Learning to Unmeasure

UnMeasureMeasurement is really about the past. When we analyze, or measure anything, we’re using the past as the benchmark. How backwards.

Try as we might, we cannot truly measure success. We may think we can. We may attain a certain level of confidence, knowing we’ve reached a prescribed goal. But, truly successful people are smart enough to focus on the future, rather than the past. They use each new success as a launching pad for their next challenge and subsequent success.

Happiness is another unmeasurable. Happiness is intangible and fleeting. It seemingly comes and goes throughout our lives. The wisest among us learn to amortize happiness over the course of life, rather than gauging happiness on a day-to-day basis. Happiness is an art.

Art. Now, there’s an unmeasurable. Art looks, feels and sounds different every time we interact with it. Music and art critics attempt to use words to convey the value of any musical composition, piece of art or literary work, but most of those critics will admit that words are a poor measurement tool. Art is, after all, about feeling, both for the artist and the viewer, listener or consumer of that art. And, how can we measure feelings?

On the business side, is it really possible to measure brand loyalty? Or return on social investment (ROSI)? We can attempt to, but these are almost as elusive to measure as happiness and feelings. And, by the way, brand loyalty and ROSI each include a certain amount of happiness (or unhappiness) and other feelings at their core.

And, what about employee engagement? Do we really need fancy tools to measure that? Engaged employees do positively affect a company’s bottom line (now, that’s a measurement). But, perhaps, employee engagement should be regarded more as a philosophy, rather than something to be measured. When we begin to measure something, we’re then compelled to analyze it to the point that we lose the human element. And, employees want to be treated as humans, not numbers.

That which gets measured matters? Or that which matters is worth measuring?

I say neither. Thankfully, the most important things in life and in business cannot truly be measured. We should all practice the art of unmeasuring once in a while. By doing so, we’ll give ourselves the opportunity to become better listeners, better observers, better friends and better leaders.

What are your thoughts? What are some areas in your personal and/or business life where you can take an unmeasurement approach?

Write. Just Write.

writer'sblock

Ever had writer’s block?

I have. (And, probably will have again — many times.) A technique I experimented with recently is this:

Write. Just write.

I sat down in a coffee shop with my tablet and just started writing, seemingly without thinking. I typed random thoughts. I pushed myself to simply move my fingers, concentrating on the process.

At first, those thoughts seemed unrelated, but within the span of five minutes or less, I realized that those thoughts were related! It was as if my “data dump” of miscellaneous thoughts, once they appeared on my screen, suddenly began to make sense to me. I was able to quickly connect my “dots of randomness” into a cohesive story.

Now, this “story” is not necessarily one that I’m ready to share here on my public blog. It’s the technique of unblocking that I feel is worth sharing.

Try it. Let me know if it works for you.

Write. Just write.

by Rebecca Cochran

Where Good Ideas Come From

by Rebecca Cochran

I read a neat story about Franz Schubert (1797–1828), the Viennese composer who wrote more than 600 songs, plus much chamber and orchestral music during his way-too-short lifespan. Schubert is one of my personal favorites.

An old-fashioned manual burr-mill coffee grinder.

An old-fashioned manual burr-mill coffee grinder. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He was reportedly very disciplined in composing, working diligently every morning, nearly without fail. When a student once asked what his secret was, Schubert replied simply, “When one piece is finished, I begin another.”

One day, however, when his friend the German composer and conductor, Franz Lachner came calling unexpectedly, Schubert was not in the mood for work. He suggested to Lachner, “Let’s have some coffee.” Schubert then hauled out his most prized possession, an old coffee mill. He carefully measured the coffee beans, then took off his glasses and started grinding.

Within moments, Schubert exclaimed, “I’ve got it! I’ve got it! You rusty little machine!” He threw the coffee mill into the corner, sending the beans flying. “What have you got?” asked Lachner.

“This coffee mill is a wonderful thing,” explained Schubert excitedly. “Melodies and themes come flying in. You see, it’s the ra-ra-ra, that’s what! You search for days for an idea, and the little machine finds it in a second!” And, he began singing the themes of what would become the String Quartet in D minor, Death and the Maiden, which Lachner faithfully wrote down.

Apparently, even Schubert benefitted from the occasional change in his morning routine. This little story is an excellent example of how some of our best ideas can come from the most unlikely places.

Coffee anyone?

Reference: The Book of Musical Anecdotes, by Norman Lebrecht, published by The Free Press, 1985