering what you want to experience more of in life (money, autonomy, excitement, travel, down-time, whatever). From here actual behaviors can be tried with the aim of bringing about these desired things. And then metrics for the behaviors can be hashed out so you can develop a usable system.