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Monday, June 6, 2016

That Elusive Success Metric

Most of us are inspired by stories of those we deem successful. We like to hear how they did it. What obstacles did they overcome? And what can they teach us about how to become more “successful”?

The power of story to inspire us is what makes movies, documentaries, biographies, and autobiographies potential bestsellers. In the business world, success stories are championed. We are looking for the secrets of winners to help us win, too.

In sales, for example, the well known book by Frank Bettger stands out. How I Raised Myself from Failure To Success in Selling. Or Dale Carnegie’s classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People. How about The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which millions have read. I’m not sure how many practice these habits.

Leaders wants success and find hope in such classics as The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker, On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis or Max Depree’s outstanding book, Leadership is an Art.

Biographies motivate us, too. There’s Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller. Or Sam Walton: Made in America. And Personal History by Katherine Graham.

Three articles on success caught my attention recently. Here are the titles:

*I’ve Worked for Two Billionaires. Here's What I Learned from Them
*There’s No "I" in Team. No "I" in Success, Either
*I Thought I Was Short on Time; Now I'm Long on Meaning

All three were published in a Linked In forum to which I belong. All three offer distinctly different approaches. All three were shared with us believing we can make great strides on the often elusive nature of that word…success.

The first article has ten of twenty lessons from two billionaires. The second ten are found in a followup post. The author, Paul Cameron Brunson, describes himself as an entrepreneur and TV host. He’s worked for Oprah Winfrey and Enver Yucel, the Turkish billionaire focused on education.

On this list are things you might readily find elsewhere…invest in yourself, surround yourself with better people, understand the power of leverage and so forth. The one I liked best was “never eat alone.” The one I liked least was “take no days off (completely)." Bottom line, good insights from very driven, hard working people. (Read them all at

The second article was written by Bob Nardelli. Bob is now 68. His bio tells us that “during his 45 years in the business world, Bob Nardelli has grown the sales and profits of a number of multi-national corporations including the General Electric Co. and The Home Depot, and Chrysler.”

Bob says success for him has never been about money. Or climbing the corporate ladder. He offers his four “life standards,” which have become the ways he measures success.

• Have I lived my life with dignity and respect for others and myself?
• Have I asked others to do something I wouldn’t do myself?
• Will my community be better for my having been there?
• Have I given back and helped others?

These values are important, to be sure. But I doubt the success dreamer is finding a path to greatness from them. (Full article at

The third article provided some true insight on the evolving nature of success. Titled, “I Thought I was Short on Time; Now I'm Long on Meaning” by Maynard Webb. Maynard is Chairman at Yahoo!, Former COO at eBay. He also wrote, Rebooting Work: Transform How You Work in the Age of Entrepreneurship.

Maynard opens by saying, “Having a metric to help you measure success is imperative.” He determined that his “success metrics” changed over time. First, success meant adequately providing for his family. Then, his reset was to succeed as an executive. He made many sacrifices to do it.

Maynard then determined that success involved recapturing his time. That new metric meant more time with family, more time on what he really wanted to do, and time to give back. He got on course by leaving a CEO role.

Only later did he see that his revised schedule had more to do with filling it with things he found meaningful. So his new metric for success is to act on ways he can make a positive impact. Specifically, things that give him energy. Nice work…if you can get it. (

Here’s the thing. A great number of the people with whom I come in contact daily are on a different treadmill. Some are stay-at-home moms. Others are laborers or people who simply have jobs and families. They don’t run out and buy the next success book. They don’t read the latest and greatest tips on management or leadership. They are trying to do their best at what they do and support the teams of people that need them most.

Those of us who find inspiration and motivation err when we believe that others should share our passions and metrics for success. We may well overestimate the importance of our activity. And the question becomes, are we really bearing any fruit of value?

At one point, Jesus of Nazareth told His followers, “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing…When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” (John 15:5-8 NLT)

Try that metric on for size. And success won’t be so elusive.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

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