What Are You Measuring? How's That Working For You?

There is an old, silly YouTube video that was made before YouTube is what it is today by someone who was probably just trying to be funny and ended up getting famous. It’s called, “Marcel the Shell,” and if you haven’t seen it, you should, only because it’s silly and because I’m about to reference it. Here’s the link, enjoy. 

It’s a video I can hardly describe because, in words, it sounds pretty stupid and weird (actually many things do, not just this video) but I’ll try. It’s a little seashell with a glued on google-y eye and fake plastic shoes to look like a person-- a person named Marcel-- and he talks with a shaky, high pitched and nasal-y voice. 

The video is literally just this shell/person talking about their life and experiences as a shell. Like I said, pretty weird and stupid, but entertaining nonetheless. (As of today, June 8, the video has 28 million views. Interpret that as you wish.)

Anyway, at one point during the video, Marcel says, “Some people tell me my head is too big for my body and I say, “compared to what?”

Which, again, was probably just meant to be funny, but is actually incredibly insightful. 

How many times a week—a day— do you hear judgmental things like this? (I don’t mean judgmental with a negative connotation. I simply mean a statement using words of judgement like “good” “bad” “fast” “slow” “big” “small”)

How many times do you hear things like ,“Business isn’t good this month” or “He was very successful” and “She’s doing okay.”

There’s nothing wrong with making judgements or statements about our perception of something or someone’s success or quality. We have to judge things because we have to have way of determining who can get into what school, what companies to invest in, who to hire, what friends we want to choose. 

No, there’s nothing wrong with making judgement calls. 

The problem arises when we are unaware of what our measuring stick is.

The bigger problem arises when we are using a measuring stick that delivers negative, meaningless results.

And the biggest problem is when we believe these negative, meaningless results are indeed, meaningful; when we believe that the data we collect is the only data that matters and the way we collected it is the only way to do so.

Think back to what Marcel said to the person who told him his head was too big for his body, “Compared to what?” What was that critic using as his basis of judgement? Another shell person? A regular person? His own head?

Like the old adage says, “Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing its stupid.” It will live this way because it has been judged using the wrong measuring tool— a tree. 

So what are you measuring your life with? How are you determining whether or not you’re succeeding? What’s even your definition of success? What are you using to judge whether or not you’re doing “well” or “not so good.” 

Sometimes we are actually doing much better than we think we are. We’re just measuring the wrong things.