A couple of years ago, I was sitting around after my bowling match, totally distraught about the performance I just turned in, when my teammate said to me, "Cheer up, man. You've been bowling so well lately, you were due for a down week." I said, "Yes, but I've been practicing really hard, and I've improved so much. This sucks!" My friend said, "Look, for your lifetime, your average is around 150. For the past four weeks, you've been around 180. There's simply no way you were going to keep up that kind of pace. A correction was bound to come, sooner or later, hence, the 120 average from this week." I said, "Yes, but what about my new ball and shoes? What about improving, isn't there something to be said for that?" "No," said my friend. "Everyone regresses to the mean. Just look at your lifetime average. That'll tell you all you need to know."
I said, "Wow, I had no idea. When you put it that way, I guess I shouldn't feel so bad that I ruined the playoffs."
That's when I realized regression to the mean was my new best friend, and soon, it became my religion.
A few days later, in my volleyball playoffs, I was serving for the championship. Unfortunately, I served right into the net, and my team lost. My teammates were blue and couldn't believe they were so close to winning it all, only to come up short. I said, "Cheer up, guys. I was serving great the entire match, getting everything in. I was bound to hit one in the net, sooner or later. A correction was inevitable." My one teammate, quite miffed, said, "Oh, bullsh**! It was the championship point, and you choked!" I said, "Perhaps you need to learn a little about volleyball. If you look at my lifetime serving percentage, you'd know that there was no way I was going to be perfect for the whole game. When I hit my serve into the net, it was simply a regression toward the mean."
My teammate said, "Oh, I had no idea. I'm sorry."
A few months later, I was in jail, charged with many atrocities, including theft and armed robbery. At my hearing, the judge asked me how I would plead to the charges, and I said, "Your Honor, I have to admit that I'm guilty, but historically, I'm actually a good person, and these crimes I've committed are simply a spike in bad behavior that can't possibly keep up. If you'll show mercy on me, you'll see that a correction is bound to come, and I'll soon return to my law-abiding ways."
The judge said, "I respect your knowledge of your own life, and you're right, looking at your record, it shows nothing that would indicate you're capable of keeping up this life of crime..........Probation."
The prosecuting attorney jumped up and screamed, "I object, Your Honor! What about all the lives this man has ruined? You're going to set him free just because of some historical trend? Crime is crime!"
The judge said, "Counselor, if I were you, I'd learn a little about the law. If you'll look at this man's record, you'd see that lifetime, his crime percentage was .000 before his spike. You really think he's capable of keeping up such a high rate now? His lifetime numbers indicate he's a good human being."
The prosecutor said, "Oh, I had no idea. I'm sorry."
A few months later, my girlfriend was screaming at me and upset because she found out I was cheating on her. She said, "You're a bastard! How could you do this to me? Get out now, it's over!"
I said, "Peaches, how long have we been together and how many times did I actually cheat on you? If you'll look at our relationship, you'd see that there was no way I was going to be faithful at a perfect rate. I was bound to have an off night, sooner or later. Right now, I look like a pig. But soon things will correct themselves, regress to the mean, and I'll return to the faithful man you've always loved."
She said, "Get the F*** out!"
Some people simply don't understand trends, and I have no use for them.
It's all about regression toward the mean. If you understand that. You understand life.