We are data-obsessed.
We need numbers. We crave analytics and metrics to tell us we're successful, that what we're doing is working and that we'll get the R.O.I. to make it all worthwhile.
We have elevated statistics to high art. (How else to explain the use of the word "fantasy" in reference to recreational pursuits devoted solely to decimal points and rankings?)
These days, the evaluation begins even before we're born. The ultrasound says the baby's head is in the 98th percentile!
And technology is developed seemingly by the day to help us quantify and compare. I'm the mayor of the 4th Street Starbucks because I've been there 4908450894 times!
We even have social media tools to measure sentiment. (Now, all we have to do is figure out how to make money off being popular.)
But where does all this calculating leave us on a personal level?
I have 364 Twitter followers and 377 Facebook friends (that's about 370 more friends than I had in high school, incidentally). But how do I gauge their sentiment? Do they merely like me? Or do they like me-like me?
Am I generating enough return on the 33 years God has invested in me?
I find myself struggling daily with the need to validate myself with numbers. I justify my existence by the amount of e-mails sent, tasks completed, lists cleared, chores finished, calls returned, problems solved, tweets tweeted, blogs posted (!), genius ideas generated, pithy remarks made, weights lifted, miles run, calories burned, pounds lost ... Just doing the addition is enough work to occupy a line on the to-do list.
For as long as I can remember, my worth has been tied to a number. It started with IQ, then moved on to GPA, SAT and ACT. (My life, evidently, also is judged in all-caps abbreviations.)
Then salary entered the equation, along with review ratings and raise percentages. Later, circulation figures became king, followed by clicks, page views and time-on-site trivia.
Somewhere the message became that one's value is determined by digits, by external factors that give people a convenient framework with which to judge others to deem them worthy of liking, helping, hiring, friending, following or even just knowing.
The scary truth is how comfortable it becomes to view yourself through that same lens. I have no sense of possessing any sort of God-given, intrinsic merit, but I'm delighted that I ran 12.3 miles Monday, reduced my inbox to 138 messages and sometimes can fit into a size 2.
I just hope that in the end I am greater than the sum of my parts.
This blogging thing takes time, and time is hard to come by when you're training for a half-marathon -- and then a full.
But it's all worth it, and that was validated for me Sunday at the Heart Mini-Marathon. It was one hour, 19 minutes and 45 seconds of pain. But it took only 15 seconds to make my entire day.
I had never done this event before, and I always struggle mentally when I run a course for the first time. I'm a planner. I like to know what's coming and when, and how best to approach it. And Sunday morning, all I knew was it was cool, kind of drizzly, and I had a series of hills to deal with as best I could.
Based on my Key West half-marathon in January and my recent training runs, I set a goal of finishing in 1:20 or better. I didn't really know if I could do it, so I didn't tell anyone, and I tried not to look at my GPS too often. I just did what I'm good at doing -- I kept going.
At the 9-mile flag, I saw the time board and I knew I was close to making -- or missing -- my goal. So I ran, by God. Ran HARD. Ran like my life depended on it.
That worked for about .15 miles. Which meant I spent the final .15 miles blathering, quite audibly, that I could not possibly finish. Inspired by the woman nearby who told me I indeed could do it, and by my own stubbornness, again I just did what I do, and I kept going. It was ugly; it was excruciating; it had to have been comical to see.
But when I learned that I made my goal by 15 seconds, it was the Best Thing Ever. I don't especially like to run, but I like how I feel when I'm done. And I like that I can set goals and actually achieve them more often than not. I've spent the past 18 months really struggling with some internal battles -- Me vs. Me is a fight I can't seem to win -- and running provides me a rare to chance to feel successful.
Today, with hamstrings griping, I completed a 12.3-mile training run. No land-speed records were broken, but the goal was to do the mileage, and I surely did.
Again, parts were ugly, parts were excruciating, and I'm sure parts were comical to see.
But that's just me out there, doing what I do -- keeping on going.
My brain is a random collection of nonsense. And here's some of it right now:
* How do you know when you're doing enough? How do you know when -- or if -- you are enough?
* If I could do whatever I wanted, I would travel, bake, cook, eat and drink lots of wine. And probably write about it. Of course, that would involve lots of money and calories, so ... not looking likely.
* I wonder about the nature of so-called "expertise," particularly as it pertains to my professional path. Media, communications, journalism, social networking. Does anyone really know what they're doing? If all numbers can be manipulated, what do so-called metrics actually mean?
* Do you ever think the whole world is an exercise in marketing? Seems to me a lot of industries exist to make sure other industries exist. Yet as individuals, we typically do very little to make sure other individuals exist, much less thrive.
* I wish the world were more genuine. Authenticity feels undervalued. It's highly touted yet too rarely rewarded, and I am certainly not immune to being one of the non-rewarders.
* I haven't yet figured out how to get everything done that I want to do. My guess is it requires a lifetime of leaps of faith, and I'm not sure I have the guts.
* When I was 16, I was fearless, overconfident, smart and kind of bad-ass (and, yes, wildly self-centered). I often wonder where that girl went, and if it's good or bad that she's gone.
* Where's the fine line between necessary self-awareness and wasteful navel-gazing?
No idea. And I probably have crossed it, time and again.
What questions are you pondering, friends?
What's on your mind this sunny spring afternoon?
Now here's a post whose time truly has come. We are going to create the definitive list of songs that are more popular than they would/could/should be on account of having epic videos.
Here's my list. Read, ponder, then post yours.
1. "Sledgehammer," Peter Gabriel.
Does anyone actually like this song? They don't need to! The video gives us dancing chickens, swimming sperm and a host of other cutting-edge-for-the-time graphics to keep us entertained.
2. "Hot for Teacher," Van Halen.
This really isn't even a song. It's a series of Diamond Dave monologues punctuated by Eddie just doing what comes naturally. But have you ever heard this on the radio and not pictured Eddie walking the desktop promenade, or the band in those sweet tuxes failing to dance? Or what about the little "mini" Van Halen characters?
Sit down, Waldo! You're nervous, and your socks are too loose.
3. "Sabotage," Beastie Boys.
I really like this song, but it's not even a top-10 B-Boys tune. That said, it might be the third-best video ever made. You hear that opening, you see our favorite Jewish rappers wearing Starsky & Hutch wigs and sliding across car hoods. You will not touch the radio dial.
4. "Don't Come Around Here No More," Tom Petty.
Again, a decent song. But the Alice and Wonderland imagery is the star of the whole show. Well before Tim Burton and Johnny Depp went all 3D on us, Petty & Co. nailed the creepy, trippy Lewis Carroll experience and teamed it perfectly with that swirly guitar part.
5. "Big Me," Foo Fighters.
My vote for second-best video ever made, and I actually don't really like the Foo Fighters at all. But the Mentos send-up? Pure genius. And it elevated an utterly by-the-numbers pop song to a work of ironic artistry. Or, artistic irony. Take your pick.
Now, for your picks please.
The Cincinnati Social Media Breakfast this morning featured the opportunities to get inside the Midwest Culinary Institute, eat homemade "pop tarts" from Cooking With Caitlin and hear about CWC's social media strategy.
But what stood out was a simple sentence spoken by Kelly Trush, one of CWC's founding partners:
"We never thought we had to do anything but what we loved."
Kelly was describing the spirit she enjoyed growing up in a family of entrepreneurs, where her parents led the way in teaching their children by example how to follow their dreams and be their own bosses.
Kelly is now a mother of three, a talented writer, a business maven and an absolutely ebullient personality who makes you want to be in her presence. I know this because I have met her exactly twice and cannot stop thinking about the way she radiates joy.
It's worth noting a few points: Kelly doesn't know I'm writing this; no one has asked me to say these things; Molly and Caitlin are incredible women, too; and I'm certain this has a creepy, stalker-y connotation as read by someone who might not know me very well.
Thing is, when I like someone, I feel it right away. And from the moment I saw the CWC trio a few weeks back at NKU, I knew these were my kind of people.
They are women who inspire me. I have reached a point in my personal and professional growth where I think a lot about what is next. What do I want? What can I do? What are the limits? Are there limits? WHY are there limits?
Kelly's comment today amazed me because it was so simple -- Do what you love. Duh. -- yet it seems so rarely put into practice by most of us.
I don't know that I'll ever own a business. I doubt I'll really ever drop everything and go to cooking school. But I long to have the experience Caitlin describes of spending her first day at culinary school and sobbing that night because she was so content, knowing she was exactly where she belonged.
Where do I belong? I'm not sure I know yet. But Molly, Caitlin and Kelly reminded me today not to give up trying to figure that out.
Today has been a truly lousy day from about noon on, for reasons too numerous to name.
On such a day, only one thing can make me feel better. And that thing is 90210.
Some people go shopping; others pour a stiff drink.
Not me. No, I turn to SoapNet, where every day is 1993. Or maybe 1997 or 1999. It matters not -- every day in Beverly Hills is an hour-long package of goodness, a festival of trendy fashion, trendy hair, trendy music and the requisite location shots of Rodeo Drive. (Lookie there! It's Cartier!)
As you're reading this, you might be thinking, "Ah, any second now she will make a salient point tying 90210 to a major cultural touchstone relevant to today's economic and social circumstances."
I will do no such thing, I assure you. That would minimize the value of 90210 for being exactly what it is: unadulterated, mindless American entertainment. (It's like macaroni and cheese. Why are people adding lobster to something that was absolutely perfect to begin with?)
Indeed, 90210 is the ultimate comfort food, chicken soup for Jennifer's soul.
Today, the senior class at West Bev staged a protest demanding that Donna Martin be allowed to graduate with the rest of the gang. Even Dylan joined in! Heck, even the juniors joined in (with their only stipulation being a co-protest of the clearly oppressive dress code). Nothing like that ever happened at Scott High. Or, frankly, any actual high school anywhere on the planet.
And that's why it's awesome. And why I'll be tuning in again tomorrow. And the day after that. No matter how bad any of those days might be, I know I'll have one hour of pure, nonsensical joy.
And some sweet sideburns.
... are really, really lucky -- provided that the house is a giant conservatory filled with flowers, cacti, palm trees, butterflies and Dale Chihuly installations.
Today I visited Columbus to see the Chihuly pieces in action -- as all Chihuly works essentially are -- and was blown away by the imagination, creativity, genius and just sheer joy the art represents.
Trying to describe the works or pick a favorite would be futile. When you spend several hours feeling your soul lifted up by the manifestation of inspiration, there is nothing to be gained by deciding one moment in the day was The Most Awesomest Moment Of All.
What is to be taken from such an experience is a larger point, bordering -- for me -- on the spiritual. It is a reminder that each of us is given something to express in a way that perhaps no one else yet has considered. It is the certainty that art is all around us. Sometimes it takes the form of a giant, squiggly, blown-glass heron; at other times, it's a butterfly landing on a jade plant noticed by only a few visionaries in a crowded room of eager photographers.
Whatever art speaks to you, may you find it daily. And may it lift you up and make you feel at peace, if only for a moment.
Today I'm helping put together a party for a true celebration: the release and signing of the book "The Gown Opens in the Front," written by my dear friend Rachael Logsdon.
Rachael is not yet 35 years old, and she is a breast cancer survivor.
What's brilliant about the book is how it details not only her physical battle and victory, but the triumph of her spirit, as well. For every tale of sickness and sadness Rachael experienced, she has two to three anecdotes that make you laugh out loud.
Through all of her pain, her moments of discouragement, Rachael's sense of humor and her innate strength were never suppressed by the cancer or the chemo.
Rachael is one of a kind, and her book is a beautiful reminder of that. It was a genuine honor for me to be asked to serve as a friend-lance editor on her work before the book went to press. (Thank you, Rach!)
Please check out her Web site: http://wheresmyboob.comweeblylink_new_window and learn a bit about Rachael, her book and battling cancer in general. I truly believe each of us can find something on that site to relate to.
So, here's to Rachael, and to the thousands of cancer patients and survivors everywhere. May God bless you all.
Today a new friend gave me some advice.
He told me I needed a blog to give myself some street credibility in the social media universe.
I've spent the entire afternoon thinking about that. Without a blog, do I kind of not exist?
I don't know that I have the answer to that question.
I don't know that I have the answer to any questions, come to think of it.
What I do know is, my last name -- which is Anglo-mutt in origin, by the way -- kind of rhymes with blog. Sort of. Like, a little.
So that's a good place to start: Scroggins' Bloggins.
I suspect this will draw a huge audience, potentially even double digits of readers. (That said, if enough people misread the title and think it's "Bilbo Baggins," I'll probably have a cult following in the next 20 minutes.)
So here we go, on a little writing adventure. We'll see where it takes me, and hopefully you, if you're reading this.
For now, I leave you with a link to a friend's writing adventure. This is John P. Wise's endeavor, "One Great Season." Enjoy!
Welcome to my brain! You're likely to find posts about sports, travel, food, wine, media, TV and music. Should be something for just about everyone!