There is a dizzying amount of data created at every moment. I'm writing this article while sitting at a picnic table in the woods of Wild River State park lot #78. I am camping here for a couple of days, and I like to take advantage of the morning bonfires with coffee and reflect.
Does data exist in the woods?
I knew the general temperature during my visit, and I knew when I slept. I plan on taking the kayak out on the Saint Croix later today, I have already thought about how many hours and what the trip will look like. In the end, it's all a bunch of data. Earlier this year I was at the Gun Flint Trail on Poplar Lake. A magical place that is outside of cell phone range and I spent five days off the internet and collectively only saw maybe about 100 people (data). I examined a map of Poplar lake that showed all its coves and portages to other lakes. I visited the Boundary Waters Canoe Area briefly and was at the portage to Meads Lake. The portage was 280 rods, what is a rod? It's the length of a paddle. Anyways at the time, I didn't know how many rods turn in to a mile, but after further research, it was about a mile. More data. Most of these examples are data points and not trends in data, oh boy... I could say that the weather started out nicely around 80 degrees and that it trended cooler as the days went by. Data. Does data exist in the woods, sure! Data existed when my daughter Natalia pushed my son Mick into the lake when he wasn't expected it. Do you want to see a bar chart of every day Mick was forced into the lake? It happened once, it won't be a great chart, but it is data.
Ok now that we know that our entire existence boils down to data and that you can't even escape data in the middle of nowhere, what do we do about it?
1. Understand what data do for you!
Where are you relying or not relying on data? How are you making data your b*tch? Seriously, data craves to be used by you; it's only data if you use it. Examine where in life personally and professionally are you using data. If you don't have a clue my amigo, then start to carry with you this statement and see where it starts to show up.
Reflect how you leverage data on a day to day basis to make your life work and don't forget to say thank you to data when it shows up and does beautiful things for you (like give you insights to make business decisions to do amazing things!)
2. Examine where you don't use data!
Don't get caught slippin' not leveraging data homie. If you think you are better off not using data because you are not an 'analytical' person, you're missing the point. Analysts, number crunchers, and other data geeks love to use data and often go to extreme measures to collect insane amounts of data and make up goofy stories within it. I'm not suggesting that you need to start collecting a bunch of data in the areas that you aren't, reflect what is going on in this space.
What is the impact on your life in the areas where you don't leverage data?
3. Get clear on how others use your data!
Lastly, begin to notice how other people are using your data. Remember when you looked at kitty toys for your new pet kitten and then started to see ads for kitten toys pop up in the middle of your work demonstrations? Thanks, data for reminding me that Whiskers needs catnip.
Ok amigo, now you are set to take on the world. Start to notice all the data around you and if you get overwhelmed by big data, remember that it doesn't mean anything until you make a story about it.