Just Google It: Panel Graphs in Excel

I got a data task last week. I love my data. At my last job I once got lost writing a report on our evaluation data and didn’t look up from my computer until my stomach growled and I realized I stayed an hour later than I usually go home.

Anyway, I had the task of plotting some pretty disparate numbers. Things like website traffic (maximum at tens of thousands) per week as well as acceptances (maximum under 10) per week…plus some numbers in between. I thought this would be easily solvable with a secondary Y axis but after plotting the data that way, I realized it wasn’t the best solution. I either needed to blow up the graph to billboard size or have a third or fourth Y axis to make it work.

Then I tried taking out website traffic as a whole since it was the outlier, but then my next biggest variable became a problem since it was an outlier compared to the rest of my data. My next solution was to plot all of the variables separtely. Since the data is all plotted by week, I just had to stack them on top of each other, and the trends (spikes and dips) would still show even though it wouldn’t be as visually appealing. I made all 5 graphs before realizing that was a dumb idea. Frustrated, I told myself that there are entire professions based around data analysis and visualization, and there has to be a way to display these numbers in the same graph.

I then turned to my best friend, Google. I can remember taking a computer applications class in middle school where we learned the “proper” way to search – using keywords, plus signs, etc. That is never the way I search, though. I’m a fan of typing full sentences or phrases of my stream of consciousness. In the pre-Shazam or Siri days, I found many a song title and artist by typing in the lyrics of songs I heard on the radio.

This is what I typed in, and I felt it like destiny that someone else had used the same phrase that I had. The forum led me here which is where I found my answer.

The feeling of fate continued as I read the post. The writer laid out all of the ways people attempt to display data like this, which mirrored the attempts I had just made.

  • You can plot everything on the same graph with one Y axis, but that leads to everything but your outlier looking like a flat line.
  • You can plot a second Y axis, but then you have to remember which lines go with which axis (and still wasn’t enough in my case)
  • You can plot all of the data on separate charts and try to line up the X axis

Or you can make a panel graph! I copied the format of the data and the formulas in the step by step instructions (accounting for the fact that I needed 5 panels rather than 3). Since the example data is so small compared to mine, I had to write down a list of conversions (example E9 = my G44) to get the formulas right after quite a few mistakes that had my graph looking wonky. But then I had it! Five variables worth of data aligned along the same X axis each with its own Y axis for scale.

The point of all of this is that it’s very unlikely that the problem you’re experiencing is something only you will encounter. The internet is a wonderful place that can help you with many problems from fixing your blender (boil the blade kit to get it unstuck) or helping you make a panel graph for the first time.


Breaking Out of a Broken System Review: Part 1

I learned about the band NEEDTOBREATHE my first summer working at Strong Rock Camp when my co-counselor would play their music to wake our girls up in the morning. I had the opportunity to see them play live at a Braves game this summer which led me to Googling the different band members after the concert to learn their story.

I found that the bassist Seth Bolt opened a recording studio at age 16 and wrote a book with his brother Chandler (who also was a young entrepreneur) called Breaking Out of a Broken System. It sounded interesting, so I got a copy.

The book is split in half – the first half on black paper/white text from Seth’s perspective and the second half on white paper/black text from Chandler’s perspective. I finished Seth’s half and wanted to share my thoughts so far.



The way they wrote the book is impressive. Since they have such busy schedules, they planned to write the entire book over a 7-day period. They use timers to strictly finish a chapter within 2 hours: 10 minute brainstorm/10 minute outline/90 minutes of writing/10 minute break. Repeat. There’s a whole chapter on how perfectionism is the enemy of getting stuff done and how to avoid analysis paralysis.

I appreciated the purpose of work near the beginning of the book. Seth talks about how God gave Adam the task of caring for the garden and the animals, so humans working and having a purpose existed before the fall. Many people think of work as punishment for sin, but it’s not! And it is certainly easier to think about work being purposeful than a penalty.

The “you do you” chapter was great as well. That’s not what it’s called, but I like that umbrella term for it It’s a combination of forging your own path and not needing to “keep up with the Joneses.” I especially liked when Seth talked about how it is important for children to see their parents pursuing dreams rather than giving up everything to focus on their children. While I don’t have my own children, I did grow up with parents who provided everything I needed while also not allowing my sister or me think we were the center of their universe.

The end of Seth’s half is the best part. He talks about saving his allowance and construction money to buy his first guitar and continuing to save up until he had enough recording equipment to launch his studio business at 16. I really wish this section were more detailed because I would have loved to hear how he got those first clients and any struggles he encountered as a young entrepreneur.

He’s a huge proponent of owning your own business and talks about plowing the money you make back into your business to grow it, thereby making it a deduction on your taxes rather than taxable profit. It made me laugh that he even included the disclaimer “this is legal.” Not only does he explain the rules of the tax code, he also provides a list of the paperwork you need to fill out to start a business. It’s a quick action plan that leaves no room for excuses, especially paired with the previous chapters.

Overall I really like the book. I found a lot of similarities between the lessons my parents taught me growing up and the lessons their parents taught them. I think the lessons will be especially valuable to someone who is hearing it for the first time. I also loved the old family photos and stick figure drawings throughout the chapters.


I almost lost my mind over Chapter 8. Seth talks about how companies should make benevolence and philanthropy a main focus and not be so concerned with profits. It’s a very typical misunderstanding of business – thinking that profit is bad and charity is good. What this black and white stance misses is the value created from that profit. People willingly give their money to companies for goods and services that make their lives better. Profits don’t come from scamming customers or ripping them off; they come benefiting customers.

Then he uses TOMS shoes as his example of a company who is doing things the right way. In my mind, TOMS is the absolute worst offender of “good intentions, terrible results.” I’m going to spare you my rant because all you need to do is type “TOMS shoes are the worst” into Google, and you’ll get plenty of reading material. For a fuller picture, you should watch the documentary Poverty, Inc. It’s on Netflix. You’re welcome.

The beginning of Chapter 15 reminded me of so many articles I find on the internet that are “Praxis-adjacent” as I like to call them. The author realizes that something is broken – college tuition is way too expensive, and college grads aren’t getting jobs – but then ends up concluding that using the broken system is still needed. Seth even goes as far to say, “The public education system was designed during the industrial revolution to produce loyal, faithful workers. It was designed to serve industrialism.” But then follows a few pages later with, “The system’s motto is ‘Go to school, get a job.’ You need to think: ‘Go to school, create a job.’” It’s just funny to me that he includes school in his category of a broken system and then still has it as a pre-requisite for creating the life you want for yourself.

The end of Chapter 15 just made me sad. It is full of Pros (above), but positioning working for someone else (anything other than owning your own business) as “exchanging time for money” is so wrong. Companies don’t pay you for your time, and if you view your work that way, it sounds like you are a clock-watcher, and I’m sorry you hate your job so much. The work you do should be creating value for the company you work for and its customers, and you are paid in exchange for creating that value. Your time in and of itself is not what your employer pays you for – it’s what you do with that time.

Overall I thought Seth’s advice skimmed the surface of a lot of great points and missed the opportunity to really flesh out the ideas and give them some depth. I think this has a lot to do with my exposure to Praxis and its content which, in my opinion, is much better. 😉 I think the time constraints (2 hours per chapter, finished manuscript in 7 days) had a lot to do with the lack of depth and am still very impressed with the book as a whole.


Looking forward to part 2 and hearing from Seth’s younger brother Chandler about his entrepreneurial endeavors!