Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How Do You Measure Success?

At the beginning and end of each day I try to "sharpen the saw" as Stephen Covey put it in his time management/planning classes.  A time to reflect on things for yourself.  I used this time (literally a couple minutes in the morning and night to ask myself the following questions to quantifiably measure my progress against my personal goals of success.  I changed the focus of trying to chase wealth and focused instead on chasing after a quest for knowledge and self improvement.  In Hindu philosophy there are many demigods and godesses (not mutually exclusive to pray to any of them, and Hinduism is a monotheistic religion that believes in one overall God - to all you bashers and haters who view religious philosophy solely through the lens of your specific monotheistic faith).  The concept is that two competing godesses who are personnified as very beautiful women wish to be pursued before they shower their attention on whomever pursues them.  One is called Saraswati the goddess of knowledge and the other is Lakshmi the goddess of wealth.  Many a Hindu merchant prays to Lakshmi for success or money (which is like you or me playing the lottery as the sole retirement investment plan), but never really does achieve great success beyond the immediate fruits of his physical or mental labor.  The countering philosophy is rather than pursue Lakshmi, pursue Saraswati (or knowledge) because it makes Lakshmi a little jealous and she reminds you that she's there and has gifts for you if you pursue her once in a while.  So the concept basically says pursue knowledge and the side effect of wealth and success becomes more plausible.  It is a simple concept, that I have not always adopted personally, but have learned to redefine success.  This Hindu philosophy has born to be universally accepted in many philosophical and religious teachings of basically doing good for others or similar concepts.  A more modern interpretation reinforcing the universality of the position comes from Victor Frankl's book Man's Search For Meaning.

I have adopted these 10 questions as the yardstick to how I did each day toward achieving my own success:

1. Did the people I love hear or feel from me that I love them today? 
  • I have been absent from this aspect for a long time in my life, taking everyone around me for granted.  I work on achieving this in small ways like making coffee for my wife Christy before she goes to work and on weekends and bringing it to her in bed, or taking our daughter Rachel to school whenever I can, or making sure our son Alex or my dad or brothers hear something positive from me and not just gripes or complaints about something.  I try to find ways to talk to my friends or family and/or exchange emails to brighten their day without asking or expecting anything from anyone and just like doing it to the point it makes my day better.
2. What's the biggest thing I did to improve the world?
  • This isn't the easiest thing for me to think about, because I'm not the type that was out to improve anything but his own lot in life.  But I discovered that the little things like recycling, not printing something that can just be shared digitally,  sharing an idea with someone who can turn it into something wonderful, walking or biking somewhere vs driving, or turning off the lights or power to equipment so as not to waste water or energy count in this bucket.  Bigger things like donating to a charity or finding solutions for things plaguing groups like veterans or my community count a lot more to me, and I'm a work in progress.
3. Did I physically work out my body today? 
  • I know my family and friends who know and live with me every day will laugh at this one because I don't exercise any more and haven't really in over twenty years.  I do nothing close to what I used to do when I was an active duty Marine or afterward when it hadn't quite rubbed off and I was addicted to physical training before our kids came along, and I developed a love for fine cigars, alcohol, food and physical comforts like using a snow-blower vs shoveling the driveway or driving vs walking or biking.   Most who know me would consider me a level just above functioning ameoba when it comes to physical activity levels.  However I do something every day whether it is a "Surya namaskar" or "hello sun" exercise or something like the daily seven the Marines use to stretch and warm up their muscles before running to prevent injury.  I do something each morning to help me stay flexible which in turn keeps my arthritis and gout at bay and makes it just a little easier to walk my gargantuan girth around.  As funny as it may sound to my family and friends asking this question, I do understand the benefits of this question and do think about it.
4. What did I plan for tomorrow?
  • I have no problems with this one, because I am a natural planner and thinker.  In fact I think my wife Christy thinks it is the Dwivedi curse to be more "thinkers" than "doers."  There might be something to it.   I am just not comfortable going to sleep until I know what I have to do tomorrow and the day after and next week, and I like to draw her into my plans.  I, like others (I am sure), plan in my sleep which gives me ideas to develop new opportunities.    Christy thinks my ideas come too fast to execute properly on any one and she might be right about that.  How does it work for you?
5. Did I do anything to compromise my integrity today?
  • I have not had a problem with my integrity since early adulthood and childhood.  Learning valuable lessons about humility and integrity getting caught in a lie.  Nothing worse than tangling webs of deceit about skipping school, or getting in trouble or something like that.  A sick feeling that just becomes impossible to shake.  I learned that my word and reputation are two of most important things of value as my reputation precedes me everywhere I go.  I make sure that my deeds and actions match what I projected outwardly that day so I can sleep soundly.  If not I am troubled in my sleep because I would consider myself a fraud, and I can't be successful at anything if I think I'm a fraud.  No matter how much money is in my bank account or how many people love me, I can't be happy or successful if I'm not happy with myself. 
6. Did I offend anyone with unkind words or deeds?
  • I have had the problem in my past of being way too harsh with subordinates and demanding excellence from everyone and everything around me.  It's a character flaw that I've had to learn valuable lessons in life about going out of my way to be kind in words and deeds all the time even when I think people deserved the criticism I have delivered.  I'm a work in progress.  And sometime, I just keep to myself and say nothing rather than express unkind words.  How about that for progress (those who have been affected by my past words or deeds know who you are)?
7. Did I accomplish something worthwhile today?
  • I love what I do, and I chose to work in the printing industry specifically because of the sense of accomplishment that I got from seeing a short term project conceptualized, executed, closed and the reward of feedback almost instantly.  I am sure many craftsmen and professionals feel the same way about their jobs whether it is working with their hands or ideas.   It helps me to sleep at night knowing I have accomplished something worthwhile today.  Even if it is making progress or a plan by furthering along the process on something, I feel good when I accomplish something worthwhile and it drives my success.
8. Did I help someone less fortunate?
  • I am a work in progress with this one.  But I'm learning about giving in whatever way I can.  Freely sharing ideas, and helping others become successful.  My dad is the gold standard in my mind with giving tangible cash or wealth as a percentage of income that puts me to shame.  I also see Mr. Warren Buffet and the Gates Foundation as the platinum standard of philanthropic giving to help others less fortunate.  I have spent my life so narcisistically accomplishing my personal goals that I have left this off my daily priority list before I end my day.  I am reminded by Christy, my dad, my kids and others to make this a larger priority toward a successful and purposeful life.
9. Did I make wonderful memories today?
  • I can honestly say that if life for me ends tomorrow, I have no regrets and the best memories to take with me of when the kids were born, when Christy and I met, when my best friends and I met, and when I learned significant lessons in life that have created wonderful memories.  My goal is to keep this going with new ones every day.  It is what drives me with renewed purpose.
10. Did I show and live Oprah's "attitude of gratitude" today? 
  • Christy turned me onto this from her utter belief in Oprah Winfrey being the wise sage that Oprah really is to people.  This concept of an attitude of gratitude comes from Christy and I thank God every night and every morning when I wake next to Christy with the many blessings I have received in this life.  I have learned that I don't have as nice a day or as good a sleep if I just complain or griped about setbacks or something else that happened that day when something may not have gone the way I wanted.  When I put things into perspective of the kids are healthy, happy, we have an abundance of love around us and wealth and everything we need, I feel better and do much better.
This is just part of my daily checklist now, and I would be remiss if I did not give full and grateful credit to Inc. Magazine's Geoffrey James (a brilliant writer) for posing these questions in a way that got me to really think about success this way.

1 comment:

  1. This is nicely done Raj. I appreciate the provocation of thinking!