E=MC2 For a long time I've had a theory, or more appropriately, a method at which I view life with. I've jokingly called it my Theory of Relativity because it deals with relativity but probably not in the same way that Einstein did. Along the way, it's helped me out so I thought it would be worth writing a blog post about in case it would help other people out.

I first thought of it, when I was programming at work one day. I was dealing with some data that could be sorted from lowest to highest. In programming we'll often get the lower and upper bound of a range of numbers. This is essentially the lowest number and highest number in a series of many numbers. After I thought about it, I learned that pretty much everything in life can be organized by its lower and upper bound.

Happy vs. Sad: Happiness Range

Lifetime Happiness Chart

Probably the easiest way to apply this is after you've had a bad day. Say you had a bad day at work, or maybe you were delayed by traffic on the way to something. Regardless, these types of things can frequently put people in a very bad mood.

When something like this happens to me, I immediately create my dataset in my head with a range of positive and negative experiences. I'll think of the worst experience I've had (my lower bound) and then my best experience (my upper bound) and determine where my current situation falls within that spectrum.

For me personally, I consider the entire year of 2009 to be my lower bound and my trip out to Utah to be my upper bound. So while getting stuck in traffic might really suck, it pales in comparison to 2009. You see, everything's relative to everything else.


Depending on your level of empathy, you may also be able to consider other people's lower and upper bounds. I think the majority of people struggle with this so I recommend sifting through your own history if possible.

The Rage Guy internet meme (coupled with a demotivational poster) illustrates a great example of what I'm talking about.

Rage Guy Perspective

Are You Experienced?

As I thought about my range of positive and negative experiences I began to think about how I reacted to events in the past. Say, you're in high school and in your first long-term relationship. For whatever reason it ends. For most high schoolers, they're simply devastated. Many adults will look at them and shake their heads as it isn't really that big of a deal but, those adults are forgetting something important: relativity. That break up is probably the worst thing that's ever happened to that high schooler.

Emo, Canada

Me being an Emo teenager in Emo, Canada. I'm an Emo adult now.

On the flip side, an elderly person has experienced a lot of things. Perhaps they've served in the military, or their wife or husband has passed away already. Regardless, when they look back at that high school break up, it's no big deal anymore.

The theory sounds simple, but when you hear people complaining about their day, it apparently isn't.

Other Applications

Another way I'll frequently use the theory of relativity is when I'm in a public setting with other people. Based on any attribute you can think of, there's lower and upper bound when you rank all of the people you're with. Some common attributes might be: age, height, attractiveness, body-mass-index or intelligence.

"I Work Out"

For example, when I'm at the gym weight lifting, I'm usually somewhat bored exercising, so the only other thing to do is observe all of the other people working out. Depending on the time of the day that I'm working out there may be a whole range of people working out. Sometimes, the gym is filled with people trying to lose weight who are usually overweight. Seeing as I have pretty much no fat on me, I'm essentially the most fit/muscular/etc. person in the gym at that moment.

If, in a few minutes later, a group of muscleheads walk in, I'm suddenly not even worth noticing anymore.

At Da' Club

The same applies if you're at a dance club or a bar. You might be the most attractive guy in the club on a given night, but then a group of Matthew McConaugheys walk in and suddenly girls wouldn't even give you a chance.

Neal at the club

Above, I dance with a couple girls while another guy watches in shame.


Finally, my last example of relativity is age. I find this one comes up quite often with people. Usually in small talk, somebody will say "oh you're still young...". While you may actually be young, age is 100% relative to the person considering it. If at work, you're the youngest employee, suddenly you're "young" to everyone else but if you're hanging out with a bunch of your younger cousins at a family get-together, you're old!. If you're 50 years old and visiting your 70 & 80 year old aunts and uncles you're young. If you're at a bar or dance club, you're likely going to be very old.

Final Thoughts

Nothing stays constant or fixed. Maybe you really had the worst day of your life. But I suspect that in a year, you'll look back and think how insignificant it was. Don't let your current state of mind scribble all over the big picture. And remember, everything truly is relative.