Statistics Never Lie (Almost)

Disclaimer – Mathematics is the most beautiful thing in this universe.

The original title of this post was intended to be ‘Maths Never Lies (Almost)’ but it wouldn’t have justified the ‘almost’ part because it truly never lies. In fact, it’s my unwritten rule that says – When in doubt, trust maths. Rest are unnecessary distractions.

Writing ‘Statistics’ is a scapegoat for any fallacy I might unintentionally incorporate in this post.

Let’s start with a little introduction –

My brain is always calculating – that is to say that I have an analytical brain and I like it as such. When confronted with a situation, I search for the underlying numbers dictating it and perform numerical operations whose output is, in turn, converted into the action I need to take. For example, if I see 15 minutes on the clock to get ready before my scheduled departure to a pre-determined destination and if by some chance of almighty probability that I’m still in bed, I would calculate all of my chores down to the precise second, sparing, of course, the sleep because all goes down the drain when the heavenly bed takes you in her cozy lap. Calculations are so deeply ingrained in my system that even if I consciously start thinking of each moment when I have used Maths to determine my action, I would still not be covering everything, so you know how serious this is.

Anyway, so after a month of joining my current research work, I was given the computational task that set me up like a mechanical machine. I had to do just the task delegated to me in a certain pre-programmed way. Not a deviation was needed. And hence I fell into a routine. I was not entirely left on my own whims though. There were deadlines, consistent deadlines and I had to deliver every time without a miss. And so my calculative brain fired up every time I was given a batch to work on. Sometimes I would complete early and sometimes I would take more time than what I had expected.

But this arithmetic is just one part of the equation. Statistics is what we tend to when we want to predict something based on the previous behaviour. Beware though, extrapolation is speculation. Before we move further, let me ask you a simple question – how many times have you sped a YouTube at 1.5x or 2x considering it would get over by the time you have to shut the tab and leave but the math clearly shows it would not?

You see, we are constantly tricking our minds. We are giving ourselves false assurances despite the data not being on our side. But is it completely wrong to do so? Doesn’t the result fall in our favor with slight tweaks on the way? What changes then?

The discrepancy lies in quantifying the qualitative aspects of our lives. As much as it is about the sanctity of the task, the state of execution is equally crucial to its completion and that’s what statistics fail to accommodate. It is relatively easy to model a crowd than to predict an individual’s action. When it comes to human behavior, the dynamics is much more complicated and this realization dominated most of my 2019.

Take this blog for example. What used to be among my top priorities took a back seat in these past few months. Not that I was not writing but to produce something worthy of posting here took much of my already scarce mental resources. Knowingly or unknowingly, I have been maintaining one post per month on average from mid-2018. Most of those were posted on the last date of the month when I couldn’t give any excuses to myself to delay it further – that is the benefit of putting a hard deadline for yourself. No matter how many ideas I came up with, I could only materialize one post up to the level of my satisfaction.

Extrapolating the trend, this frequency was likely to continue throughout 2019 but in the latter half, even that momentum dwindled. In the last few months, I didn’t post at all. It was hard for me at the first when I saw my streak break but I felt so helpless. Not that I was not writing. I wrote, even more than before but in my personal notes. There has been an unprecedented change in my life that needed most of my attention. This was not something I could compromise with. I wanted to give everything I could into nurturing and embracing this change. Naturally, the thought to maintain a balance between my old routine and this new change made multiple rounds in my mind but so far it hasn’t materialized upto the level of my convenience.

My YouTube videos frequency suffered a similar fate but in the reverse order. The momentum I had gained in 2018 was likely to push me to produce even more right from the start but that was not the case. I kept on shooting footage but couldn’t bring myself to edit them. There was always one thing or the other that kept me occupied. I somehow posted 4 videos on my personal channel, that too towards the end of the year. Ironically, I did a film-making internship as a post-production intern in the first half and so for at least for a couple of months, sitting on the editing desk was my actual job. What made me so reluctant then? Was it mere laziness or there are more factors at play? I, for one, know that my crawling hangtop (read laptop running Premiere Pro) plays a big part in putting off my mood most of the times.

Coming to Goodreads, by the time December rolled in, I was still lagging behind by four books to accomplish my modest goal of 20. In order to barely make the mark, I had to carefully choose ones which I could finish within the timeline, so I kind of cheated that way. Statistics would have indicated that I would likely to continue longer books (300+ pages) but once again I took the command in my hands and led myself to a subpar performance just to get a decorating banner on my profile. Pretty neat, huh! When you judge someone through a screen.

Coming to few things that bugged me extremely this year (still being topical), waking up late was a pretty significant one. I have been a nocturnal animal for as long as I can remember. Doing night outs is wholeheatedly welcomed but rising early morning is not my cup of coffee, unless I am forced to do so. Then I don’t have problem being awake and I actually enjoy the mornings and can’t help but think – Oh wow! The entire world gets on the track by now, it is only me who choses to live in ignorance. So, in absense of external pressure (owe it to the chill lab environment or so it has become in the recent days), the statistical graph of my wake-up timing followed a constant line which I did not feel great about at all.

Also, it was the confluence of some personal events, which I don’t feel comfortable enough to talk here (I might have given hints in my earlier posts) that I was constantly faced with difficulties/challenges/struggles every 4-5 days. It was a pattern I noticed and most dreaded but couldn’t stop them from happening. It did made me stronger though. One think I would tell you which is among the major realizations I had this year – once you figure out the reason behind why something is happening, that is 80% of the solution. Instead of fumbling for solutions in frenzy, understand what gives rise to a recurring problem and you would know what not to do.

On the positive note, this was the year when I finally gave anime a try and I absolutely loved it. I started my year with some of the most beautiful anime I have ever seen. Makoto Shinkai movies gave me a glimpse of those ethereal art pieces whose experience transcends all wordly feelings. It’s surreal. Also, I fell in love with video essays and found a bunch of channels on Youtube to add to my subscription list. And lastly, K-Dramas – yes! K-Dramas completely blew me away in unexpected ways. As an aspiring film-maker, the level of storytelling that I witnessed there is nothing short of a blessing. I am extremely grateful to have come across such wonderful shows  and hope to write more about my experience in the subsequent posts.

So, you see life has its ups and downs, crests and valleys, roses and thorns, and it is hard to predict when you would encounter what. It is one thing to confront these struggles and triumphs and other to zoom out and see the trajectory of life. May be, we should leave the statistics for the latter. As my dearest friend once said – “we live everyday. It is not justifiable to deliberately compromise on today for a promised better tomorrow.” These words will stick to me for the lifetime and propel me to put whatever best I can, every single day. Do let the statistics guide you, motivate you, put consistency in your better routines but don’t let it take the joy out of wonderful changes that may come your way. For that, a little bit of hack would just do fine.

See you in the next post. Ciao! ✌️