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  • Dan Connors

Five stars- what does that even mean?

If you had to rate your boss from one to five stars, how many would they rate? How about your doctor? The last movie you saw? How about yourself? What does a five-star rating even mean?

Since this blog will be rating things like books, tv shows, movies and more based on the five-star system, I think it’s reasonable that I spell out exactly how I come about my ratings.

When evaluating anything of artistic or human value, putting a number on it is a purely subjective exercise. Yet we rely on these unscientific numbers all the time. We base our entertainment options, our vacation destinations and our contractors based on ratings done by others. Our entire educational system is based on the five-star system, repackaged into an A-F rating. (Only with grade inflation the A and B ratings are grossly overutilized) We base our choice of a mate based on a scale of ten for some reason, but most of the others are based on five.

I look to the following things in my reviews:

1- Is it technically competent?

2- Is it new?

3- Does it tell a good story?

4- Does it move me emotionally?

Here are my ratings and what they mean:

One Star * - I don’t give one-star reviews. Ever. If anybody takes the time and trouble to create something, I’m giving them at least two stars or walking away early. In my experience, the one-star reviews I’ve read are often about something that offended someone- hot button issues like religion, politics, sex, or race. If you give out one-star reviews to things you’ve never seen nor taken seriously, knock it off.

Two Star ** - A two-star review is often for technically proficient, but uninspired works that don’t cover any new ground. Or it could be for a good idea that’s executed terribly. A lot of Hollywood sequels deserve two stars when they lazily plug the same characters and plots in different places and expect big bucks.

Three Star ***- Three-star reviews are supposed to designate average performance. In that case, there should be more three-star reviews than any other since the bell curve is widest in the middle. There’s nothing wrong with a three-star review. It means that the item in question achieved its goal in fine shape, but there is room for improvement.

Four Star **** - This is about as good as it gets. Four-star books, movies, and shows are what I live for. They are expertly presented, tell a good story, and have strong components. Four-star properties are above average, and rarer than three-star properties.

Five Star *****- Why do we even need a fifth star? Why not six? Four stars is excellence, so what do five-stars mean? For me, that fifth star is an extremely personal, individual sentiment meaning that the experience has uniquely touched me and changed my outlook on life. I will never forget five-star experiences, so they have to be the rarest. This is the book that turns on the light bulbs in your head, the movie you can’t stop thinking about, the wonderful vacation spot you return to year after year, or the professional that you refer to all your friends. Unfortunately, since it is the most subjective of all the ratings, what’s five-star for me may be less for others, and vice versa.

For example, in my other career I prepare income tax returns as a CPA. I endeavor to produce four-star results every time by knowing the laws backwards and forwards and making sure that I get all the information that I need from my clients. Once in a while I will get a five-star tax return, where I see a big difference that I can make for someone by just pointing things they might not have been aware of. This makes my day and hopefully theirs. You can’t always predict five-star experiences, but always be on the lookout for them and notice them.

We should all shoot for at least four-stars in our work and relationships. But sometimes we deserve to be the recipients and givers of five-star experiences periodically. We need to seek those out more and provide them more. Those are the ones that can make life most exciting and worthwhile.

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