The Importance of Monitoring The Input
When I was in college, majoring in business, I took an interesting course, the name of which escapes me. I think it was something like, Business Simulation. Within the course, we worked with a partner and were assigned a fictional business to manage, using a program called, Business Simulator 3000. Because of some unique circumstances, I was taking the course in the night school program at my college, and I would compare it to something similar to the show Community, with the added wrinkle that it was at night. It was an interesting crowd, which made the experience all the more fun.
After partnering up, and learning more about the class expectations, we were introduced to the software we would be using throughout the course to manage and chart our businesses growth (or for some, complete and utter failure).
The software somewhat gamified the process, but it was essentially a huge Excel spreadsheet with 8 or 10 different inputs, which you could modify each round, and in turn, you would receive feedback from the program as to how your decisions impacted the business.
For example, we controlled factors such as salaries, the price of our widgets, how much automation vs. human labor we wanted to use, marketing, and how long we wanted to run the factory, among other things.
After modifying all of the inputs, you would run the program, and the outputs would all adjust. You would learn how much money you made, where you stood in the market, the happiness and well-being of your employees, and the status of your factory and equipment.
After the program displayed the outputs, it was up to you and your partner to review the inputs and try to make sense of what you did and how they impacted what happened. This was not always easy to do, as there were multiple inputs to monitor, and it wasn’t always clear how each one was connected and how they impacted the outcome.
What seemed to be most effective, was to choose an input or two, make the changes you thought were necessary, while making minimal changes to the other, surrounding inputs. This allowed you to see the impact of one or two things, decide how you wanted to move forward on those specifically, and then start working on the other inputs.
Of course, everything is connected, so you had to constantly monitor and adjust as you went along. During every quarter of the model business, we had to stand up in front of our “board” which consisted of a handful of professors from the department, and explain how the business was doing, why we made the decisions we had made, and how it had impacted the business.
I’ve been trying to do a better job monitoring my own inputs lately. I recently stopped listening to this song by the Avett Brothers, and it was not an easy thing for me to do.
I love the vocals, the writing, and pretty much everything about the song. Except, as an experiment, I thought maybe it would be better for me not to serenade myself in the car at the top of my lungs with boatloads of shame.
Listen, I love the Avett Brothers, and I know it’s just a song.
I could listen to it and be fine, and the Avett Brothers are not responsible for my shame, lack of shame, or for any aspect of my life for that matter, other than providing me pure joy through their music.
But, I’ve really been thinking about monitoring my inputs lately, and I decided that as much as I love the song, I’d rather have different inputs that are more on message for who I want to be and what I want to hear.
You can think that’s stupid. You can think my writing is not the type of input you want. That’s the point, you know, choosing your own inputs so you can move closer to the outputs you desire.
In contrast, as I was talking to my friend Josh one day, I said, without thinking, “Shame on me for….” I don’t even remember what it was about, but it was something very casual and meaningless. Not like, “Shame on me for lying to the judge, or Shame on me for cheating on my wife.” It was more like, “Shame on me for assuming I had taken care of that, or Shame on me being wrong about that thing.”
Josh said, “There’s no shame on you.”
Immediately, I knew that was a better input for me. “There’s no shame on you” is a better input for me than, “Shame, boatloads of shame.”
Think about all of the inputs we have control over. If we sat down and wrote them out, there’d be loads of them, and we’d be shocked at how many we have the power to change.
Perhaps the most powerful are our thoughts, and the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and our situations, but that’s a bigger fish to fry for another article.
Consider the inputs in our life that are within our control:
Reading, television, music, friends, social media, news, food, exercise, alcohol, water, sleep, and on and on.
It’s a lot like the Business Simulator 3000. There are so many variables that go into our success, or happiness, or the reaching of our goals. The easy part is pointing out all of the things you can’t control or that feel unfair.
In our business class, one guy used what felt like some absurd inputs. Something like 100% automation, no human employees, an insanely high price, running the factory non-stop and no marketing. His team beat everyone else by a landslide, and no one could explain it, even him. It wasn’t fair, but the only thing I could control and monitor were my inputs.
The encouragement, then, is to take a look at our inputs and pay attention to the outcome, or the feeling, or results they provide. In other words, (and this sounds ridiculously simple but we just don’t do it) do something, pay attention to how it impacts, then make an adjustment.
Again, simple enough, but for most of us, not done enough. How does the food make you feel? What about yoga vs. weight training? Conversations with this friend vs. that friend? How does the night of drinking serve you? What is the difference for you between reading in the morning vs. scrolling through Facebok?
We don’t have to solve the millions of inputs all at once. First, we can narrow it down to what we can control. Then, we can pick one or two, make an adjustment or a new input, and then see how it goes. It’s an ongoing project, but one that’s worth our attention.
I’m pulling for you,