Okay, listen up all you Achievement Junkies:  Measurement matters!

Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’ve heard it all before:  “Measurement drives improvement,” it says here, and we’ve got an array of metrics that can measure just about anything….

We can measure how far, how long, how big, how high, how wide, how deep, how many and on and on and on. We can measure anything and everything and we’ve got the numbers and comparisons and indicators to prove it.  Yup!

shows the intensity of focus when measuring
“Measuring 2” by US Army Materiel Command via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Insights on performance are sure to follow…if we can actually swallow down and digest this data mountain accumulated by the extraordinarily complex permutations of all these measuring devices, formulae, hypotheses, computer projections and such that our busy, busy brains have developed.


showing awkward positioning necessary to measure some things
“Taking Measurements” by Oregon Dept. of Transportation via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]


There is one really glaring major flaw in that game-plan.

illustration of pun
“Ointment, with added fly” by Donald Ogg via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
We humans can measure a million different things.  The problem is that our very human brains can only handle – process, store, and respond to — so many bits of information before we go into overload and get all dizzy and nauseous.

tall stack of papers
“Stack of Papers” by Phillip Wong via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
When we hit the wall of our built-in “cognitive scope limitation,” the Smarty-Pants in the white lab coats tell us, we humans tend to start simplifying things and distorting and bending the data all out of shape.

This is not a real help when we’re prognosticating, trying to plan future moves, making important decisions, and stuff like that.


So, then we come to another concept:  not everything that can be measured matters.

As Albert Einstein once said, “everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”

At the same time, it is worth noting that the old business adage, “What gets measured, gets done,” is not wrong.

man in the jungle measuring something
“Carbon Measurement” (photo by Adam Grynch for Center for International Forestry Research) via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]


Actually, in any given system, there are only a handful of key metrics that really deserve our limited attention.

In the business world, these things are called Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).  Name any human activity – business, sports, academics, health, success, meaning-making – and there are going to be people who’ll be more than happy to tell you where to focus your attention so you can suss out whether you are actually making progress or not.

level balanced on a rock
“Measures” by Manon D via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Sometimes they are right; sometimes not.  You get to decide.  (Oh, boy!)

man taking notes in a garden
“Measuring garden” by David Trainer via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
The thing is all of us are likely to get fixated on certain performance metrics for no other reason than that they are easier to measure than other (perhaps more important) ones.

woman measuring her pregnant belly
“Measuring” by Alicia Piper via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
If you get fixated on measuring things that really don’t lead to the kind of performance improvement you actually want, you can end up wasting a heck of a lot of time, energy and resources that could be better spent doing other things.


To bring a little clarity to the whole thing, there are, perhaps, three questions you might want to ponder in all of this:

  • What matters most to you in this life you are living?
  • In the sea of performance metrics for this goal, system, or whatever-the-heck-it-is that you’re doing, which ones are absolutely crucial?
  • If one of these many metrics will lead directly to improvement and success, which one would it be?

Separating out the few that really matter from the many that don’t is not an easy task.  Knowing what you are trying to actually accomplish is the first step.

hands measuring a fish
“Taking Measurements [2]” by California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife by Mandy Culpepper at Jepson Prairie Reserve via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]


A tweet posted to Twitter by @elroythecat (aka copywriter David Moore who’s the creative director and co-founder of Kingswood and Palmerston, consultants for business-to-business marketers) is a beaut.

It says:

“Grant me the courage to zig when others zag,
The patience to measure what matters,
The strength to have faith in the things we cannot track
And the wisdom to know the difference.”

The line that gets me in that Serenity Prayer iteration is the one about having the strength to “have faith in the things we cannot track.”



In self-help blogger extraordinaire Mark Manson’s book, THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A F*CK: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, the author pinpoints our values as the essential underpinnings to everything we are and everything we do.

Manson says it’s important to ask these three questions:

  • Why do I consider this to be a success/failure?
  • How am I choosing to measure myself?
  • By what standard am I judging myself and everyone around me?

These are not easy questions to even look at.  They are unlikely to have simple answers.

But, as he says, “If what we value is unhelpful and what we consider success/failure is poorly chosen, then everything based upon those values will be out of whack.”

Everything we think and feel about a situation is ultimately going to come back to what we consider “valuable,” i.e., the things that align well with our own set of values.

persons at the top of a rock formation
“Summit” by Ashok Borghani via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
That may be why many people who have reached the summit of whatever mountain they’ve challenged and conquered often stand around on top of it and wonder,

“Is THIS all there is?”

As Manson points out, “the objective truth about your situation is not as important as how you come to see the situation and how you choose to measure it and value it.”

This does tend to echo the old wise guys and their assorted takes on figuring out what makes your own life meaningful.


I’ve stumbled across a trio of short YouTube videos from the Stanford Graduate School of Business “View From the Top,” an extraordinary student-led program that brings top global business and government leaders to the school to share their insights on leadership, business and life.

The videos are clips where the individual speakers answer the question, “What Matters Most to Me and Why?” and were uploaded in 2021 by the school.

The first is an interview with American billionaire venture capitalist Doug Leone who was the former managing partner of Sequoia Capital until he stepped aside in 2022.  The clip is from a “View From the Top” interview recorded in 2014.

The next one features Meg Whitman, the US ambassador to Kenya, an American business executive and a former gubernatorial candidate for California.  At the time of the interview, which was recorded in 2015, she was the president and CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

The final one is a clip with Da Vita Healthcare Partners CEO and chairman Kent Thiery which was also recorded in 2015.

This speaker series is one of several organized by the school.  It began in 1978 and is “the dean’s premier speaker series.”  You can click on the button below to access more of the recorded sessions of a unique educational series that began in 1978.


Here’s a poem:


Am I enough?
That seems to be the central question
I am always trying to answer lately.
And it’s only now that I am beginning to wonder…

Enough what?
Enough how?
Enough why?
Enough when?

What is this “enough”?
Where did I get this question, anyway?
Who is asking it?

All I am is what I am.
If that is not “enough,”
Then what am I supposed to do about it?
(Maudlin tears do not help.)

And only now it occurs to me that
Nobody ever defined “enough.”
Nobody ever pointed out where
The line between “enough” and “not” was.

So…does the line wander?
Or does “enough” depend on who is watching?

And now I have to wonder:
Who set up this dumb contest?
And why am I even entered in it?
Do I even care?

By Netta Kanoho

Header Photo Credit:  “How Tall Am I Now?” by Lars Plougmann via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]



(Click on each of the post titles below and see where it takes you….)


Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

12 thoughts on “MEASURE WHAT MATTERS (Shaper Challenge)

  1. Jerry McCoy says:

    For many learning to measure what matters is all-consuming. I have found that certain measurements that are so important to some have very little meaning to me.

    I have long gotten over becoming wealthy financially but would rather be wealthy spiritually and with good friends and family.

    I am certain that if more people measured how much they helped another person because they wanted to, they would lead much better lives.


    1. Jerry, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.  Your thought that the things that some people find very important to their well-being and just general overall satisfaction with life just gets a big “HUH?” from other people is why I think it really is important to get a handle on what you-your-own-self actually value. 

      Unless you know what you want to have in order to live the kind of life you want, it’s really hard to shape a space that will allow you to live your own best-beloved life.  And your way is very likely not going to be exactly the same as anybody else’s. 

      Please do come again.

  2. Donald Ogg says:

    Thanks for taking the time to tag my photo. I’ve enjoyed reading your thoughts and poem. We read the same books so I know you are a decent human being.

    Kind regards,

    1. Donald, I do thank you again for sharing your “ointment” image. It was a very cool concept!

      I like your thought that people who read the same books are probably decent humans. Hee!

  3. Parameter says:

    I very much agree with you that businesses rely a lot on their key performance indicators (KPIs). These KPIs not only help measure our performances, but they also help us keep focus and on track all year round.

    Although you may argue that we can succeed without them, it is easy to get lost amid lots of activities without focusing on these metrics and performance indicators

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, Parameter.  KPIs are very important indeed, but they are only effective if you take the time to figure out which ones actually measure the progress you are wanting to achieve. 

      Please do come again.

  4. You’ve got some insightful things I can relate to.  There are times when I do hit that wall and experience burnout, and there are times when I’ve accomplished something and I think to myself, “The journey’s not over.” 

    I’m also digging the poem at the end, me being a lover of literature and poetry.  This came at the right time for me as I’m looking to get back on track from a mental block, so I want to thank you for that extra push I got from reading this.

    Peace & Prosperity

    1. KJ, thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts.  I’m so glad the post is a help to you!

      Please do come again….

  5. Measurement is essential for progress, but it can certainly be overwhelming. Humans have a limited capacity to process information, so focusing on a few critical metrics or KPIs is vital. Identify the most important metrics, avoid fixating on irrelevant ones, and reflect on what matters most.

    It can be easy to get stuck in the weeds with things that don’t matter, so this is a helpful reminder.

    Thanks for the book recommendations too – those sound like they are worth checking out!

    1. I am glad you found the post useful, Aly. 

      Please do come again.

  6. Wow, what a great article! When I happened across the title I had to read it, I was too intrigued not to.

    It is funny how many different ways there are to measure and measure just about anything you can think of as you said. I really enjoyed how you toyed with that section. 

    You made me stop and think about what really matters to me, and how I measure what is important and unimportant. And how those measurements cannot necessarily be recorded so to speak. 

    I turn 51 tomorrow, so I have been doing a lot of measuring lately, it’s funny what a birthday can bring about. Most people dread getting older. I stood up at work and announced that I was turning 51 tomorrow and that I was happy to be alive still. 

    I have a different outlook on life and aging than most people do, it’s all in what you measure and how you measure things lol.

    Again, thanks for the article, I could ramble all night here, but I shouldn’t. 


    1. Congratulations on your great attitude about aging, Stacie. I agree!  It truly does depend on what you choose to measure (and how you do it).

      I am pleased you found the post engaging. 

      Please do come again.

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