I embrace the Stevie’s Home approach to life, and my return home from work usually looks more like a cathartic reconciliation between Carnivorous Vulgaris and Accelleratii Incredibus than a rational re entry to domestic life. On Monday, immobilized by my three pronged, patent-pending, tickle attack, Eli cried out, “Dad!! I exercise EVERY DAY. Why can’t I escape?”

It’s a wonderful question and a brilliant insight into the meta data of life. Why can’t a 4 year old beat his father at the ol bear-hug/tickle-match? If the Olympics were an actual competition of sport, it’s the sort of question you might hear in comparing the competence of two athletes. In fitness, we are near rivals except for the subfields affected by mass: Eli would need at least 3x his current mass to even pose a credible challenge. Yet in agility, core muscle strength, speed and dexterity, we are relatively equal when evaluated proportional to our weight. He is impacted by experience: he lacks muscle memory, endurance and accuracy, but these can be mitigated in young athletes by a greater supply of energy, irrational optimism and emotional charge.

If we were of comparable mass, it’d be a tough call to guess the tickler vs the tickled.

Competence, like most complex units of measure (risk, efficiency, aptitude), is domain specific. The most important attribute of a competent marksman is safety. Speed and accuracy are secondary in importance if a marksman isn’t safe). Neither speed nor accuracy become positive attributes of the unit until safety is realized. Likewise, speed is irrelevant until accuracy is high.

You could simply call this efficiency: how fast we can do things well. The fast attribute is irrelevant until the well attribute is measured above favorably. Thus we could attempt to measure the relative competence of anyone at anything by evaluating for efficiency. I suspect that the domain specific nature of most of what we do in our lives makes this kind of abstraction difficult, at best.

That is all. I’ve been stewing over this particular introspection for some time. It hasn’t altered my view of the world, though it has changed the way I view it–and with any luck, I hope to better quantify that view in the future.