From the moment I heard my 6th grade teacher say “Pie r Squared” I knew numbers could lie because everyone knows “Pie r Round”. Flash forward a few years and I’m in first place for a major sales contest. The top prize will go to the biggest percentage gain. I was at $50,000 up 10%. The person who beat me was at $10,000–up 50%. Drats! Numbers lied once again, (and now it’s costing me money!) It didn’t matter that I brought in 5 times more money, what mattered to management was the percentage increase.
My latest round of being bullied by the figures? In the past week I went to a local sporting event. A three year old on a Casio could have counted up 1,500 people in attendance in about 30 seconds. The official number that was released by the team? 3,600…Absolutely crazy… Numbers can be made to say anything. I now question everything. Do four out of five dentists really recommend Colgate?
I know many accountant types will read this and argue that numbers are pure and there is always a right and a wrong. No arbitrary teacher to give you a C minus on your explanation of WWII. No sir, right or wrong..No gray area. The beauty of life by the numbers. I get all that, and some things in life do come down to right or wrong. However, when you can make statistics basically say anything, you come to realize the world has many shades of gray. The person who knows the facts the best, and can clearly articulate them, usually gets their way on which shade.
Don’t just take every stat you hear as fact. Do your own research. Ask your own questions. The history books are usually written by the victors, and sometimes you need to dig a little deeper.