Filed Under: life
Published On: November 19, 2008
It isn’t everyday, but most of them, that I see a single sticker on the back of a black SUV in the parking lot at work that positively bothers the hell out of me. That sticker is one of those annoying “Fake Country” stickers that instead of saying GB or DE pronounce someone affinity for the Outer Banks (OBX) or overpriced, factory-ripped, preppy clothes (AF). This particular sticker proudly proclaims 212˚, that’s right, the boiling point of water. The exact boiling point of 100% pure water. However, this sticker makes the point of saying that 212 is actually the extra degree.
Now, normally I would just assume that person who owned, or at least drove, said random, black SUV failed science in middle school and was ironically proud of this. Or that they were just not the smartest person, and for some reason was proud of that. Little did I know that the driver was just exceptionally motivated. Why? Because I, apparently, had never heard of “two twelve” as the hip kids call it. By hip kids, I mean the people at the office who boldly take down that picture of a kitten that says “Hang in there!” and replace it with the black bordered inspirational posters that the entire internet had proclaimed a tragic joke ages ago.
Yes, 212 – The Extra Degree is a series of inspirational quotes and missives from an author who reminds me an awful lot of Greg Kinnear’s character in Little Miss Sunshine. Except this author didn’t realize that selling inspiration was far less important than being with his family. No, this one apparently found a publisher, and a “film maker”, someone who knew how to operate Microsoft PowerPoint, and the “inspiration” to imitate the European international car decals. However, all of these people failed to note that 212 wasn’t the extra degree, it was the exact degree, it was the bare minimal temperature at which pure water would boil. Not extra, exact. And not only exact, the lowest possibly point of success under the utmost of ideal situations.
Yes, Sam Parker (he’s the “author”) says that 212 is the extra degree that makes water boil. His words, water at 211 degrees is just hot, while water at 212 degrees is boiling. While Parker is shoving science aside (inspiration can’t be hampered by little things like facts), he’s basically admitting that the bare minimum is what people should be shooting for. His supporting “facts” and “figures” are on par with with his “bare minimum to succeed” ideal.
And what “facts” is the 212 camp espousing? Well, the first is that assumption that water that is at 212˚ will create steam, and enough steam to power a steam engine. Welcome to the world of marginal truths, or as our generation has come to call it “truthiness.” Does water boil at 212˚? You betcha. If, and it’s a big if, that water is completely pure, unlike the water used in steam engines, or from your faucet, or even from your Brita filter. Will water in a steam engine pushed that extra little bit from 211˚ to 212˚ create enough steam to actually power that steam engine? Only if it’s a steam-hope hybrid. Last time I checked, no one was making those yet.
And what about the other facts and figures? Ah, those are also equally skewed. The folks behind the 212 campaign went and cherry-picked a nice sampling of sports figures which separate winners from losers. Things like the margin of victory in the 2004 Men’s 800m race (we’re left to assume it was the Olympics as facts are few and far between) which they claim was a slim 0.71 seconds. Now, thanks to the BBC’s website, the exact finish times from not only the final race, but all of the heats leading up to that race are readily available. What most people would qualify as the margin of victory, the time between first and second place, was only 0.16 seconds. That’s a much slimmer margin than one presented in this video. The difference between first and last place? A whopping 8.04 seconds. Where’d the 0.71 come from? That’s the difference between first place and fourth place. It’s the difference between a gold medal, and no medal. It’s what happens when you move just one step passed the minimum. After all, the space between first and third place was so statistically small, that it could qualify as luck. And luck is not a source for inspiration. Fact, however, is that everyone except for the 2nd and 7th place runner ran slower than they did in the semi-finals. Yes, the 2nd place runner gave that extra degree, it just wasn’t enough to take home the gold.
But inspired people don’t care about luck or facts. What inspired people care about is results, right? And the 212 folks give us a list of companies that have successfully used the program. Companies like Citibank Financial, which on November 17th 2008 (yesterday, as of writing this) announced they were slashing 20% of their global workforce (approximately 53,000 jobs) in an attempt to remain soluble. I guess that’s what happens when you do the bare minimum. Or Nextel Communications, which couldn’t compete in the cell phone market and was bought out by Sprint. Or Spherion, which makes their money off of temp workers. Or Countrywide Financial… Yes, THE Countrywide Financial, the ones who folded due to their extreme reliance on subprime mortgages, and share a large part of the blame for our current recession. I guess that’s what happen when your entire philosophy is that doing the bare minimum to succeed, under ideal circumstances (despite what is actually needed) is enough to set you apart. Judging by the prices of the presentation packs that 212 is selling, I’m guessing that Sam Parker isn’t too worried about these little details.
I’m sure that the 212 camp would be quick to rally and say that I’m missing the point. That 212 isn’t about facts, or figures, or a set of companies that said philosophy helped to prevent from failing. It’s about inspiration, about pushing the individual to move passed where they are (hot) and to where they need to be (boiling). I’m sorry. I’m not sorry for me, but for them. You see, inspiration can come from a great many sources. The goal isn’t to move to the next level, it’s to move to the top. It’s not to separate no medal from a medal, it’s to break records, to trounce upon the goals of the past. In that vein, the fourth place runner the wrong end of 212′s margin of victory? His semi-final race was the fastest of his career. He broke his record, and his new record falls comfortably within the statistically insignificant margin.
As for me, when I need inspiration, I’ve got this link to click on.