I have seen so many clients and people generally get mad as hell because of inappropriate approaches to their businesses, for one major reason.
They are focused on the wrong things and they are keeping count of something that just doesn’t matter.
Then when it goes against them they get frustrated, mad as hell and further fuel the fire which only leads to less calm, less resourcefulness and therefore a reduced capability to deal with the perceived ‘problem’
Of course if could – when in our moments of frustration – take the time to recognise one simple insight, then everything would change in an instant.
Albert Einstein wisely said:
Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.
So what did he mean when he said this?
With so many people in business attempting to quantify everything more and more these days, and many others looking for proof and numbers and facts and something ‘real’ and tangible to work with, how could one of the most respected scientists have come up with such a statement?
Interestingly, when I offer this statement to people they usually find that without even having a practical explanation or example for it, that the statement still resonates on a level that even when pushed they find it hard to quantify.
For me that in itself has been interesting.
The first part is that not everything that can be counted counts.
- So, I think of it as do you count or measure everything just because you can get the data?
- Do you attempt to utilise all the data just because someone once set up the measurements?
- Just because you’re utilising the data does that mean it’s right to continue to use it?
How much possibility is there, within the 3 questions above for a business, project or life to get derailed just because someone decided that the answer to each of the above questions was yes, or even that the answer to just one of the questions was yes?
Of course this is not a crusade against the use of data; data is powerful and essential and has provided us with the foundation for an incredible amount of wonders, with everything from advancements in stem cell research, space exploration and the wonders of the internet, to a comfortable mattress, better awareness about nutrition and even to why the sky is blue (most of the time if you live in Australia!)
Yet, there are many levels on which the quote could be explored, and one where I believe that’s applicable follows….
Think about what is absolutely most important to you.
What if all the data in the world said you were wrong to put that at the top of your list of importance, would it still be important to you?
If you say no it wouldn’t be important to me, then is the data right and are you wrong, or is the data not applicable to you and therefore not relevant.
What if for example Picasso, when he was a kid had said I want to be a master artist and so it shall be.
And then his parents with all the best data of the times (and best intentions) were able to demonstrate that out of the 250,000 kids who had uttered
such words, only 2 ever made it.
What if, even after he had discarded that data, and had produced his first great batch of paintings, had said, ok now I’ll set up a focus group and see what the aristocracy or Europe and the great art collectors of the world would like me to paint.
Imagine if he had gone out and painted according to a focus group of the times…..
No, he was far ahead of all that.
Steve Jobs by his own admission (and corroborated through anecdotal evidence from senior executives) created products that the world ‘didn’t ask for’ and that no data had foreseen as necessary.
He created products that he loved and had wanted for himself but couldn’t find.
Picasso created paintings that transcended what was known to be art and what was even acceptable as being called art in some circles at the time.
Einstein, having spent a lifetime contributing (with others) to a paradigm shift that helped us know and connect to the universe we live in, concluded that:
Imagination is more important than knowledge; for knowledge is limited whereas imagination embraces the entire world stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.
So, if imagination gives birth to evolution, what does that mean in relation to what you are capable of creating for yourself?
I appreciate that there may be sociologists or social scientists that might argue that everything can be counted, and of course there are social experiments that can be set up to research and quantify the impacts of all kinds of previously immeasurable events, but when it comes to matters of the heart and soul, couldn’t there be more to it than just data, even in business?
Does it mean we should discard data? No that’s idiocy.
Einstein worked with data his entire life and the beautiful paradox is that he discovered that not everything that can be counted counts…. how? By counting
Simply, trust yourself.
Think of Picasso, Jobs, Einstein.
They had nothing that anybody else doesn’t have now in the present.
They just had it in different forms – but everyone has it and it’s called a purpose.
Too much data can cloud a purpose.
Data has its place, use it there and exclude it from where it doesn’t belong.
To know the masterpiece you’re here to create, data may not help, yet to help you deliver it to the world, data may be your best friend.
The only thing worse than going in the wrong direction is going in the wrong direction with excitement.
Trust yourself and your purpose, because if you ignore that in favour of data, the data will not bring any relief later on if you’ve take the wrong direction.
To course correct, trust is the key.
To cultivate trust you must face and address that which is causing you to flinch from it, and the fear that comes up.
Do that and you’re free!
Do that and your business will thrive.