What You Measure is Where You Focus

Writing is not always easy for me. I do my best to follow the advice of Chip & Dan Heath (authors of Made to Stick – Why Some Ideas Die & Others Survive) by telling a story, giving my readers something unexpected, and keeping it simple. Even though this is a nice formula, I can struggle with any of these elements to write a post that is both compelling and practical. The one you are reading now, however, was the easiest that I have ever written…

…because I really didn’t write it. This is a quote that I recently read in Well Being – The Five Essential Elements. There are probably several different ways to interpret this. The most compelling way, to me, is the message it sends about what we measure and how we focus our attention, time, and resources. Without any further interference from me, I give you Robert F. Kennedy in 1968:

“We seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross domestic product…if we should judge America by that – counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in the chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the gross domestic product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither wit nor courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

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