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Where in the Data is the Meaning?

Meaning0609By: Mark Guterman

“Data is the sum of all human experience.”  So says a recent technology ad campaign. Recognizing that the company sponsoring this ad is trying to sell something, think about the message embedded in that statement.  Not only does it present a distorted view of life, its broader implications are troubling.

Data is certainly important and when gathered, analyzed, and used well can lead to all kinds of amazing products, services, and experiences. Much of the work many of us do is all about harnessing data to create more, bigger, or better.  Nonetheless, no matter how rich and deep it may be, data doesn’t come close to being the sum of all human experience, and ultimately, will never be more than a small part of our work and lives. Data glorifies the observable and measurable while distorting and discounting virtually everything else.  We need, instead, to bring our sense of purpose, sense of beauty, and sense of connection into the mix, if our ”experience” is to ever have any real importance and meaning.

We develop meaning when we go beyond the data in our work and lives.  Until we can see into and through things, we can’t get to the heart of the matter, at which point we can use our intuition, feelings, and sense of spirit to assess the deeper issues of why and to what end.   Furthermore, we need to develop a sense of context about how and where things fit, including our place in the larger scheme of things.  We also need to reflect on time, past, present, and future, determining in what ways the flow makes sense, or when it doesn’t, how we then adapt and change our narrative to bring more coherence to our story.  None of these are data-dependent, and yet if we are to have a sense of meaning in the world, must be reckoned with.

When we become overly data-centric, we become mechanical, commodity-oriented, with relationships becoming secondary, or worse, having little or no place in our work and lives.  The best solution is to keep perspective and remember what we are here for:  to live lives of purpose and meaning.  We can do this, not through an immersion in data, but rather through reflection, laughter and humor, doing things that bring us joy and pleasure, spending real time and energy with others, helping when necessary, taking when needed.  There is much more to work and life than data, and we experience meaning when we act accordingly.

MeaningfulCareers.com was created by Mark Guterman and Dan King, two guys with a shared commitment to the power of meaningful work.  They help professionals find greater meaning in their careers, lead happier, more satisfying lives, and instill lasting value through their work.  For more information and resources visit:  http://meaningfulcareers.com


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