Friday, March 1, 2013

What to measure, how to measure

I wrote this post soon after I wrote this earlier post on my flight out to NYC earlier this week.  I was thinking about how to measure what I do, and figure out whether I am making progress or not.  If you want some context as to how I arrived at my thoughts, you can read the following earlier posts:


There are two things that you should measure.  Measure what you do everyday, and measure the impact of your everyday action.

What you do everyday is your steps to your goal.  It measures how well you are executing your actions.

The impact of your actions is your goal.  It measures whether your steps are having the effects that you hoped for.

Both are important for different reasons. Let me tell you why.

1. Without action, nothing is going to get done.

If you do nothing, nothing will come out.  If you want to get somewhere, you first have to get up and be in motion.  It does not matter what you are doing.  First do something and do it consistently.

2. Without checking where you are going, you are not going to end up where you want.

Once you started moving, you want to make sure that you are going somewhere instead of going in circles.  It could be that you are going somewhere but it may not be the place where you want to be.  Without looking up from time to reorient yourself, it's impossible to tell whether you are getting closer to your goal, moving further away, or just moving sideways.  Without thinking about how far you need to go further, what steps will take you there, and revising your actions, you are relying on your luck to hit your goal.

3. We simply don't know how to make our goal reality.

Often our goal looks to be a pie in the sky.  The path to the goal is not at all clear to us.  We daydream about things that we wished would happen to us.  But in reality, we don't know how to make it happen.

In reality this is how we all started our lives.  When we were born, none of us had a model of how our world worked around us.  We did not know how to use spoons, forks and knives to eat the food on the table.  We did not know how to put on our clothes. We did not know how to drink out of cups.  Etc, etc.  We did not have motor skills and hand-eye coordination to carry out what we now think of as basic tasks.

Same thing is happening with our goals.  We want to get somewhere, but we don't know what steps will get us there.  This means we have to experiment.  We have to try something first.  If that does not work, learn from it, adjust our model, and try something else.  As we learn more about how our actions are getting us closer to the goal, we can do more of those to get there faster.

This only means one thing.  We have to experiment, measure our experiments, and see how fast we are getting closer to our goal.  But it all starts from doing something.

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