A few days ago I had a major project meltdown. Somehow the automatic page numbering of my word processing software wasn’t so automatic and, as a result, every page in this proposal was numbered “42.”
Weird, especially if you happen to know that “42” is the answer to everything, according to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
I don’t know what this bodes for the fate of my proposal, and I really don’t want to presume it means anything, but the pagination debacle still got me thinking.
Of course, I know that “42” isn’t really magic, it’s just something a writer made up. It’s the same sort of numerological superstition we attribute to “1984.” George Orwell’s “1984” wasn’t intended to be a prediction of future oppression – it was just switching around the numbers of the year he wrote it – 1948.
The thing is numbers don’t really mean anything by themselves. Numbers only acquire meaning as we paint it on.
Take 18 or 21. You spin around the sun every year until you hit those numbers and suddenly you become capable of making adult decisions and drinking responsibly.
That’s ridiculous – and I’m speaking from experience.
What about 30 or 40? Do those numbers mean you’re over the hill? Somebody who should or shouldn’t be trusted? It’s funny how we embrace the automatic credentials some numbers bestow, and yet we flee from others.
I think there’s one way we can have a useful relationship with numbers – that’s if we use them as something to shoot for.
You know, the way a lot of people treat speed limits – as a suggestion.
So, if you’re thinking of career goals and aspirations, try assigning numbers to them, as a soft focus due date.
For example, if you want to be a vice president some day, you might stand a better chance of reaching that goal if you gave some day a date. You’ll stand an even better chance if you designate some intermediate steps and set dates for those, too.
Make sure they’re realistic and try not to drive yourself crazy. Setting goals like “Make by first million by 35” just sounds a little arbitrary and absurd these days.
However, I once set an arbitrary deadline and it really helped me. I said I’d quit smoking when I turned 35, back when I never thought I’d turn 35. I didn’t think I would die first, I just thought I would never be 35.
But, lo and behold! One day I was 35. So I quit smoking. It wasn’t easy and I chewed my way through a lot of stir sticks, nearly putting a friend’s eye out in the process, but we all made it.
So sometimes, random numbers can be your friend. Just be careful, and check your pagination.
by Danielle Dresden