The Dogma of Measurement and Metrics: When #Hustle Defines Who You Are
When it comes to the metrics of live events, we’re pretty much making it all up.
This past summer, while at Millennium Park, part of my responsibility was to guesstimate the number of people at each event. Sure, there was a grid analysis I used that broke each section of the park (seating bowl, steps, apron area, great lawn, etc.) into light capacity numbers to heavy capacity numbers but the reality was that for each night, I was effectively making up a number and that number was then put in official documents that became official numbers for grant proposals, sales pitches, and marketing pieces.
Early on, the game was that Joe F., my boss and the guy who’s been doing this for nine years, would tabulate his number and wait for me to text him my best guess. “You’re almost always off by 1,000.” he texted back one day. “1,000 under, not over.”
One thousand people is a lot of fucking people to miss but given the circumstances and the completely inaccurate method of establishing any sort of number, that’s the price paid. When you read the official City of Chicago P.R. brag about FOUR MILLION PEOPLE came to Millennium Park this summer (or whatever number they throw out there) know that that number is the sum total of several people doing slightly educated guesses. Not horseshit but not hard fact, either.
When it comes to live events, the push from the top (the money people) is metrics. How many people came to the event is the easiest. How many of those people came because of our bus ad campaign is harder. How many people who came eventually bought things or donated money or will eventually invest in the corporation are all blind speculation but we dress it up with graphs and charts, we sell the notion that it isn’t guesswork, and we hope that the smokescreen of complete bullshit passes muster.
When I was a theater producer back in the day, I saw the same sort of scramble for numbers to justify the expense. Grants, endowments, local political movements all want economic numbers to justify art. Therefore, lots of studies were done to demonstrate the economic and educational benefits in hard numbers of having a thriving arts scene. But those numbers were (and are) mostly bullshit. When I would tell the monied class this, they would rather hear the made-up numbers than the reality.
It was the same when I worked to justify the existence of a robust events program for WBEZ (which is why the station has gone to mostly live podcast events with out-of-town talent rather than the stewardship and recruitment program I built.) The Global Activism Expo had no return on investment except the thousands of people who came which is why there is no longer a Global Activism Expo.
Which all leads me to the idea of using metrics to justify your hustle.
Success in any field is definitely a numbers game but, aside from hard income versus expenditure, the rest is just made-up nonsense designed to sell you the idea that by devoting your every waking hour to the job (or jobs or side jobs or avocations) you will be the model of success.
Articles that declare:
…are sales pitches for a far more insidious sack of crap than even Trump can spin. The notion that success is defined by #Hustle.
What does #Hustle look like?
The college student accepting mountains of debt in order to crack into an industry that offers a huge financial payout.
The salesperson willing to live inside a phone and measure life in dollars and cents, working every moment for that commission.
The hotel sous chef willing to be at work for 100 hrs a week to make enough to pay the essentials but save up for that big trip to Cancun.
The kid with a job and three side hustles (including a YouTube channel of him getting hit over and over in the junk.)
In the world as we’ve made it you gotta have the cash to play. The food chain gets more perilous the less you have so getting out there and pounding the pavement is basically an essential component to survival. Where it becomes messy and hard to manage is when you measure your success on the amount of dollars you have, the sum total of the stuff you bought, the sheer size of the mountain you have to climb when most of those metrics are guesstimated from the beginning.
It turns out that being busy all the time stunts one’s creative muscles which, in turn, makes one a perfect cog in a machine designed by those who need cogs rather than humans. Creativity is a word that summons images of artists and poets but the fact is that the solution to that insurmountable finance problem or where to put your couch when moving or how to navigate that argument about the tree overhanging your property lies in your ability to be creative.
Rather than rely on manufactured numbers to justify your side business’s viability or the metrics of others’ achievements to judge your own, I suggest you use a different benchmark altogether: how many creative things did you do today?
By looking to your creative output instead of the dollars achieved or rung on the ladder you’ve climbed, you can begin to see the ideas you generate and the things those ideas spawn into something new as measurement for success.