“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” – Benjamin Franklin
What does my production, my work output, and the opinions of my peers say about me? My dad told me long ago that all you have is your name, so there is an argument to be made for all of those things mattering a ton. I think of that every day as I walk the halls at work.
Did I help anyone today? Was my feedback insightful to that colleague? Was I prepared enough for the meeting I ran?
I believe most of us fall somewhere on the spectrum between “truth” and “grace”. Most people aren’t 100 percent of one of the other, but most tend to lean one way or another with our personal relationships. I didn’t manage to cultivate many successful relationships with peers when I was a child, which led to my mother doing her best to counterbalance that struggle. I constantly was met with grace from her in every incident in life.
Had a rough day at school? It’s okay, not your fault. Got a speeding ticket while rushing around? That’s okay, we’ll pay it for you. Get dumped by a girlfriend? I still love you, can I do your laundry for you? It shaped a lot of who I would become later as an adult. I am a “grace” type of person.
When I was diagnosed with type I diabetes at the age of 16, the same grace accompanied my early care. I got the disease at a late age for a kid, so I had so many habits already built in. Don’t worry about your number, just keep trying your best and we’ll do what we can to help.
A conversation changed all of that.
My friend was not interested in mothering me in my late 20s, and rightly so. She was also firmly in the “truth” camp. While appreciating my story and the hard knocks along the way, she desired more for me. My daughter needed daddy to walk her down the aisle, after all.
This changed my view of my number. All of a sudden, each and every one meant the world to me.
Prolonged exposure high blood sugar can lead to blindness, amputation, dialysis, and more. If you don’t take care of low sugar immediately I can’t reliably be trusted to be alone with the kids, drive, or even keep myself conscious. After 22 years of injections and finger pricks, all three members of my family have seen their share of scary moments. It can be a heavy weight, at times, for us all to bear.
Implicitly, I learned the only way to give everyone peace of mind was to do everything I can do keep my number in a healthy range. Anything else was not good. Even as I write these words, I can feel my blood pressure rise because of stress.
Of course, stress affects my number too. Can you feel the irony dripping?
Numbers flood us all on a daily basis. Think about the ones you measure in a normal day:
- What’s your speed during the morning commute?
- Did you arrive on time?
- Check the burndown chart before standup.
- What’s the bug count up to?
- How many calories are in your lunch?
- Make sure you check how many steps have you walked and pick up the pace.
- When was your last teeth cleaning?
- What time will you be home for dinner?
- Check how many meetings you have tomorrow, and start preparing.
- How much sleep do I plan on getting tonight before starting the whole thing over?
To that list, diabetics like me can add a few more. Apple Health is sent a number every 5 minutes from my CGM. I must log four to six meter readings a day to calibrate my monitor. There are carbs to count and units to inject based upon the carbs. That doesn’t even get into my quarterly numbers from checkups.
Doesn’t take much to realize I am drowning in a single number and what it says about me.
I’m right to want a long life. As I see my kids age, there is so much to be around for. I’m incredibly fulfilled by my career and the opportunity I have to work with talented people making amazing things. I’m surrounded by people who care about me personally. Everyone desires for me to be aware of that number, so I must be justified in hanging so much it.
Only now am I realizing how wrong that is.
Will they be disappointed if my number ventures too far north or south? It would be crazy to assume they wouldn’t. However, my problem for the last decade as been tying worth to a single number. Just like shipping on time, positive reviews, and happy clients mean good things at work, great diabetes numbers mean a long life. We should all desire and celebrate those things, that’s the necessary reaction.
Pushing back a ship date may not be a good thing, but if I stay calm and react in a timely fashion you can easily react. Negative reviews could lead to an easy fix if you thoughtfully and humbly take them into consideration. Unhappy clients could be disastrous if you don’t act soon, but often can lead to healthy partnerships in the long run.
The same thing goes for my blood sugar. My loved ones want me around for a long time, but if I let my number alter my value I’m creating a false narrative. I just need to respond accordingly. Keep this in mind when looking at your numbers. They need a response, but they don’t alter worth.
It’s just a number.