Let me tell you a story. What else do writers do? Actually quite a bit within non-fiction. But stories are what we listen to in the news, to inspire change, and even in how we handle money. Objectively we know that data may be more important, but as humans we want to hear what is happening to other humans.
On March 22nd a part of a mountain fell on a neighborhood in Oso, WA. At least 41 people were buried. On May 2nd a part of a mountain in Afghanistan fell on Aab Bareek possibly killing 500 to 2,700 people. These are important stories, and I must remain unapologetic for pointing out the dangerous realities of living on this planet. Over 371,000 people are born every day. I am happily unapologetic for pointing out that many celebrations. (And yes, some of them aren’t happy about it; but come on, most of those parents were smiling.)
Statistics can use data to paint whatever picture we want to present. It is difficult to completely encompass every aspect and perspective of any issue. Individual realities reside within the details.
To the vast majority of the population of the planet news stories are statistics flavored with human interest stories, at best. To those involved they were life changing events. Some media outlets skip the statistics and amplify the stories until the anecdotes define the issue. Something that affects 300 Americans every year only affects less than one in a million people. Is that a big effect or a small effect?
Sharks are dangerous, right? Elephants kill ten times for often. Crocodiles ten times for often than elephants. Tsetse flies ten times more often than elephants. Humans kill humans almost fifty times more often than elephants kill humans. And mosquitoes beat them all because they infect people with malaria. But, a shark story is much more interesting than mosquito story, even though the mosquito story is more important.
On the positive side, a royal gives birth, or even just a daughter of a possible US Presidential candidate announces a pregnancy, and the news outlets create employment for hundreds of writers and photographers. Pardon me as I copy and paste with an addition. “Over 371,000 people are born every day.” + “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” Wolfram Alpha meets the US Declaration of Independence. Evidently the reporters missed out on at least 371,000 news stories.
We seek brighter futures. We create stories of better lives based on our ideologies. Dystopic visions persist, but despite any diminishment of the old American Dream, in general the majority of the world’s population looks forward to a higher standard of living. Even some dystopic visionaries look forward to outwitting their version of our anticipated collapse by properly preparing according to their prognostications.
Whenever I am overwhelmed with story I search for the foundation beneath the story that is the data. Currently, there are some of the strongest yet most diverse forces at work within the data that describes our world. On the pessimistic side there is enough data out there to bolster stories about environmental, financial, and societal collapses. On the optimistic side there are encouraging numbers behind the technological (so many to list that it may be its own post), spiritual, and reformatory advances. A lot is going to happen within the next seven years or so, and the outcome is not obvious.
It should be obvious that I enjoy Big Picture topics, but I always try to bring them back to the influence on a personal level.
The two main resources I have for managing my life are my time and my money. Time isn’t money if you have nothing but time. Money means nothing if you have no time. Despite my recent difficulties, I continue to work towards the balance of money and time, or as I put it into the title of my book (and the basis of this blog) Dream. Invest. Live. Investing is only a tool for getting from your dreams to the way you want to live.
Investing continues to be one of my possible avenues that can bridge my dreams to a simple, financially independent, sustainable lifestyle based on my values – one of which is to have fun. As such, I listen to story by buying story stocks, stocks that at least temporarily define themselves by stories of possible futures. I only do so though, when I think the data supports them. AMSC building into the massive infrastructure that is the world’s power grid. Geron with its possible effective treatments for many of mankind’s ills. MicroVision with its possibility for disrupting the electronics industry in ways we can’t imagine except that we’ve already witnessed as PCs, iPhones, and the Internet have changed our lives. (That may be a reach, but if it succeeds that well I would be silly to have avoided the potential.)
We listen to story, and we should also listen to more than just the anecdotes, promises, and worries. Data alone may be truth, but it can be so dry that no one tastes it. We know that asteroids orbit past the Earth at, by definition, astronomical speeds; but, as a populace we don’t pay attention until one blows up over a city. Why were so many people injured? They saw a flash of light, went to the window to see what was happening, then as the much slower than light shock wave hit the glass they were cut. They wanted to see what was going on. They didn’t want to miss the story. Now we know that an asteroid or meteorite hits the Earth with the force of a nuclear bomb about every six months. We probably won’t do anything about it until the next story.
I do the same thing when I feel a building shake. Was it a truck going by or did we just have an earthquake? Silly me. Get away from the window.
A story without the data may not have much of a foundation. Data without a story is so grounded that only those who can trip over it will notice it. Whether we seek change in the world around us, our society, or even just our own lives and money it is good to keep the story and the data in mind.