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Success is tricky. It varies for each person. Yet, there is an unconscious bias towards metrics and measurement. Whether it be income, numbers of people or numbers of products, we measure success with numbers. However, is this wise?

Do you wonder why success seems fleeting? You get to a goal and then you must move the finish line again just to get that feeling of satisfaction.

Whenever I sit down with a new client, I ask them what they outcomes they want from coaching with me. Invariably, regardless of language that they use, they end up describing an outcome that they have been unable to achieve. And that lack of achievement has them feeling a certain way. It comes down to them feeling that they are not successful. Yet when we delve into it, they discover that the issue is that success is not clearly defined for them. They also discover that success has a huge aspect that is intangible and cannot be measured. But somehow along the way, no one told them that unmeasurable is just as important as measurable.

Here is one of my coaching tools that I use and I ask you to use it for yourself.

  1. Define success. Put it in words. Start out with, “I want to…….” Often a client says something like:
    1. I want to grow my business.
    2. I want to develop a new product.
    3. I want to be a better leader.
  2. Put some meat on it. What does growing your business look like? How many people? How many products? How much money? Go ahead write it down.
  3. Ask why. Now, this is the hard part. You must drill down like a funnel. You must ask “why” five times.


Example from “I want to grow my business”:

  • #1 – Why do you want to grow your business? Because I believe the work I am doing is very important.
  • #2 – Why is it very important? Because I see a void in the community and I want to fill this void.
  • #3 – Why do you want to fill this void? Because I see a void and I should fill it.
  • #4 – Why do you feel you “should” fill it? Because if I see a problem, and I have a solution, then I should deliver it.
  • #5 – Why do you feel you “should” be the one to deliver the solution? Because I have the solution.

Second example from “I want to grow my business”:

  • #1 – Why do you want to grow your business? Because I need more money.
  • #2 – Why do you need more money? Because I cannot meet my bills.
  • #3 – Why can you not meet your bills? Because I am not making enough money.
  • #4 – Why are you not making enough money? Because I am not putting enough effort into my work.
  • #5 – Why are you not putting enough effort into your work? Because I do not really enjoy what I am doing. I just need the money.

At this point, the client starts to see the problem.

In the first example, “Shoulds” are all about other people. This is not the client’s true definition of success.

In the second example, the client cannot achieve success because you cannot “use” your business to make you money and not be invested in it.

Once again, “patriarchy” rules.

“Huh?” you say!

This approach that you have the solution to those poor people that have no knowledge base is a power move and not a success move. This is a way to exert power over other people as you think you are the only one with a viable solution for others.

It is a patriarchal elitist model of defining success.

It is also a patriarchal elitist model of defining success to keep working a business that you do not like but you want to milk it for all the money it can bring you.

That is why you are not feeling satisfied.

I suggest you stop using the word “success” until you have infused it fully with your own definition. It is a loaded word that is smeared with other people’s baggage.

Instead, let me encourage you to share their experience of success with the outcomes for the people that you serve.

Success is not an isolated, one person event. It really means nothing if it has disempowered other people in the process.

Here is where my client’s end up after working with me.

  1. “I want to grow my business” becomes “I am excited about contributing my skills and technical know-how to this project and building community and connection with others as we work towards a similar goal.”
  2. “I want to develop a new product” becomes “I love using my creativity to find solutions for everyday problems.”
  3. “I want to be a better leader” becomes “I sleep well at night knowing that not only did I get the job done, I empowered others to do their best work.”

You see, “success” if we can call it that, is really a day by day, moment by moment thing. It is not reaching the peak of Mount Everest and then resting on your laurels. It is how you contribute to the lives of others.

My hope is that this has stirred you up to consider expanding your definition of success.


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I am committed to the success of all peoples. I actively work towards the equitable thriving of all human beings regardless of race, ethnicity, physical ability, sex, gender or national status. I offer a sliding scale for single parents, active-duty military, veterans, military spouses, the long-term unemployed, refugees and the formerly incarcerated.

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