ikea futons and fortitude

If I were a video game character, the stats for ‘strength’ would not be very high. I came to this conclusion while trying to piece together heavy tubes of futon. It got me thinking however. There is a part of me that longs for some company to make an app that gives real life stat ratings. Compared to everyone else, am I a small fry or a protagonist? Maybe the app could be designed so that as you change, your stats change to reflect that. Plus one in wisdom, minus one in agility, and so on. The problem is, in order to be accurate, you would have to give the app everything. You give a friend advice and they take it? You’d have to distinguish what kind of trouble they were in and what you said to determine point value. It would have to know everything about you and those around you. It would be close to impossible to create such an app.

However, my point of saying all this is to remind you that comparisons are hard. If you had two people lined up on a starting line and timed them running 200 meters, you couldn’t say one was faster than the other. You would have to say that this particular time, on this particular day, with these two specific people, one beat the other. Maybe sleep affected them, or food, or the weather, or the time of day. Even if you did the same test for a 100 days in a row, and person A beat person B every time, you still couldn’t say that A was faster than B.  You would have to say that the next time A and B raced, A would very likely beat B on this track, at such and such time, for a distance of 200 meters. Now consider this, maybe A is a sprinter and B is a long distance runner. How fast someone is is judged by how quickly they can cross the finish line. Time A and B during a marathon and B might very well be faster than A.

Comparisons are hard, and that example was only with something as simple as ‘how fast are you’. What about the statement, “They are better than me”? Better at what?? Everything? In every single situation? Scientists spend their lives trying to control for  confounding variables, isolating facts from the world around them. Yet humans are difficult and complex; who can isolate a person’s entire identity and compare it to another human? You can’t. Everyone is running a different race, on different tracks, with varying amount of sleep.

It is so enticing to know where you lie in the grand scheme of it all, but there are so many factors to consider, you’re most likely to overgeneralize. Keep overgeneralizing and you’ll miss out on something important, like say, your life. It’s natural to want to know how you’re doing, to know if you’re behind, or ahead, or doing too much or too little.  However, what’s natural isn’t always the best thing for you. Skip the stats, and do the best you can do. Then, whatever results, know that it was the Best, compared to the only person you really know: yourself.

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