Verbal Skills vs. Number’s Guy

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I’ve always been a number’s guy.  In school, I was interested in science and math classes and just sat in the english, creative writing courses.  I think the reason was that the verbal skill classes seemed subjective to me.  Someone else judging whether you had a talent versus definitive answers in the science classes.  It makes sense I’d be attracted to that, for various reasons.

It is the same with sport.  I tend to enjoy sports that arent’ subjective.  I like the ones that have a winner, the first guy to cross the line, the fastest time wins.    Judging-type sports aren’t that interesting to me.

Now, looking back, I wish I’d spent a little more effort on subjective subjects.  I can’t really criticize myself for my views back then, but I do have more interest now in communication and verbal subjects than I did when I was younger.

Yesterday is a good example, the gun control subject.  That subject is super divisive.  There are lots of divisive topics in our society, which doesn’t bode well for a happy group of people. Anyway, I read somewhere that there is virtually a zero percent chance of changing someone’s opinion on a topic like this with intellectual conversation.  People already have their opinions and views engrained, thus no amount of casual conversation is going to make them budge one bit.  I find that fascinating.  I wonder why that is?

I don’t think this applies to me.  But, after writing that, I can’t like of one of these subjects, religion, abortion, gun control, etc. that I’d think any amount of conversation would convince me to switch my already established thoughts.  Maybe I’m wrong about this, I hope I am, but right now, I can’t see it.

Numbers have always interested me.  Measurements, distances, formulas all were attractive personally.  I think that being a good teacher would mean that you can convince a student to have interest in subjects that they aren’t normally attractive.  I was pretty single minded in school, so I can’t really blame my teachers for my deficiency.  At that time of my life, I would do what I wanted to do.

I used to have a better memory of numbers.  Before cell phones, I knew hundreds of phone numbers.  Now I have about 10 in my memory.  All old numbers of friends, nothing current.  

When I was a kid, delivering newspapers, I had over 600 addresses memorized.  Plus I could add just about any number in my head.  Now it seems like I can’t remember my own phone number.  

I love numbers, but now that there are more numbers involved in cycling, I find them distracting.  We have so much data at our fingertips, while training and racing, I think it takes away from the personal zen while riding.   Distance, speed, then heartrate, cadence,  and now power is being used to judge how well we are doing at each moment out of the road.  Lots of times I put my Garmin on a map function and try to zone it out, trying to just enjoy my feelings on the road.  I did that yesterday and it was refreshing.  Numbers are important, in the sport, but too many available, at the wrong time, can ruin it somewhat.

Okay, I’m just wandering around here, while watching Tour of Spain.  Today is a big number day there.  Lots of altitude numbers and lots of time loss available too.  It is split up all over the road.  Pretty good bike racing.










30 thoughts on “Verbal Skills vs. Number’s Guy

  1. Wildcat


    Another great post and fine example of why I visit daily.

    Hey Bri,

    I have SpeedVaults all over the house. Look them up.

  2. Lila & the MOQ

    I have a feeling you’d relate pretty well to a guy name Robert Pirsig. He wrote a book in 1974 that digs a little deeper into the seemingly hard wired nature of people (objective vs subjective) as well as what it all means and how to come to grips with these differences.
    The book is called “Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and it is probably one of the most interesting true stories of philosophy written after the Greeks did all their work.

  3. Tim

    Good points about communication. I think one thing a lot of people don’t realize is that communication is super important even for people whose work is in the “numbers fields”. I’m a scientist by profession, and I spend a LOT of time communicating my work. At a wide range of levels ranging from the general public to fellow experts and both in writing and orally. A lot of people, especially when younger, don’t realize this. I was lucky because I had an interest in writing early on and worked at developing that skill. Now I can see how it’s helped me advance in my career, possibly at the expense of people who are more talented scientists but poor communicators.

  4. Reasonable Ron

    Hey Wildcat, we’re all stoked you spent the money on speed vaults instead of enjoying your life.

    But, any dirtbag intruder worth his cred would still beat you to the draw. You would already be getting cold while he’s emptying all of your vaults and prying your stiffening hands off of your precious .45 auto.

    Let’s ride!!!

  5. Clifford

    Yeah, it’s a tough issue. I’m sure my comments haven’t won me too many friends here as a staunch left-leaning person who’s disgusted by a lot of things that I see. The interesting thing is that many of my cycling friends from back in the day – not all, but a lot – were fairly conservative politically, yet we were able to bond on riding together. Not so much music, art, literature and all the other interests I have – but if we were all the same as our friends/training buddies, it wouldn’t be much fun.

    That said, guns still bum me out.

  6. Wildcat

    You may be right. You may be wrong. I hope to never find out. Either way, I enjoy being prepared and not feel completely helpless.

  7. mickey

    steve, i think you DO have a communications talent. your blog is a good example. people might harp on you for misspellings, but you have a knack for picking topics that interest a broad group of people. and, you have a blogging style that alot of other people would do well to mimick. you pose an interesting question at the beginning and then explore the subject while keeping the length of the post just right. also, posting something nearly every day keeps people coming back. i don’t know if you were taught this or if it just comes naturally. either way, it works.

  8. B.L.

    Being objective and having the ability to see the bigger picture are hallmarks of intelligence. These are the traits of truly successful leaders of all types. The ability to effectively communicate is also a hallmark of intelligence and a trait of the successful. With the advent of the internet and social media, it’s more important than ever to be able to communicate through the written word and of course it’s always been vital to communicate effectively through the spoken word. Communication is important for everyone and that includes people who spend their lives working with numbers. Being able to use and utilize numbers as well as words is ideal and they are not mutually exclusive.

    As far as numbers go, the universe is all about mathematics. The key to everything is mathematics. Mathematics is present in every single facet of life.

    Conversely and in regard to topical subjects such as gun control, being subjective is a trait of ignorance and negativity. It is indicative of a closed mind. Being subjective in this case makes a person rely on unsubstantiated rumors and dubious facts. Being subjective is not about seeking the truth or the answer to a topical problem. It is about having your subjective opinion taking precedence over all others without regard to the actual facts. The only type of people you will find among bigots, racists, tyrants, dictators and such are subjective people. Subjective people will accept the ridiculous and think of it as the truth. That will not happen with someone who is truly objective.

    Truth will be found through good communication, open minds and objectivity. Truth will be found by analyzing and interpreting legitimate statistics and facts correctly. There again, mathematics enters the equation through the use of statistics.

    Be like the best people throughout history and be honest, be objective, always look at the big picture and always keep an open mind. Your life will be happier and the world will be a better place.

  9. daveeckstrom

    I think part of the reason people are not readily convinced by intellectual arguments is cultural. We value being right above getting better. Another way to put this is that we have a fixed mindset, rather than a growth mindset.

    In large part, I think it starts in our schools, where facts are emphasized over thinking, but it’s amplified throughout our lives. No where is this modeled more clearly than by our political leaders, for whom stubbornness, even in the face of contradictory evidence, has become a virtue and for whom open-mindedness is ridiculed as “flip-flopping”.

  10. B.L.

    I agree that there are no easy answers to issues such as gun control, drugs, racism, illegal immigration, crime, homelessness, etc. In my opinion, the thing to do is to retain objectivity by keeping an open mind and by always looking at the big picture, and by continuing the honest and objective communication.

    If there are statistics which are undeniably true, then we must accept them. If there are facts, then we must accept them. If there are legitimate solutions, then we must implement them without delay.

    But, we live in a country where objectivity, honesty and adherence to facts and true figures often go out the door. That makes it tough to progress to a better existence. But we still need to keep communicating. Always. The discussion matters.

  11. John

    Wrong. Where would we be without the arts? A refreshing break from the objective.

    Robots are objective. People are passionate and subjective. This blog would be lame if we were all objective. Being able to listen and realize other people have valid opinions is the difference. Our passions make great art and music, but they also get us in trouble when they get out of hand.

  12. Larry T.

    Yes, you should have (not should of) paid more attention in English class and maybe you should read CYCLING – Philosophy for Everyone? Lennard Zinn even wrote the foreward! If you like this, more serious philosophy study might be interesting. I ask my philosopher wife (who wrote chapter 15) questions all the time. Her response to my rants about why people do and believe various things I find to be tough to understand is: 1. People are stupid. 2. People believe what makes them feel good.
    Explains everything perfectly, no?

  13. B.L.

    Art is art and it is an entirely different and unique subject. I was referring to the objective/subjective discussion within the context of topical issues as I stated. To like or dislike a particular piece of art requires a subjective opinion, but to consider whether you like or dislike a particular piece of art, you would need to be objective. The great thing about art is that there are no rules. It is very free and is freeing at the same time. You get to think about it and you get to discuss it, and of course you are welcome to enjoy it. Or not. The discussion matters. Or not. It’s art. There are no rules. It’s not a case of facts and statistics as are topical issues. Comparing art to what I was writing about is apples to oranges. You are right about our passions making great art. That’s one of the aspects of art that I like…subjectively speaking. 😉

    I wrote my comments in reference to humans and human behavior. With all due respect, robotics is a tangent. That said, a robot could be programmed to be subjective or objective or anywhere in between. It would depend on the installed software and upon the human being making that choice.

  14. The Cyclist

    Universe is not about mathemaics. Universe don’t care shit about mathematics. Maths is just a tool humans created to try make universe understandable.

  15. Clifford

    I would say that numbers, factual information, and logic systems factor HEAVILY into the creation and experience of art. This kind of information plays out differently when there is an aesthetic result, but it’s certainly there. I actually have difficulty with numbers and mathematics (some sort of learning disability – always been present), but when numeric patterns result in music and art, or play out textually through logic, I am able to understand the relationships.

  16. Kevin Lyons

    And yet Steve, you communicate very well. You generally have something articulate and well thought out to post. That’s the only reason we all enjoy visiting your site every day. Maybe you are lot better at verbal skills than you realize. Don’t sell yourself short.

  17. Dave Healey

    Larry T..
    Let me see if I got this straight.
    #1 says that people are stupid.
    You and the missus are people.
    Since you wrote the post and quoted the missus, then you believe what the missus says.
    #2 says that people believe what makes them feel good.
    So, that means you feel good about being stupid?

  18. Larry T.

    Sorry you didn’t get it. Maybe you have to a) have a PhD in philosophy or b) be married to someone who has one. How else can you understand why someone would claim the answer to gun violence in the USA is more guns? Or someone who claims supply-side economics brings financial prosperity to everyone? Maybe I should have said if #1 doesn’t explain it, then it’s #2?

  19. Jack Boy Yeah

    There’s objective and subjective, but deeper trait beneath them is linear vs probabilistic thinking. Easy problems have easy linear answers, a + b = c. Reality is that solving difficult problems is a lot less linear, but the mind wants to simplify. Hallmark phrase of a linear thinker, especially when problems involve human behavior, is starting their solution with “The only way to…” Best response is to nod your head and move on. Gun control, for Americans, brings out some of the most polarized linear discussions.

  20. Krakatoa (East of Java)

    Did the concept of “Mr. Spock” impart nothing upon you? His “subjective” genes (passed down by his human mother) are what made him more complete.

  21. Peter W. Polack

    Steve, there IS an objective side to communication classes such as English and Writing.

    There’s grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. If your teachers could have seen and appealed to your objective side to get you interested in English classes, you would have appreciated them more.

    Not to pick on you, but perhaps show you that those classes could have had more value to you.

    For what it’s worth, I saw English the exact same way you did. Boy; did I ever hate Shakespeare and the “classics”!


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