The Art of Mastering Your Metrics

We measure our success with self-imposed metrics. Let’s make them realistic!

When I buy a book from Mr. Bezos, it is just another day at the office.

But imagine how he felt after his first sale.

The reason is that as we evolve, so do our success metrics. This is inevitable. Conversely, our metrics devolve if our lives degenerate – our standards for ourselves are lowered. Age and circumstance also play a role, as there aren’t many go-getting 80-year-olds. There are, however, many of them whose version of success is optimizing the number of rocks in the rocking chair.

Metrics are how we evaluate where we’re at in life.

They can be a great boon if we set realistic ones. However, they can also play to our disadvantage when clouded by our egos and biases.

There is an art to recognize when your metrics are unrealistic and detrimental. Given the variability of individuals reading this, I will refrain from generalizing. I hope you gain some insight from 3 instances in my life where my metrics were flawed.

Writing on Medium

Medium and other social platforms are notorious for creating lofty metrics of success.

The inventor of the like button, Justin Rosenstein, created a widespread infection of illusory metrics in all of us. The infection rests on our need for external validation. When accurately judged, external validation is what made the tribes of our ancestors. However, when external validation is confined to the digital, it creates a false sense of importance. What was the last thing you liked on social media? You probably don’t remember, but the person without clout does. I know this because we are all that person – it goes against human nature not to be.

I want to know if people like my stuff. I want to know if I am any good in the eyes of others. My ego senses that if I don’t get a like, then my survival is threatened.

Of course, my physical survival isn’t at stake here. But my self-identity is.

Needing external validation puts you at the whims of others. Basing your whole life on this metric is like being a kite in a hurricane. Pulled violently in different directions, the external dictates your mental state.

Famous people who could care less about pompous external validation are the ones who stay famous. The others initially shine bright but are quick to fizzle out.

If human nature tells us we need external validation, which kind should we base our self-worth on?

Real-life relationships.

Stay grounded in validation from people you know intimately.

Don’t crave it incessantly but take it as it comes authentically. This is because those people know you. They are not some stranger hiding behind a screen generating superficial success metrics.

No, these people validate you for your virtue and character.

I’d take virtue over engagement any day of the week. Once you get this, it becomes easy to ignore external validation. This doesn’t mean you will cease to feel the emotional ping that comes with a like.

It means that your self-worth becomes detached from it.

My Metrics of Progress in Socializing

When I was fresh out of high school, my social success metrics were delusional.

They were so delusional that I had never met them. I was too busy planning the perfect thing to say to impress someone I hadn’t even met. This caused unnecessary anxiety in my social life. Because these metrics were so unrealistic, I would inevitably get discouraged upon not meeting them. This, in turn, caused me to avoid discomfort and develop a neurotic tendency called social anxiety.

Thankfully, tendencies aren’t set in stone. Sure, the longer you have them, the deeper the conditioning. But I firmly believe one can get out no matter how deep the quicksand.

One way I got out was to change my success metrics in social situations. There were probably more detrimental metrics, but here are 3 that come to mind:

  1. I need the encounter to be so good that I’d have a story to tell.
  2. If I didn’t get the girl’s number, then I failed.
  3. The “quality” and quantity of texts I receive from someone dictate my social success.

Again, all these metrics are faulty because they rely on things outside my control. They are also flawed because they are outcome focused.

The Greeks have a phrase enjoying process itself instead of focusing on the outcome. They call it autotelic goals – auto meaning “self” and telic meaning “end.” The first 2 metrics were changed by adopting this autotelic mindset. I kept it simple; if I just said, “Hi, ” it was a success in my book. I repeated this process of reconditioning my metrics until it became my routine, less-neurotic tendency.

Relationships and conversation should always be autotelic.

Let go of the outcome and just vibe.

That brings me to the third metric that wasn’t around during ancient Greek times. In fact, for most of humanity, this metric didn’t exist. It is a metric new to modern life, and we are still learning how to navigate it.

The Metrics We Derive from the Digital World

Humankind has done just fine with the proliferation of our species without technology. This has yet to sink deep in my bones as I still find myself somewhat attached to basing my social success on digital communication. I am currently in the process of detaching from the quality and quantity of texts I receive.

Judging your relationships through text is highly superficial, especially when you’ve just met someone.

My working solution is the mindset shift that you should use technology and not let it use you. This is handy because it also works for dealing with those notorious likes. The third metric is the quality and quantity of texts/messages I received. My self-worth was attached to this metric. When my inbox was empty, so was I. Pathetic.

So how do we detach from something as pervasive as technology?

First, we have to audit our habit with the phone.

My rule of thumb is that if you spend more time socializing on your phone than in person, technology is using you.

You’re taking the path of least resistance straight to your phone in your pocket. The convenience of digital communication creates many opportunities, but in-person connection creates lifelong memories that foster metrics grounded in reality.

Unconscious Metrics

As humans, we are constantly measuring where we are at in life.

Some of these metrics occur unconsciously.

Therefore, bringing them to conscious awareness is difficult. Usually, as was the case with me, something has to spark your perception (haha, #sparkperception) to bring them up to the surface. This awareness is the foundation for tweaking those metrics if they are flawed and lead to misery instead of success.

I was first introduced to the concept of metrics in the book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F#%@” by Mark Manson. This knowledge, serendipitous experiences, and contemplation led me to discover those 3 unconscious metrics I had about social situations.

Bringing these metrics to the surface helped me realize how flawed they were. They were flawed because they were unrealistic and the reason for my low self-worth. The tweaks I mentioned started off consciously – I would repeat them in my mind after every interaction. Then, they became automatic.

Now I try to refrain from evaluating any interaction as I shift to a mindset of internal validation. The need for external validation will never leave me. However, the importance of it diminished.

I credit shifting my metrics for this change.

If I had to sum up this post in one sentence it would be…

The Art of Mastering Your Metrics is done by seeking internal validation rather than external.

Don’t like this post, #sparkperception

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