It’s not the fall…

It’s not the fall that gets you, it’s the impact at the end. 

The best metrics describe a state of the world. Hotness has three audiences. “Fahrenheit is basically asking humans how hot it feels. Celsius is basically asking water how hot it feels. Kelvin is basically asking atoms how hot it feels.” (Reddit

Another is the contrast between American and Canadian avalanches. In the states, a medium avalanche is “relative to the path”. In Canada a medium avalanche “could bury a car, destroy a small building, or break a small tree.” The southern system expects the audience to be familiar with the area

A third is calorie counts. Sure, bananas have calories but they can also be zero-point foods. Counting calories isn’t the point. Weight loss is the point, so what’s the best way to communicate information that leads to those actions? 

About hurricanes: “The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale we use to rate hurricanes is based on only wind and doesn’t take into account the chief hazards which can be storm surge and flooding rains. It’s wholly inadequate. We need to go away from rating one through five based on winds. Hurricane Harvey stalled for days over Texas and caused a hundred billion dollar plus disaster (Harvey made landfall as a category four storm, but most of the rainfall and damages was as a tropical storm).” – Dr. Jeff Master 

Hurricanes need to be rated more like Canadian avalanches. If measuring wind speed rather than rainfall wasn’t enough, there’s another problem: the hundred-year storm

Everywhere I’ve lived has a hundred-year storm. In Ohio (Southeast and Northwest) it was floods. In Florida it is hurricanes. Imagine a category five hurricane that hits Beach City once every hundred years. What chance is there for a storm of that level in the next thirty years? 

Master walks through this math. A one-percent chance each year is a ninety-nine percent non-chance. Multiply a ninety-nine percent non-chance thirty times and the hundred-year storm has a 26% chance of occurring in a thirty-year window. 

It’s not the hurricane winds that get you, it’s the flooding afterward. Yet we measure the winds. 

The Right Proxies

Wharton Moneyball Super Bowl Show.

“I was blessed to know Bill (Belichick) back in college. We worked together for seventeen years. Bill can make complicated game plans but his general principles aren’t very difficult. He had three rules: be on time, pay attention, and work hard. Those seem like simple things but when you’re deaing with players who are entitled, who do things on their own, they have to buy into that system and fall in line. Bill didn’t care how many earings, how many tattoos, how long your hair was. That had nothing to do with discipline.

Scott Pioli

Using proxies can be helpful or not. It all depends how accurately they map to what matters. When Roger Paloff from Fortune Magazine looked into Theranos, he didn’t understand the science and talked to the board members instead. If these smart, accomplished, wealthy people think this makes sense, it must make sense the thinking went.

Other times, proxies are toxic. Often times, it’s for easy-to-measure things. People love the authority of numbers, regardless of how well they map to reality. Another proxy-tally-folly is mistaking action for effectiveness. Regarding productivity, Cal Newport writes, “busyness is not a proxy for productivity.”

It’s impossible to predict the future so we rely on things that, looking back, were present in good outcomes. Sabermetrics using numbers, not if someone looks good in jeans. Belichick avoids appearances too. Those things come to mind easily, but may not be good proxies.