The art of talking about numbers and figures and what it really says about you - the truth is in the details.
My last years in computer science, software architecture, security and working with many different professionals and companies has taught me lots; more than ever.
The older I get, the more I feel I don't really know much, but I'm always trying to get better. And that's key.
For one thing, getting older in life, I found observing how people interact with us in the smallest of details ultimately tells us the truth about them.
And most of the time, we don't even know we're sending out this information to people.
So much information is found in details
To be clearer, how we react in unimportant situations and day-to-day actions with others, either in person or online, tells a lot about us and our fundamental values.
Back to my title, I'm flabbergasted by the number of erroneous and bad data on the web, in corporate documents and the total lack of science that usually backs them.
From financial figures, sales, money to vulnerability scores, the more I dig and evaluate these numbers, the less I'm able to correctly back them up.
To give you a better idea, here's a small story
A few weeks back, a climate march was put together in Montreal to show support for protecting the environment. Following the event, many news outlets talked about 500 000 people being present. Many climate advocates also went forward with these figures.
But as my usual self (call me stupid), passionate about science, truth and reality, I started digging the number; as usual I had my doubts.
Especially when I saw a post on LinkedIn by Tzeporah Berman, a known activist and presenter, she pushed that 500k figure going even further by saying - "It's official"...
With all the respect she deserves, I replied to her post asking how this number was official?
And to my surprise, my comment (question) was very rapidly deleted...
Too curious for my own good, I persevered and went in again - a bit more direct asking the following:
"Deletion of comments is fine, but it was still a valid question... how is this official?"
And her answer was the following:
"Are you really asking for the crowd estimation? It's an easy Google."
At that moment, with my new-found "powers of old" I knew who I was really talking to.
She wasn't interested in the number nor my science question, she just wanted to make a bang on LinkedIn with "500K".
And I get that. It sounds great and makes your cause powerful.
The little things you do says a lot about you
Tzeporah herself usually requests first class tickets to fly to an event… That’s interesting to know as First-class air passengers usually have a carbon footprint as much as seven times larger than the average passenger's. But that will be for another time...
But at a certain point, when you put out figures like that, you have to be honest if you want people to really follow you. And sometimes, to do so, you have to answer questions that aren't that easy to get to.
That's my job and I've been doing this for decades in technology.
It's not about being right or wrong, but simply answering key questions with figures that are at least backed up by a certain level certainty; as it says much about yourself...
But let's move forward.
As I live in Montreal and know the geography pretty well, I started making my own evaluations of these numbers.
With the help of very simple mathematics (spacial, time, etc.) and geography using Google Maps, a rapidly had an approximation of around 200 000 people.
However I played with my numbers, I just couldn't find a way to get to this 500k figure.
Now as man of science, I knew this wasn't my expertise, so I searched deeper do find references, real references. And you know what; I did! -> available here (french)
A group of experts did the same evaluation and came out to around 160 000 people at the event.
This story is one I've lived too many times in life.
In a few words - to help their cause, people exaggerate and we've known this for hundreds of years.
But my point is a bit different.
When you rapidly (or blindly) push out numbers and figures not backed up by science and a certain level of verification, you should say so; very simple.
Never use words such as official when they are not. Especially on social media where others are able to openly challenge you.
The second you do, if the number or situation is off by much, you will look weak and even ridiculous to many.
On top of that, you show people your real colors. You show your core values or should I say - lack thereof.
Coming from a teenager or a 20-year-old person with less experience; I'm fine with that. But coming from self-proclaimed "experts" and people in their 30s 40s and older; that’s another thing.
Our values, whatever the subject, are fundamental to the ultimate respect we get from people.
Forget about the big help friends gave you last weekend. The real observation or focus should be about what they have done for you in the past years during the day-to-day.
We should always keep a certain level of focus on the small stuff when evaluating a situation. Most of the truth usually comes out in the details; not in the big gestures in life.
It's when we don't really concentrate on a task that we are truthful.
The day we just stop by our parents just to say "hi".
The day we help a stranger on the street because they look like they're in need.
The day we bring a coffee to a teammate just because we could.
That moment we answer a question just to help someone in need or simply curious.
You can even do this in your personal relationships.
Don't focus on that one time your partner brought you flowers for your birthday, or that time they gave you a beautiful and expensive gift.
Focus on the day-to-day things to really have an idea what someone really feels and thinks about you, projects or ideas.
When they say "bless you" when you sneeze.
When you carry something and they just go "let me help you with that".
When they offer help even when you didn't request any.
When they offer you a small massage seeing you clearly had a big day.
These very simple examples are all based on values. And this list can go on and on with hundreds or even thousands of examples, but the main idea is this.
In business or in life, focusing on the small things ultimately gives us a clearer and more truthful “big” picture.
If you observe people and situations in this way, you will remove a lot of noise in your evaluation of a challenge and help you focus on the solution and problems more easily.
And you know what, it doesn't even require much effort; just a keen observation of a few details…