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Goodhart’s Law, Measuring Yourself & Arguing Well

By October 15, 2023No Comments

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What’s in today’s newsletter?

  • Idea: Goodhart’s Law
  • Question: How do you measure the best version of yourself?
  • Quote: Argue Well
  • Podcast: Sam Adeyemi, Theresa Depasquale, Hindsight Bias
  • Article: Here’s How to Join the Top 1% in Any Field

Idea: Goodhart’s Law

Have you ever heard the story about a village where they wanted to rid themselves of the pesky cobra problem. They decided to reward anyone who brought a dead cobra, hoping it would motivate the villagers to help eliminate them.

It worked, until it didn’t.

People began breeding cobras just to kill them and claim the reward. The measure became the target. And when the reward was withdrawn? The breeders released the cobras. The village had more cobras than ever.

Peter Drucker noted, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” True, yet fraught with pitfalls if misunderstood.

Enter: Goodhart’s Law.

“When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.” Says who? Anthropologist Marilyn Strathern, highlighting a truth known to many yet overlooked by more.

We’ve all seen it. The story of the nail factory in Soviet Union? Targets set on the number led to useless tiny nails. When the measure shifted to weight, giant useless nails emerged.

Politicians? Their success, often swayed by approval ratings, can push them to opt for popularity over substance.

Schools? Exams dominate, with the real essence of education often lost amidst the chase for grades.

Hospitals? Patient recovery rates become the focus, sometimes leading to a decline in actual quality of care.

And our researchers? The pressure to ‘publish or perish’ can sometimes overshadow the value of genuine, impactful research.

But here’s a twist: Goodhart’s isn’t the only law in town.

Remember that cobra story? It finds resonance in the Cobra Effect, where the solution becomes the problem.

The pressure to corrupt or cheat data to make it fit the desirable measure.

But let’s not throw the measurement baby out with the bathwater.

Goodhart didn’t discount measurement. His focus was on the misuse of such metrics, especially when they become the goal themselves.

So how do we move forward?

  • Pre-Mortems: Before establishing a metric, play devil’s advocate. What could go wrong? How could this metric be misused?
  • Authentic metrics: Use proxies that represent the goal more accurately. It’s harder, yes, but more reflective of the real objective.
  • Tension in numbers: Use two metrics that counterbalance each other, providing a fuller picture.
  • Broaden your scope: Don’t rely on a single metric. Look for a mix, qualitative and quantitative, to get a true representation.

Metrics are a tool, not the endgame.

In the end, let’s not be the villagers breeding cobras. Let’s be aware, adaptive, and always ready to question our measures.

Because while “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it,” if you don’t measure wisely, you might just end up worse off.


Question: Who Brings Out the Best in You?

You want to be your best self, both at work and at home. But how do you measure it?

You can get results from your projects. And feedback from your peers.

But who evaluates you in both?

It’s hard to be objective, Whether with your own performance or your potential. But the improvement?

A few places to start.

  • The Ikigai Framework. Find what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for.
  • The SMART Goals Method. Set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals.
  • The Growth Mindset Approach. Embrace challenges, learn from feedback, and see failures as opportunities to improve.
  • The Happiness Index. Assess your overall well-being and satisfaction with your life.

It’s in the reflection where you really grow.

Question isn’t doubt. It’s an exploration.

So, as you pursue your goals and your dreams ask:

How do you measure the best version of yourself?


Quote: Argue Well

“Argue well It is incredibly important to remember that, in any argument, it’s not you against the other person. Rather, it’s you and the other person against the issue. Separate the human from the problem.” – Dr. Caroline Leaf

Listen more, argue less.

It’s not you vs. them. It’s us vs. the problem.

Seek understanding, not victory.

Together, find the solution.

(Share On Twitter)


Podcast: Sam Adeyemi, Theresa Depasquale, Hindsight Bias

1. Sam Adeyemi – Global Speaker & Strategic Leadership Expert

YouTube | Spotify | Apple

Sam Adeyemi is a renowned leadership expert and global conference speaker with over two decades of experience in shaping high-impact leaders. He founded the Daystar Leadership Academy (DLA), which has graduated over 40,000 individuals since its establishment in 2002. In addition to his role at DLA, Sam serves as a mentor to numerous CEOs in Nigeria and around the world, offering his expertise in leadership development.

2. Theresa Depasquale – CEO at Capture Social Group LLC

YouTube | Spotify | Apple

Theresa Depasquale is a fitness instructor, social media influencer, and entrepreneur who has been featured on Discovery Life Channel, Forbes, and The i on MSN.com. Theresa is a 1stPhorm Elite Trainer and a WBFF competitor who has inspired thousands of women with her fitness and modeling content. With Capture Social Group, she’s leveraged her own experience building out a massive social audience and community to teach others to do the same.

3. Why You Can’t Learn From Your Mistakes (Hindsight Bias)

YouTube | Spotify | Apple

In this Lessons episode, I dissect the intriguing concept of “Hindsight Bias” — the tendency to believe, after an event has occurred, that we would have predicted or expected it. This cognitive distortion affects various aspects of our lives, from personal decisions to societal judgments.


Article: Here’s How to Join the Top 1% in Any Field

To join the top 1%, do the opposite of the 99%.

You need to be impossible to be impossible to explain.

Here’s the playbook.

Read it here.

The culmination of studying the uncommon habits of ultra-successful outliers across fields, clear patterns emerge.

A list of counterintuitive principles forged in the fires of intense obsession.


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