Almost every founder or athlete I know has a bunch of core metrics they track. Traffic, revenue, Customers, CAC, and LTV in business. Weight, Body Fat %, fitness standards, and PRs in fitness.
Almost everyone who’s serious tracks metrics. Some meticulously. Not nearly enough people pay attention to momentum.
Metrics you can measure. Momentum you can feel.
- What does your gut tell you?
- What do other people say unprompted?
- How do you feel?
It’s tougher to manage, but it’s a skill and if you learn to hone it, you can actually use it to make the right play before the right play happens.
“I skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” – Wayne Gretzky
I run into founders, and athletes all the time – who are worried about specific metrics when they should pay attention to momentum.
For some reason, they get infatuated with a certain pet metric and completely ignore momentum.
In business, you can sort of feel it: is the wind at your bike or does everything feel like you’re paddling upstream?
In your workout, your heart rate is an objective metric. Your perceived exertion though is how you feel.
When I was in school – I wasn’t the smartest student, but I knew how to figure things out.
I’m not sure where I got the piece of advice “if you’re stuck on a problem, just skip it- finish the rest of it and come back to it in the end.”
After doing this a couple times, I realized that often, the test itself would give you the answer later on in the test. And even if not, your brain was warmed up enough later on to come back and take another shot at it.
Worst case scenario, you still finished most of the test and didn’t let one question stop you from moving on.
One that was common would be that I’d run into a question asking the rate of gravity and have no idea what it actually was. Then, later on in the test, the question would ask me to calculate something “assuming the rate of gravity is 9.8m/s²”.
Boom – there’s your answer.
(I was much better at problem solving on-the-go than I was at physics).
I’d have friends that would have issues with the same problems, but instead of moving on – they’d just get stuck on the problem and end up with a half-finished test and then rush to fill out the rest of it before time ran out. That didn’t play out well for them.
If you’re bumping into problems regularly, you’re going to need to look at the metrics to see where you’ve gone wrong. But if you’re just stuck on one thing, try moving on. Try something different, go past it, or worry about it later. You might get the answer later – or find out that you don’t need it at a ll.
The longer you stay stuck on that one thing, the longer you’re going to stay stuck on it. Pretty soon, your momentum is zapped and you don’t even know what slowed you down in the first place.
I’ve seen CEOs derail multi-million dollar companies focusing on uncovering the origin of a metric that never mattered in the first place. Traffic, revenue, and would all be up, but there was a Tuesday in December that was off and we need to spend the next 5 days investigating it. They’d spend days or weeks analyzing systems and it would turn out that it was Christmas.
“One of the biggest traps for smart engineers is optimizing a thing that shouldn’t exist” – Elon Musk
I’ve seen people self sabotage themselves because they lock onto a number that doesn’t actually matter.
You see people do this with their workouts where they get discouraged. Every possible measure they’re doing better, but they’re focused on maniacally on the scale and give up.. They focus maniacal
Instead, they should be asking:
- How often are you showing up at the gym?
- How do you feel?
- How do you look?
- Are your lift numbers going up?
- Are you getting faster?
If those boxes are checked, the scale number does not matter.
Momentum is hard to get and once you get it – you should protect it at all costs. Navel gazing at metrics might help solve acute problems, but if it does it at the expense of derailing your momentum – you’re doing it wrong.
Part of pushing your limits and doing new things is figuring out the dance between metrics and momentum. If you’re stuck on a metric – focus on momentum instead. It might just fix the problem for you (or make it irrelevant altogether).