Your life shouldn’t be tracked by numbers and percentage points; you should judge the progress of your own life, according to your own scale, your own ruler, your own barometer.
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First question: why do we measure our life, and our self worth via numbers?
Well, I think it’s easy. We see a number or a bar graph go up, and it’s easy to chart or track “growth”. We get emotional with numbers —consider our relationship with our stock prices, the value of our home, the number of social media followers we have, the number of zeros and commas in your bank account, your weight, how much you can deadlift, etc.
However, to track your progress in life in numbers is silly. Why?
Well, first of all, numbers aren’t significant. Numbers don’t have personal meaning. Numbers don’t give us satisfaction or a sense of purpose.
For example in video games like Diablo, we collect gold along our adventures. Yet, it isn’t gold we want. We want rare items, we want to defeat difficult bosses, and we want to “level up”. Also even at a certain point (when you’re level 99, the maximum level, you get bored, and you don’t feel there’s any more point or purpose. So you either stop playing, or you perhaps build a new character from scratch.)
Too much of modern life is quantified via numbers. Consider the “self quantification” movement that has popped up, in which people try to track everything in their lives (hours slept, their blood cholesterol numbers, etc). But to me, it’s a good concept — but it reduces the amazing human being into just binary code. And we’re so much more than that!
If we just reduced all food to calorie numbers, protein grams, “net carbs”, fat, etc — would food even be good anymore? Could anyone say how good a dish tastes, just by looking at the nutrition numbers on the back of a box? I don’t think so.
Similarly, can you or should you judge someone’s worth by how rich they are, how many social media followers they have, etc? I don’t think so.
The funny thing: you probably have more “followers” right now than Vincent Van Gogh ever had in his lifetime. More people have probably seen your photos than all the people in Rome did when seeing the work of Leonardo da Vinci.
So friend, I think a more meaningful way to live life is this:
Let us seek to make great artwork which impresses us, and don’t care about the numbers attributed to it.
To take this analogy further, could you rate the work of Henri Cartier Bresson by how many megapixels his photo files have? I don’t think so.
Do you measure the worth of a philosophers ideas based on how many books they have in their library? I don’t think so. Even Nietzsche warns philosophers to not read too many books.
Do you measure the skill of a rapper by how many records he sells? I don’t think so.
Numbers or popularity don’t signify worth. Otherwise, McDonald’s would be the best “restaurant” in the world, and Starbucks would be the best coffee in the world.
Demetricating my life
I noticed this happen to me; I got very emotional over numbers.
For example, when I saw the number of likes I got on my photos go down, I would feel shitty and depressed. Why? I feel like I was getting worse as a photographer —whereas in reality, my emotions were just getting toyed with by an algorithm (Facebook and Instagram news feed algorithm).
Since I noticed this, I’ve “demetricated” my life as much as possible. For example:
- I disabled statistics on my website and blog the last 4 years, and as a result, I’ve been writing and blogging more freely, with more fun, and with more innovative ideas.
- I deleted my Instagram, and now I don’t worry about perfectly timing uploading one photo a day (exactly at noon time), and now my focus is less scattered, I’m less distracted, and I put more focus on this blog and my website portfolio.
- I used “Facebook demetricator” plugin to disable all the notifications and numbers on Facebook, and have been using the “block element” tool in Adblock ultimate browser plugin to disable page views in my YouTube channel, etc.
- I try to block and ignore subscriber numbers as much as possible. Thus I have less anxiety or concerns about my social media follower numbers. This allows me to focus on trying new things and new approaches in my photography and publishing!
- I don’t look at my savings, and funny enough — as a result, my savings have actually been going up.
Anyways, just ask yourself:
If I couldn’t measure myself with numbers, how would I measure myself and my life?