Why Goals Should Have Measurements for Success

I ran my first marathon last year in New York City, and at the time my goal was just to complete the race. The time it took didn’t matter, I just wanted to cross the finish line. While I’m proud of myself for completing the goal that I had set for myself, I didn’t really have any measurements for success.

I know that completing the marathon could be seen as a success, and I would agree with that. I’m very happy and proud to have finished it. But I think success, or a win, should be seen as something beyond the goal. To me, having measurements for success take you beyond completion of your goal.

Historic stop watch time measurement.
How do you measure the success of your goals?

I tend to think we make goals broad and general so that they can be achieved. And I can’t argue with that. If you set goals that are unattainable, all you will ever know is failure, and that is not very motivating. On the other side, if all you have is your attainable goal, you’ll most likely only do what’s necessary to attain that goal, when you could have gone so much further.

Nick Saban, the head coach of Alabama’s top ranked college football team, has an incredible track record of keeping his teams at the upper echelon of the sport. And in college football, that’s really hard to do. Coaches are tasked with keeping their teams motivated at all times, even against teams that aren’t as talented on paper. That’s a hard task, and Saban has found a way to do it consistently. I absolutely love this quote below from him:

“It’s not human nature to be great. It’s human nature to survive, to be average and do what you have to do to get by. That is normal. When you have something good happen, it’s the special people that can stay focused and keep paying attention to detail, working to get better and not being satisfied with what they have accomplished.” ~ Nick Saban

So after the marathon last year, I made another goal, and that was to run all of the New York Road Runner borough races. To be honest, I wanted to complete those races in the same calendar year so I could take a photo of the medals. That’s the photo geek in me. But along with that goal I also set a success metric, and that was to finish the races with an overall faster average time than last year.

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Accomplished the goal of taking this photo, but the success was completing the races faster than the previous year.

The measure for success motivated me to take my training and workout more seriously. But it made me committed to the process, which I had to keep all year long. Sure some sacrifices and tough decisions were made, but in the end it was worth it and I’m a better and faster runner because of it.

Goals with measurements for success will help you to achieve more than “just getting by”, if that’s what you want in the first place. What are some goals and measurements for success that you’ve set for yourself?

How Likable Are You? It’s an Important Question.

I think it’s safe to say that most of us are driven to want to be successful in the career of our choosing. And we often think that in order to achieve that goal we need to be the smartest, most knowledgeable, and more driven than anyone else. But there’s one other thing that will help you be successful that seems to be overlooked, and that is to be likable.

So just to be clear, I don’t have any data to support my position, it’s just my opinion based on my experience working with others. But I think that being likable is half the battle. And the reason I say that is because if you are likable, people will want to work with you again.

You still have to have substance though, and have to have skill and knowledge. You have to be good at what you do. While being likable helps create a positive impression being likable without substance will end up creating a negative one. And that is something that shouldn’t be ignored.

Part of success isn’t really what you know, but who you know. And if who you know helps you climb the ladder to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself, you had better likable to leave a positive, lasting impression.

Don’t Overlook the Value of Soft Skills

One of the things that I appreciate about the job the I have is that I get to meet and work with a lot of people inside and outside the company. It’s important to understand that each interaction has the chance to leave a positive or negative impression on someone, and you don’t know how that will play in the future. It’s why brands and companies, both big and small, really need to make sure all employees understand that soft skills matter. In today’s world, everyone is customer facing.

Take for instance the waitress that served me at the San Francisco California Pizza Kitchen. CPK is one of my favorite restaurants to go to. I absolutely love their Barbecue Chopped Chicken Salad with Avocado. If there was a location closer to my house, I’d probably be there a lot. So I took the opportunity to go when I was in San Francisco since I was staying downtown.

When I sat down to order lunch, the waitress told me that I could get a free small plate if I signed up for one of their programs. After looking at it, I decided that I didn’t want to because I wasn’t going to order a small plate, so I respectfully declined. The waitress wouldn’t take no for an answer. First she told me to think about it some more, and left to place my order. When she came back I said that I might sign up for it later because I would be more inclined to have a small plate during dinner. That answer wasn’t good enough for her. She told me that if I signed up for it now, I could come back later and still get my free small plate. I told her again that I’d think about it. The third time she came back to check on me she said that if she got 5 people to sign up for the program, she would get a free lunch.

This story ends with me signing up for the program and the waitress thanking me profusely for doing so. What she, and California Pizza Kitchen, didn’t realize is that that is the last time that I will ever visit their San Francisco location again. Customers don’t like feeling pressured to buy things or sign up for things even if they’re free.

The same kind of thing happens in the corporate world too. There’s a big difference between a friendly reminder and just being a complete annoyance. In the business world, the individual might not care about being an annoyance especially if in the end they get what they want. And today’s world sort of glorifies that kind of behavior by classifying it as “persistence”, and we praise people for not taking no for an answer.

From a CEO of a startup or a high ranking executive at a large company to the fresh graduate and new hire, it’s become commonplace to get what we want and need now and worry about the consequences of our actions later. In the meantime, though, by doing that we burn bridges. The world has an interesting way of making things come full circle.

Don’t underestimate the power of a positive impression. A few months ago as I was trying travel back home from San Francisco, Delta had to cancel a lot of flights because of a storm that hit their hub in Atlanta. The airport in San Francisco turned into chaos. Everyone was frustrated. I ended up having to spend the night in the airport to wait for the first flight out the next morning.

In the morning, the airport was packed with people who had cancelled flights from the night before, and as people approached the gate desk angry, one Delta employee was there calmly answering questions as best she could and helping people as she could. When it was my turn in line, I calmly asked her if I was going to be able to get on the flight as I was not assigned a seat.

I think that my demeanor, not being angry or mad, or at least not showing it, definitely helped. But to her credit she was able to get me on the flight and on my way home. She was definitely having a bad day, but she handled everything professionally and because of that I am still choosing to fly Delta whenever I have to travel.

The lesson of this whole thing is that it doesn’t matter who you are in the pecking order of a company or brand. Your interaction with someone matters and it can either be positive or negative. A positive impression left on someone could lead to recommendations of your brand or company to others, while a negative impression left could lead to people avoiding your brand or company altogether.

And before you disregard this because you happen to be a B2B brand or a startup whose clients aren’t individuals, remember that you have no idea who people know. You could have just interacted with someone whose friend or family member has the decision making ability at a potential client you’d like to win over. Regardless, it is important that brands and companies place an emphasis on soft skill training and evaluation for everyone.

To Honor Someone, Make Them Unforgettable

After 16 years you would think that it gets easier, and on the surface it may look that way, but beneath that it still hurts the same. Ever since the attack on 9/11, our family has visited Ground Zero / The National September 11 Memorial every year. My wife’s older sister, Jennifer, along with nearly 3,000 others died on 9/11, and each year we go back to the site to pay the respect to her and to others that deserve it.

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Listening to the names of those that died on that day being read by family members is emotional and heartbreaking. Each has a story to share about what has made their loved one unforgettable, what they meant to them, and how they’re working to make sure future generations know the impact that they had even though their lives were cut short unexpectedly and unfairly.

During the ceremony, the question of how to best remember, honor, and show respect to someone that has had such a positive impact in life kept running through my mind. And as the day progressed, the answer became much clearer.

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The best way to show honor and respect, and ultimately remember that person that has had such a great impact on your life is to show it in your everyday actions. Act and live in such a manner that would make that person proud.

It is the act of doing that has a lasting impression. It is what people see, what they experience when they interact with you, and it is what future generations will also use as an example. It is the action that allows your words to have meaning and truth.

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It is said that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, and it just might be the best way you can remember and honor someone that has meant a lot to you. How you live your life will make them unforgettable.

The Responsibility We All Have As Influencers

I give successful bloggers a lot of credit, somehow they find things to write about all the time. I’m not so good at that. So when I have a conversation with someone that sparks an idea, or if I happen to observe or read something that really strikes a chord, I have to write it down as soon as possible.

Social media has handed everyone a global platform, soap box, or mountaintop to talk, yell, scream, mutter, or whisper from. I’ve held onto the thinking that as long as you’re not doing anything illegal or harmful to someone else, how you use social media is completely up to you. I won’t tell you what’s the right way or the wrong way, I’d rather point to examples of methods that are used to successfully attain the goals that were set.

As with any platform or medium, there are people that are more influential than others. Influence can mean something different to everyone but for the sake of this post I’ll say that someone who is influential has the ability to create engagement or an action. That action could be a click, a like, a retweet, or simply starting a back and forth conversation. An influencer is able to generate a reaction to their action.

The question is, how much responsibility does an influencer have when their actions cause reactions that aren’t so great?

For those of you old enough to remember, basketball great Charles Barkley sparked a lot of conversation when he said, “I’m not a role model… Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids”. For the record, I agree with Mr. Barkley, or Sir Charles as he’s often referred to, I don’t want him raising my kids either. But if you have achieved celebrity status, or are a public figure, people will mimic and model themselves after you.

“I’m not a role model… Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids”

~ Charles Barkley

Recently I observed someone with a rather large social following make a comment about the choice of food someone decided to eat. The comment was negative, shaming the decision publicly. Given the individual’s large following, the comment generated a lot of conversation with people agreeing and disagreeing with the comment. Personally I was surprised that the comment was made, and then even more surprised by the defense used when called out about it. They claimed that the comment was made out of concern for the individual they were shaming. In my opinion, if they really wanted to help, they would have spoken to the person privately.

The shaming comment was obviously made to get a reaction from followers, as are all posts made on social media. If you don’t want a reaction to what you have to say, don’t share it on social. But I have to believe that there are better ways to get reactions than at the expense of someone else that doesn’t deserve it.

So were there consequences to that influencers actions? No, probably not. The person being shamed will probably never know that they were. For those that jumped in on the fun, they probably see the tactic as being ok, and that could have an effect later on but probably nothing immediate. If they were to mimic the influencer’s actions in the future could we point back at them and say they cause it? I don’t know, maybe not, but they certainly didn’t help positively. As for me, I know that from now on I will think differently about this person, and not in a good way, and I’m sure others will feel the same.

You might be saying to yourself that you’re not a celebrity, and that might be true. Maybe you’re not. But with social media, you’ve got access to people all around the world. I guarantee you that you’re probably influencing more people than you realize. What you say and react to matters, so think first before putting it out there.

Advice for Parents: Lead by Example

As my kids get signed up for Fall sports, I’m reminded how they both got interested in sports in the first place. While they might have naturally gravitated to sports at some point in life, I believe the reason why they got interested so early on is because they saw me actively play. It led me to this conclusion that seems fairly obvious, that my kids will follow my example.

My boys are still relatively young, but I remember introducing them to sports by watching it on TV. I love watching sports, and it probably doesn’t matter what sport it is too. I thought that watching sports on TV would help fuel their interest in it. But instead, it just made them interested in watching TV in general. In a way, they were following my lead.

So to change that I started spending time shooting baskets in the hoop I have in my driveway, and before you know it, both of my sons wanted to do the same thing. I encouraged my wife to take up running, and we both ran a 10K last year. After seeing all the training we both went through, my older son told me that he wanted to run the marathon with me when he gets older, and my younger son continues to want to race me.

Kids are like sponges, and while it might not seem that they’re paying attention to you, they are. And they’re learning from every interaction or non-interaction they have with you. At the end of the day, children want affirmation from their parents, and so they look and see what is of interest to them and emulate that.

I’ve noticed that my kids see how I communicate, and I can see how they copy that for better and for worse. The kids can see where my priorities lie and they copy those as well.

I could go on and on about this but I think you get the point. Parenting isn’t easy, it’s a huge responsibility. Along with all of the other pressures that life throws at you it’s easy to just let kids be. But kids need your involvement and actions speak much louder than words.

The Best Piece of Advice I’ve Received in Years

I find the topic of advice to be pretty polarizing. And maybe polarizing is the first word that comes to mind for most people, but I think it fits because it can create the most opposite of reactions.

Sometimes people go and seek advice, and their either confirmed in their initial thoughts are told something they don’t want to hear. At other times advice is given when not asked for, and in all these cases the reaction from the person on the receiving end can range from being feeling positive and validated to negative and hostile.

How you feel about the advice you’ve just been given also stems from a number of things. Is the source trustworthy? Does the source understand the whole situation in context? What is the character of the source?

All of these things played into mind when I was recently given this bit of advice: “Don’t run away from a bad situation, run toward a great one.” Those were the words from a good friend of mine, David Griner, Director of Digital Initiatives and Innovation at Adweek. I trust Dave and his opinion because he’s not shy of telling the honest truth, saying things as they are, and he believes in paying it forward.

“Don’t run away from a bad situation, run toward a great one.”

~ David Griner

It’s a perspective that I had not considered before and it makes total sense. No one wants to stay in a bad situation or one that is less than ideal, and nobody would blame anyone for wanting to leave something like that as quickly as possible. But if you only consider running away from a bad situation, you will be willing to accept another situation that’s only ideal for the moment. Then it won’t be too long before you find yourself looking to leave another bad situation.

Instead, if you’re running to something good or great, you are advancing yourself and moving towards something that you’re truly passionate about. And a job, position, or situation that you’re passionate about has the chance to last and will make you happier overall.

In order to take advantage of Dave’s advice though, we have to set aside some time to think and remove the emotions that drive us to consider change to begin with. Perhaps the current situation isn’t as bad as originally thought, and the opportunity you were looking to go to isn’t as good as it looked.

Well that’s the lesson that I’ve learned, does it apply for you as well?