Unlock the magic in your story now.

Get the free 20 Questions to ask before launching your Idea Workbook when you sign up for updates.

The Tyranny Of Checking

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

There are jobs, and there is work that relies on the professionals checking. We want our surgeons, pilots and firefighters to check and double check. That isn’t the kind of checking most of us do now. It seems that we’ve unintentionally made a career out of checking. We spend many hours a day checking notifications, newsfeeds, incoming and emails, retweets, likes and comment threads.

What’s the point of all this checking? What are we looking for? What are we measuring? How is it helping us? How many times has checking uncovered a genuine emergency that needed an immediate response? We all know the answer.

While these micro-moments of distraction may seem inconsequential, we do pay the price for choosing to check. Our progress, contribution, and impact will always be measured by what we said and did, not by knowing exactly who said and did what. We differentiate ourselves by doing.

We didn’t get to where we are today by looking over our digital shoulder. We got here by paying attention to where we wanted to go.

Image byIvan Rigamonti

The Value Of Goals And Outcomes

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

We tend to think of goals and outcomes as one and the same. They’re not.

Let’s say your goal is to run a marathon. Crossing the line at the end of the twenty-sixth mile is your goal. But the effect of the actions you take by trying to achieve that goal is worth more than having run the race.

Getting ‘there’ feels good. But never discount the value of what you’re learning as you go.

Image by Shutter Runner

Effort, Performance And Joy

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

The indoor bikes at my gym have a display monitor on the front. The monitor is designed to show you how much effort you’re putting into your workout. In theory the monitor helps you to get better results. You can see how the combination of your speed and resistance increases your power output. You can measure the distance you’ve travelled and the calories you’ve burned.

A constant awareness of the numbers is supposed to help you improve your performance. But I’ve found that it sometimes has the opposite effect. It’s hard not to just stare at those numbers for the whole time you’re on the bike. When you focus mainly on the numbers, you tell yourself a story about how well you’re doing compared to yesterday. You’re not thinking about the aggregate measurement of your performance over time or about the benefits of showing up day after day—week in, week out. You’re simply trying to increase your effort. You’re thin-slicing in the most unhelpful way. And you’re taking all of the joy out of working out.

Something surprising happens when you cover the monitor, avoid looking at the numbers. Suddenly you’re more aware of your body and how it’s capable of responding. You’re not limited by your perception of yesterday’s performance. You don’t have a mental ceiling about what’s possible. And so you not only achieve better results, you enjoy the ride.

We tend to believe the secret to improving performance is to pay attention to our output—that prioritising the numbers is what makes them go up. The numbers are just one sign that you’re on the right track. There are a hundred different ways you can improve them over time. But staring straight at the numbers and lamenting about what you’re not achieving right this second isn’t one of them.

Journeying is the act of travelling from one place to another—not a moment of arrival.
You get there by being committed to the journey.

Image by R Reeve

Priorities And Metrics

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

We often default to using narrow parameters to qualify worthiness or quantify excellence. We focus on a company’s revenue or an entrepreneur’s net worth, count the number of books an author sells or followers an influencer amasses.

What we choose to measure has a direct impact on what we then prioritise. And of course, what we prioritise determines the kind of companies and communities we build.

Better then, to set our priorities first and metrics later.

Image by Andrew

A Question Of Pride

filed in Success

Like most of their friends and neighbours from big Irish-Catholic families, my grandparents didn’t have the luxury of an education. They were not bookish, in fact, they were barely literate. They couldn’t teach me much about history or science. But they taught me a lot about pride.

My grandparents may not have had status, but they did have a place in their community. They valued fairness and doing the right thing by their neighbours. Their door was always open—kettle always on. They shared the little they had. They worked through their problems, knowing they didn’t have the all the right answers. They were not afraid of failure or a hard day’s work. They proudly sent their children to school in clean clothes with full bellies. And while their aspirations might seem small by today’s standards, they were huge by theirs—at a time when people lived from hand-to-mouth. Week-to-week. Brown envelope to brown envelope. I think my grandparents, and yours too could teach us a lot about how to live and work today.

Our grandparents would probably tell us to stop deferring to others (and Google) to find the answer and to start reflecting on what was right by, and for us? They would ask us why we’d stopped making fewer decisions that spoke to our heart. They would question our belief that success could be plotted on a graph with a neverending upward trajectory. They would wonder when it became fashionable to think that pride was just a vice that would surely come before a fall.

Growing up, I was lucky to be surrounded by people whose metric of success was doing what they were proud to have done. I can’t think of a better way for us to measure what matters.

Image by Alastair Green

Unlock the magic in your story now.

Get the free 20 Questions to ask before launching your Idea Workbook when you sign up for updates.

Send this to a friend