The Numbers of Our Time Here

We love numbers around here. Specifically, we love what numbers and their inexhaustible combinations actually mean in our lives.  When we really listen to what some numbers tell us, we gain valuable context and perspective on ourselves, others, and the world around us.

Do you know how fortunate you are to be you?  By you, I mean a living, breathing, thinking person. Things could have gone very differently for you.  You may not have made it here at all, or if so, perhaps not as a person, but as an insect, a reptile, or worse, a boring rock.   Yes you - the one enjoying your spot at the top of Earth's food chain, a highly complex human being, blessed with the ability to reason and the capacity for love and compassion are extremely lucky to be here.

The Math of You Making it Here:  Lets talk about the probability of your existence. Did you know that the odds of you being here are not even the least bit in your favor?  The chances of your parents meeting one another, liking each other, staying together long enough to conceive you, and that every single one of your long line of ancestors would live long enough to successfully reproduce is about 1 in 10 (followed by 2,685,000 zeros)!  Feeling lucky yet? Here's a link to a fun graphic and more on this by Dr. Ali Benazir.

The Math of You Being You: Congratulations. You made it here and you even get to be you.  But how do you get to stay here in one piece?  At any given time, the average person is made up of seven billion billion billion atoms.  Today, those atoms are pretty committed to you – they work together, they are happy to hang out together day and night, and they dutifully do your bidding.  It takes about a year for these atoms to be totally replaced with new ones (new to you at least), You essentially get a new heart made of all new atoms every six months, a new liver every 4 months, and new skin every four weeks! These new atoms don’t ask questions, they just obediently follow the same script as those atoms that they replaced, and simply keep you…you.

The Math of How Long You Get to Be Here:  So you beat the odds and made it here. Your atoms are even stable and cooperative enough to stick with you for the time being.  However, the time that you get to enjoy this great arrangement is relatively short. Relative to what you ask? Relative to to how long the world we call home has been around. Some believe that our earth is approximately 6,000 years old and others mark its age at 4.5 billion years.  Either way you slice it, our time as a race of human beings spent living out our lives here, is a tiny fraction in comparison. To illustrate, if we translated the age of the Earth into a twenty-four hour calendar (for now lets use the latter age), Earth formed at midnight and the present moment is the next midnight, 24 hours later. Modern humans didn’t show up on the scene until 11:59:59 pm.  We haven’t been here long at all, and your brief time here individually doesn’t even register, even once you make it to a ripe old age. Heres a graphic from flowing data to illustrate.

The Math of What You Do with Yourself While You are Here.  That last figure offers a lot of perspective and can make a person feel pretty small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but the opposite is actually true.  Of all living things, we have the singularly unique opportunity to leave a deliberate impact on the world that we call home before we leave it.  Over the course of human history, countless great things have been created either singularly or collectively by man in service to his fellow man.

So the numbers for us to play with from here on out relate to the question of: What will be the sum of all of the things that we will do on behalf of others while we are here? What will it all add up to in the end? That is a question I often ask of myself.  When I think of my family, my community, my country and the world, I wonder if ultimately, the sum of the energies I expend on behalf of others will add up to anything meaningful and of value. Am I just doing things, and flailing about, or are there real impacts and benefits to others being created?  Am I being as smart, thoughtful and deliberate in my service and leadership as I could be? Am I doing enough and am I doing it effectively?

I share one of my favorite quotes from the poet and playwright George Bernard Shaw below:

"This is the true joy in life, the being recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege, to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch, which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

In the coming ULTRAte blog posts, we hope to share more of our thoughts (and yours) on how personal leadership within our businesses, communities, and cities can help us better answer these questions for ourselves.