Everything Can’t Be Correlated

22 Feb

 There’s a real tendency in modern times to correlate everything.

My ex-girlfriend was a devout vegan the entire time we were together, then we broke up and she turned into a meat-eater.  Could you say I was responsible, somehow?  By correlation did I turn her away from vegan-ism, somehow?

Of course not.

Yet people still draw inferences, as if there is a real reason for every single thing.  As if two things don’t just occur in succession, ever, without an underlying reason that relates them.

There is only one thing you could say about these things: Things change, sometimes coincidences happen.

"nonsensical infographics" by Chad Hagen

“nonsensical infographics” by Chad Hagen

We tend to give more credit to correlation than it deserves.  Correlation doesn’t work like people assume.  How does it work to our benefit?  Does correlating mean your desired outcome is more likely to come true?

Not really.  Especially with people.  Someone comments on your work and says they like it.  Does that mean they will like all your next work?

Someone says something nasty about you on Twitter, for some reason or another.

Can you correlate your way to the reason they posted a nasty comment?  Not really.

People do things for no reason, sometimes for no reason that even they could put into words.  The limbic system sends them a feeling and they turn it into an action.

Does having a lot of fans mean everything you make is good?  Does your work suddenly going viral mean you’re set for life?  Does getting on a record label mean you’re going to earn a living?

The closest correlation that actually works that I can see is the one between quality work and time spent working on a strength.

I say strength, not talent: Talent’s inherent, in a way.

And talent alone does not make great work.

Strength comes from putting time into an area that you have talent in.

You can’t rest on your laurels because you are naturally talented.   Putting out that half-done work that could be better but you’re in a hurry so you put it out.

You can write a song every single day and still come up with clunkers regularly, just ask Jonathan Mann.  But you’ll also hit upon some great songs, among a bunch of mediocre ones.  And the more you do it, the more clunkers and mediocre things you’ll have, but you’ll also have a bunch of great songs, too.  It’s numbers.

But even the 10,000 hours rule doesn’t mean quality or getting paid. You still need a sense of what is good and you still need to hustle.  (You will learn a ton about making stuff in 10,000 hours, though, and that’s priceless.)

I’m not correlating doing one thing every day with quality, either.

I don’t work that way, personally.  I’d get sick of it, I’d get bored with one thing, and don’t tell me “That’s because you don’t really love it,” or “You haven’t found the thing you want to do.”

Finding one thing is not my recipe for success.  My definition of success is not everyone else’s.

I have found “it,” as in ‘the thing that I love’.

Turns out that for me, its not “it” but ”them,” as in all of my interests.

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