- When you find yourself breaking even for the first time since you started your business venture, does that mean you’re doing well?
- If you receive fewer customer complaints this month than last month, does that mean you can relax?
- When your click-through rate rises after a new site design, does that mean you can go through with the new marketing scheme and thoroughly overhaul your processes?
When it comes to making anything a success — your business, your work, your projects, yourself, the question itself, “How do you measure success?” just opens the door to an overwhelming number of choices.
Success is a complex event, and is made up of many factors. Focusing on just symbols or thresholds for success, when you’re running a business there are three kinds of markers right off the bat.
- There are financial markers: I will be successful when I’m making enough money at my side-venture to leave my main job. I will be successful when I’m making $100,000 a year.
- There are physical markers: I will be successful when I have expanded my operations to 5 new locations within the year.
- There are emotional markers: I will be successful when I can stop worrying about making this business get off the ground.
In the question itself, “How do you measure success?” the parts “You” and “measure” should be pointed out as critically important.
For you to really feel the success, attaining it should be personal to you: there are too many accounts of people who, after looking back at their ‘successful’ lives and realizing they fulfilled the goals they were expected to have, were left feeling bereft and like personal failures when they realized those goals weren’t really their goals, they just sort of… slid into them.
In this vein, you need to dig deep and find out what matters to you enough that you would freely put in the labor for it, engaging and wrestling with all the details and activities involved in making the work a success. A success stands out because it demands more from you.
Follow the train of thought here: Just like on ordinary days, you see what you look for and can miss what you’re not looking at.
You have a to-do list right in front of you and you dutifully attend to it, but to what ends are those tasks building towards? What is the point?
The challenge here then, is to find the meaning in the tasks you do by connecting it to goals that mean something —to you and for you.
- This helps you work smarter: You get better at dealing with the minutiae, either by eliminating them, delegating or outsourcing them, or coming up with a system to handle them.
- This helps you stay engaged: Yeah it’s a hard job, but the crappy parts come with it are nothing compared to what you get out of it.
- This helps insulate you against burn-out: The slowest way to die mentally is to do work that bears no fruit.
- This helps you become more: You get better win the areas where you want to improve , and this impetus can spill-over to the other aspects of yourself that you may not have paid attention to. You lift yourself up.
Now, one definition of success means getting better at something you weren’t good at before. Improving is a success.
Think of people skills (“soft skills”) at work.
Basic levels of courtesy and manners, for example, are expected in business settings, but what can make you stand out can help you succeed. Rounding out your repertoire to extend beyond hard-skills (expertise, knowledge, authority) to handling people (tact, diplomacy, leadership/mentoring, building people up, etc.) is a win-win; one leverages the other.
So… we’ve established that there’s a basic level, then there’s outstanding: reaching that place is what it means to succeed.
Not to accomplish basic things that anyone with ordinary training can do, but to go beyond the elementary levels and show true mastery of the profession.
You go beyond surface questions and get specific:
- What are you good at?
- Where are you most successful?
- What is your business goal
You narrow down to relevant criteria, from small-scale to macro:
- What steps are you taking to improve sales, increase customer satisfaction and decrease customer complaints?
- How many new business connections have you fostered in the past quarter? Some days could be real nightmare, and some weeks can be difficult, but over 3 months surely you could make some inroads into expanding your business connections and contacts?
- What are the top three scenarios for the future of your business in the next 5 years, given the observable trends in technology, consumer demands, economic realities and global socio-economic trends?
It’s not enough to want to be a success. What do you want to succeed at? What do you want? Success is tied up with your personal objective — sure the company’s making it, but if you’re running on fumes, is that success? You’re making bank, but the last time you saw sunlight (or your friends) was…was…you can’t remember.
When you’re invested into something, you commit to its success. What are you investing with your work, your attention and your time?
You have goals. You have dreams. What are you doing to realize them, and how are you planning to make them come true?
It’s hard isn’t it? To realize that between fantasy and reality lies work, and it has to be the right kind of work, too. It’s not relegated solely to the amount of money you want to make, or the accolades you garner, but how true are you to succeeding at the things that mean the most to you.
Everyone should have a clear vision of what success means for them. Not an inherited goal, or what the media tells them they should want, but something that they determined for themselves. And how we measure our progress towards this vision should just be as personal. No more copying other people’s standards of ‘The Dream.’
When you take the time to personalize your vision of success, you can damn well get all-in and have fun creating the ways in which you measure your progress, and commit every day to mark your journey towards it.
Sometimes the issue lies in the way we were trained. If you’re a self-starter, you most probably studied the people in your filed that inspired you the most, and in that way, it’s easier to let yourself be influenced by their theories, practices and advice on how to be better, and how to succeed. You may unconsciously adapt their standards on success, and forget to make your own.
How do you know you’ve got the wrong standards?
For many the ill-fit is clear right off, and for others it will take them a while to suss it out because they don’t know anything different, or have just gotten very used to what they have that they think it’s all there is. For some it may start with the feeling that you they aren’t growing where they are.
- Or when there is very little that engages you, nothing to invest yourself in, the future looks like a sea of cold oatmeal — bland paste. But at least it safe bland paste.
- You don’t really think about the money. Whatever you make pales behind the pressure you’re feeling to do anything, go anywhere else than here.
- You’re driven by a deadline you don’t even own. You want to be ___ before___.
Take a look back. What landed you in your field in the first place? Your history can show you clues and signs to other, previously unexplored options, or choices you weren’t in any position to take before now. Look at your choices and see the bigger picture they form.
Take a look inside. What is the core of your business, or your career? Not what you build it on, but what you built it around? Recognize your core and work outward.
Remix. Hammer things out, break things down. Sift through the pieces and look for clues in your history. It’s hard work, but breaking things down to build them up better is just one of the good parts of being a grown-up. So is taking control of your fate.
And that, by whatever measure, makes you successful.
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