Do we have our own Vanity Metrics?

Recently I am loving Lead Startup and Consumption Economics. I am reading and consuming so much lately that I haven’t taken time to reflect.

> Take a look at what I am reading currently. Lots to learn



Friday, I got a brand new Garmin GPS  Heart rate monitor.


I’ve been wanting a new one, to help count steps and track distance. lf-lg

I’ve been running 2-3 times (sometimes more) a week for the past year or so. I’d usually run about 30-60 minutes around the neighbors or along a trail. I always bring my gear when I travel to explore the new cities I visit. Last week I visited the White House on my run. And I  don’t run anymore with my phone, as its my only time without a device in my hand and my time to disconnect.  This was hard at first, very “loud” actually listening to the sounds around me instead of the latest pop hit on Pandora. Now, I couldn’t imagine starting the day with it.

Today, early, before it started to get hot,  I went on my first run with my new GPS Heart rate monitor.  After a quick 3 mile run I came back satisfied. For one, because I actually knew the distance and how many calories I burned. I even knew how fast I had run each of the three miles! I felt like high fives were deserved all around. Look at me and all this data and information. I was chatting with my husband reviewing the numbers and he looked at me and said “For as often as you run, you should be running a faster mile than that!” Really? I thought to myself, had this whole time was I measuring the wrong things? Surely the calories and time meant something.

So here’s the thing. Because I was measuring calories and time, they were my vanity metrics (Vanity Metrics as described in Lean Startup are metrics that give the rosiest picture possible , more details here ). Calories burned and time spent running were metrics that look good, but displayed a different way, like the minute per mile, tell a different story.  In other news, I am slow! And probably why I haven’t  had any real changes physically, even though I have been diligent and consistent. The metrics were telling me one story, the one I was believing, but my results showed something else.

How often do we measure things within our lives, and the lens from which we measure, makes it look good, the rosiest picture has been painted.  But turn it a different way, it’s not quite as good as we thought. And then what questions are we asking ourselves? And what problems do we need to solve? Do we measure things in a way, that we try and trick ourselves in deserving an “atta boy” when we really might need a kick in the pants to get moving?

In our personal lives, its comparison. Of families, jobs, opportunities, houses, vacations and children. It our professional lives, its success. Big promotions, new projects, happy customers and traveling the world. What are our true measures of these things? Or are they just our own form of vanity metrics?

In Lean Startup, Reis writes,

The engine is turning, but the efforts to tune the engine are not bearing much fruit (p. 129).


What are you doing that isn’t bearing much fruit? Is that considered a failure? Or is it time to pivot, as Reis often recommends.

For me, and my running, its time to pivot and track what I should be tracking instead of patting myself of the back for what I was measuring. Even if I don’t plan on running a race, I want to get better, and go further.


3 thoughts on “Do we have our own Vanity Metrics?

  1. Good thoughts. I think the main thing is to make sure your metrics are measuring the right things. For example, speed and distance might be relevant for you but time and calories may be relevant metrics for someone else. Which ones are vanity metrics vs valid ones depends on what you want to achieve. Usually when I run the only valid metric is “Did I make it back home?” (especially on my long runs!) 😎

  2. I just recently finished The Lean Startup as well and it really gave me a new perspective on eLearning development. I really like your examples of vanity metrics and related to the book. That makes me think too. We definitely need to start a book club 🙂

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