I find "results" to be a perplexing word.  

When you see "results' in print is your instinct to read it as a noun?  As in “I want results.”  Or do you read it as a verb -- “when I do this, it results in that?”

Its origins date back to the French “resilire” which means “to rebound” and is the root word for resilience.  There is a looseness and flexibility in its original meaning that I admire.

On the contrary, in contemporary use, there is a hardness and a certainty to the word. “I want results.”  It overstates, I think, the nature of our control over matters.

We misread results all the time. Assume that the meaning applies to things they do not.  For example, last week I wrote about waiting for my COVID-19 antibody results. After ten days they came back negative. Did this mean that I never had the disease?  Actually it does not.  It means that I don’t currently have antibodies, which new research suggests may diminish much quicker from our bodies than previously thought.  So it’s possible I had the disease and the antibodies are just no longer there.  A correlation does not mean causality.

We also overprescribe results to our own actions minimizing the role of chance or other external influences.  “I got results because I worked harder.  You didn’t get results because you did not”, goes the thinking. The  word can serve as the engine to false  confidence, ignoring what Kant referred to as the “probabilistic nature of the world.”

For example, imagine two students take the exact same test. One gets the result of an A and the other gets a C result. Did one work harder than the other?  Is one a better student.”  This result tells us almost nothing. Perhaps they had different teachers or attended different schools?  Different genetics?  Maybe one was dealing with a tragic event right before the test?  Or was hungry or tired. Results reinforce our desire to see black and white, where gray exists. It precludes nuance.

That is except when it is used conditionally. When used as this type of verb, “results” refers to consequences. 

When considering our actions, it is always helpful to imagine what could be the myriad of results. To examine and explore the potential consequences of our choices and how they collide with those of others. If I do this, it could result in x, y, or z affecting a, b, or c.”  For me, results are best as a conditional verb for considering hypotheticals or evaluating potential outcomes.  As an added bonus, when using conditional verbs they connote hope and possibility.

To me, it is the uncertainty of the word that is most revealing.

So what do you see when you read the word "results."


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