How do you know when you’re successful?

Think of your why. For what reasons do you do what you do? Have you taken the time to pause and reflect on them? What necessitates action for you? What causes you to feel successful? When was the last time you felt really successful, like you conquered something difficult or overcame some challenging project? Why? It was likely not without struggle for it is through the struggle that we find strength to push through to the other side. We seek the right challenge — it is either foisted upon us or selected by us.

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The struggle is necessary and is best honored.

What outputs are you working toward? Which ones are relevant to your career? How will you know you have been successful? What are the success metrics? Marketing guru, Dean Jackson, has this wonderful way to gauge success. It begins by asking “How will I know when I am being successful?” and following it up with the statement, “I know I am being successful when I…” and then filling in the latter part of the sentence with your own success metrics. What success looks like is different for each one of us. It is a subjective term. Worse, we often talk about success without a true definition. How will we know we’ve arrived when we don’t even know what it means for us? We have to define our metrics. How do you know when you’re being successful?

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How will I know I am being successful?

Nearly all of us paint success broadly with finances. If you’re financially successful, then you’re successful. You’ve made it. Only it isn’t like this. There are many rich people who are miserable. Perhaps the path they took to achieve their riches made them miserable. They aren’t miserable because they’re rich. They’re miserable because they didn’t set the right success metrics for themselves. Perhaps they didn’t have goals other than financial success and left out the vitally important health and relationships part of goal setting. Wealth at the cost of your health isn’t wealth at all. Same thing when you doom your relationships. There has to be a success balance between the three areas or else one area causes suffering. Making money for money’s sake is insufficient and empty. Few things are sadder than working really hard toward an outcome you desire only to have its achievement leave you feeling flat. There has to be a greater Why behind the act. Why are you doing this?

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Coaching for adult behavior change is hard.

Take coaching. Executives desire to change a behavior and realize that adult behavior change is hard. They hire a coach to help guide them. Since coaches are all about getting results, some choose to only get paid if they get a result for their clients. This gives them skin in the game, and it makes them highly selective with whom they work. People that are not serious about changing are not good coaching candidates. The top tier coaches charge top tier rates because they deliver exceptional results. They are also the most in demand executive coaches. Their Why is helping people get better through honesty, practicing behavior change, and accountability. The money acts as an accountability tool for both parties. In a successful coaching engagement, the client improves, feels better about himself or herself, and the coach gets the satisfaction of helping improve and guide someone in the difficult seas of adult behavior change. It is win-win. And these successful coaching engagements typically turn into healthy, long-term relationships.

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Meaningful relationships help to guide us.

Take Warren Buffett. He isn’t guiding Berkshire Hathaway to great wealth only for the sake of wealth. He’s guiding and leading Berkshire Hathaway as a steward of 350,000+ employees and their families. Relationships with these people and Berkshire shareholders are of paramount importance to Buffett. If these relationships were to suffer, Buffett would suffer as well. Yes, of course, the money Berkshire makes is important. But how the money benefits the stakeholders and shareholders is the greater Why behind what Buffett does. Great wealth can do great things if its destination is well thought out and thoroughly vetted. The majority of Buffett’s wealth is destined for the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. And Buffett has further cemented his Why by asking other well-off families to take the Giving Pledge.

Many don’t think about their why, and end up conflicted, confused or unclear about what it is they’re doing and why. They don’t know if their efforts are worthwhile or are even making a difference. Reflection can help guide this process. Those who think hard about their why typically end up reasoning that they do what they do for others, for meaningful relationships. This is a terrific why. It is the overarching theme and goal of Ray Dalio’s book Principles: meaningful work and meaningful relationships. Additionally, why gives us clarity to our thoughts and actions. While the number of reasons we do things is vast, when they’re drilled down, there are only a few real reasons why we do what we do. Look for the greater Why behind the act. Look for the greater why behind the act. Look for the greater why behind the act.

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