We recently went to Thailand, and I was struck many things, the heat, the food, the motorcycles and importantly, the simplicity of life. I wondered if I could find that same simplicity at home—in the middle of the craziness of my world. There were so many people we met there who were happy and felt successful. But in the US, would they be seen as successful? Maybe not and that seems a bit screwed up.
Over the course of our lives, we’ve measured success differently. When we were younger, we measured success by the number of our friends, or our being in sports, the college or grad school we got into. Then there was the period of time where we measured success by our choice in partners, our jobs, money and how well our kids did in school or in life (this is a topic for an entire post!).
But since Thailand (and I guess even before), I’ve been considering my measure of success. John Wooden, one of the of the most successful basketball coaches of all-time, took an approach to measuring success that I love: “Don’t measure yourself by what you’ve accomplished, but rather by what you should have accomplished with your abilities.” His book, Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court, was an incredible reminder to me of something I’ve known all along: focus on what you can control.
The book inspired me to relook at how I measure my success and allowed me to develop some new “lane lines” for my life:
- Compare yourself only to yourself. According to Wooden “True success is attained only through the satisfaction of knowing you did everything within the limits of your ability to become the very best that you are capable of being.” Love it.
- Measure success by what’s hard to measure. Money, trips, things, etc. are easy to measure. I want to measure my life by what’s hard to measure: mental and physical health, relationships, passion and joy.
- Measure success over the long haul. Nothing, and I mean nothing, happens overnight.
- Measure the “right” outcomes. The number of books I read means nothing. The number of books I read where I retain something, and share it with others, means something.
- Finally, and most importantly, measure success by values. Highly motivated people often focus too much on execution without spending enough time to think about what (and really why) to execute in the first place. I want to measure my success by doing what fits my life values.
Thailand was beautiful, amazing and inspiring. I learned so much about myself and the positive and not-so-helpful things in my life that I need to shed, in order to enjoy this cool new phase of life. Thailand also helped me find a more robust (and frankly more elegant) way of measuring my success!