Numbers Lie. | Bruce Turkel

60 Minute’s curmudgeon, Andy Rooney, used to begin his rants with, “Did you ever wonder…?” Rooney would then go on to excoriate whatever or whomever was bothering him that week. Sometimes Rooney’s screeds made me laugh and sometimes they made me mad. But Rooney’s outbursts always made me think. My goal with this post is to shoot for all three. If I only make it past one or two, that’s okay too.
Numbers Lie

You ever wonder about people who misuse the word “literally”? As in the friend who shows up late for your lunch date and announces, “Dude, I’m, like, literally starving.

No, you’re not. If you were literally starving, you’d be laying on the ground too weak to move and in enormous pain.

Or the friend who tells you not to worry because they “literally have your back.”

Also wrong. Literally having your back would mean they were gripping you from behind.

Instead, they are figuratively starving and they figuratively have your back. The words they use are simply illustrations of the idea they’re trying to get across not actual depictions of what’s going on.

I got to thinking about this pet peeve this morning when one of my running buddies handed me an ad for a local South Florida HMO. It read: “513,000 PEOPLE CAN’T BE WRONG. That’s how many of your Florida neighbors already have (our) Medicare Advantage.”

That’s a headline that’s both literally AND figuratively wrong.

Of course 513,000 people can be wrong. Just because a large number of people actually do something does not make it right.

Variety Magazine says 3.19 million viewers tuned into Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

The BBC estimates that over one billion around the world smoke cigarettes.

And CNN says almost 63 million people voted for Donald Trump.

How’s that working out for you?

Whether or not choosing the health plan is a good decision, the headline is simply incorrect. 513,000 people can indeed be wrong. So can one billion. And so can any number of people in between.

Just because a lot of people do something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

Or as my mother used to ask, “If all your friends jumped off the roof, would you do it too?”

Since when does following the crowd result in anything more than a mediocre result?

Most people simply get what everyone else gets because they only do what everyone else does. Unlike the little town of Lake Woebegone “where all the children are above average,” most people do not get exceptional results because most people do not do exceptional things.

Average is average for a reason.

If you want to build your brand, build your business, or build your life, one of the first things to do is consider zigging while everyone zags. Whether you follow Roberto Peck’s The Road Less Traveled or Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken, success seldom lies at the end of the obvious path.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

After all, if it were easy everyone would do it.

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