Tomorrow marks the second anniversary of this blog–two years of bringing my noise. This milestone got me thinking about something that’s been on my mind a lot lately–how does one measure success?
With regard to this blog, is the measure of success the number of views? Or the number of comments? The number of subscribers? Or the number of posts? The number of retweets? The number of “likes?” Which number is an accurate measure of success? Or is it something more intangible like the depth of satisfaction, or whether one post has resonated with just one person? Or the quality of writing and the overall response?
How does one measure success as an employee? As a cataloger, for the most part, my success is measured by the number of items I catalog each day. Increased productivity=success. Or does it? What about quality? Or discernment? Or looking beyond the task at hand at the bigger picture? What about the effectiveness of communication? Or contribution? Perspective?
How does one measure effort? How hard one is working? By statistics? Number of emails answered? Number of phone calls returned? Turnaround time? By overtime hours worked? By number of absences? Does it matter what else you’re looking at, thinking about, or conjuring in order to take your organization to the next level? How about engagement? Curiosity?
How do we measure the success of an organization? By employee retention? A perfect audit? By the number of complaints? By the number of compliments? Should we look at employee satisfaction? Customer satisfaction? Contribution to the greater good? How do we measure those?
How about the success of a small business? By the bottom line? By profits? Numbers on a bank statement or tax return? Or is it by effort? And work ethic? And dedication? Endurance? Commitment?
How do libraries measure success? Circulation statistics? Number of cardholders? Number of visits? Number of hits on the Web site? Program attendance? Amount accrued by fundraising? What about changing lives? Outreach? Increasing literacy? Bridging the digital divide? Not as easy to quantify.
Are you a successful parent? How do you know? By the number of As your child gets in school? By the number of meltdowns your child has each week? The number of times your child got detention? Or arrested? Scholarships? Awards? Or have you been successful if your child is happy, secure, well-intentioned, and kind?
Are you a successful human being? What does that mean? That you have many dollars? Many degrees? Many friends? Or does being a successful human being have more to do with attitude, and generosity of spirit, and love, acceptance, and compassion?
I get metrics and the importance of quantifying outcomes. I understand the value in numbers. There’s certainly a place for that kind of measurement, and I don’t doubt its validity. However-
I hope to rarely measure my success in numbers. Not as a blogger, a cataloger, an employee, a librarian, a parent, or as a human being. Sometimes it’s easy to hide behind a number–to raise that number as a trophy of victory. But numbers never tell the whole story. If they did, then I could tell you, in numbers, how much I love my family, or how much I value my friends, or how much I enjoy a good movie or cooking or a perfect glass of wine. I could give you a number instead of telling you the way in which a book or a story affected me. I could tell you how many times I ate exceptional food rather than describing the pleasure derived from doing so. I could tell you the number of times I looked at a painting rather than explaining the feeling I got from looking at it. I could tell you exactly how many college visits I’ve been on with my kids. What does that tell you about what I learned, or observed, or felt? I’ve been to only three countries outside of the United States. I’ve visited or traveled through 33 states. Those numbers don’t reflect anything about the quality of my travel. I could probably estimate the number of times I’ve rocked or nursed a wakeful child to sleep in the middle of the night, but the value lies in the incredible feeling of connectedness, bonding, and love that occurs during those intimate moments that can’t be measured on any scale.
There’s a place for both quantitative and qualitative measurements. Numbers serve a purpose, no doubt. But I don’t want to quantify mine or others’ success by numbers alone. Then there’s this-
How do you define success? Because before you can measure something, you have to know what it is your measuring. Defining success is even harder than measuring it.
Based on my definition with regard to this blog, I have been successful. We may look at the same statistics and other quantitative data and come to different conclusions about that. But I am committed, try my best to produce a good end product, and I have readers. That’s really all I need.
Which begs another question–is success always necessary?
Successful or not by your definition, on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d rate the overall satisfaction I get by writing this blog an 8. What does that number tell you?
I’d rather just say that I’m having a blast, and I hope you keep reading. It doesn’t matter how many times you visit as long as you enjoy your stay each time.
Thanks for spending some of your time with me.