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The Weather App and Life’s Prognostication

On October 10, 1979, when I was in my first year of college, the University of Virginia got three inches of snow. A few days later the student newspaper reported that we had witnessed three inches of “partly cloudy” — which had been the weather forecast for that day. You’d think we’d see a significant change today with all the new technology. But alas, the forecasts are no better. Sometimes I wonder if the Weather Channel is run by a couple of high school kids sitting in a room with a Ouija Board and an abacus.

Let me give you a current example.

Cloudy WeatherThe other day, my wife Wendy and I were planning to attend a college lacrosse game. We decided to check the weather so that we would be properly attired (although “attired” seems a bit formal for a lacrosse game).

Conveniently, we both had the same Weather Channel app on our iPhones. So, we simultaneously fired up our apps and here is the conversation that ensued.

“It looks like it’s going to be 60 degrees and sunny tomorrow.”

“That’s weird. My app says it’s going to be 45 and rainy.”

“What does it say for right now?”

“It says 59 degrees and cloudy.”

“Hmmm. Mine says 48 and sunny.”

“And look at this. The home page says that today’s high will be 61 but the hourly report never gets above 58. Wouldn’t you think the app would never allow the high to be higher than any of the hourly temps?”

“You’d think. Duh.”

Now, let me be clear. We had the same apps set for the same location and were accessing the same app from the same location. In fact, we were only sitting three feet apart. And yet, the weather reports were significantly different. So, unable to control ourselves, we rushed over to our computers to check the Weather Channel website. Guess what? The Weather Channel reports on our computers were also different.

Cue Twilight Zone music.

Four feeds from the same Weather Channel reported four different weather situations for the same location from the same location at the same time. We immediately considered two options to determine our lacrosse attire. First, take the mathematical average of the four temperatures and toss a coin for the precipitation. Second, look out the window before we leave.

I don’t know where the breakdown in technology occurs but the irony is not lost on me that I still check my weather app almost every day to see what’s going to happen. You’re probably thinking, “Who’s the real idiot?” And you would have a good point.

So, what can we all learn from this?

One of my favorite cognitive exercises is to make interesting connections from the experiences in my life. I especially enjoy finding humorous connections that others may not notice. For instance, we know there is Chanel No.5 perfume but there is no Chanel No. 2. It makes perfect sense. Who would want to smell like No. 2? But I digress.

The interesting connection with our weather channel experience is that many of us go through life getting lots of different recommendations from lots of different sources. Our parents give us one perspective, our friends give us another perspective, and our significant others have yet another view. Ultimately, we can amass a ton of conflicting ideas, opinions, or suggestions that may have nothing to do with our own reality.

What do we do?

We look out the window, figuratively.

We evaluate available input but look towards our own wisdom and experience to make decisions. We consider where we are, where we’ve been, and where we need to go to determine what makes the most sense for <em>us</em>. Others don’t have the best perspective since they are not us. That being said, it can be helpful to get an objective opinion when we’re so mired in an issue we can’t see it clearly. We just need to be careful not to be led into the “storm” by others’ opinions.

I once heard that the weather prognostication is not really intended to be exact. Instead, it is simply an estimate or prediction based on similar conditions in the past.

That’s actually not a bad way to view our own situations. Most of us have successfully maneuvered through our lives and when we embrace that, it gives us more confidence to face new challenges. If we then make decisions based on wisdom we’ve gained from similar situations in the past, we will likely be more successful in our own prognostications for future success. And just like the weather reports, we don’t have to be perfect, we just try to do the best with what we have.

Weather is not always predictable. Neither is life. But if we have confidence in one of the best resources available — ourselves — we can turn cloudy situations into sunny ones.

So, what’s the weather like where you are?

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