So this morning I met with a buddy of mine named Sergio. We met this last Tuesday at a Minnesota Chatbot Meet-Up where the group debated the current and future prospects of bots, IoT, and automation. Sergio and I ended up exchanging contact info the good ol' fashion way, and we made tentative plans to meet at a coffee shop or tea bar that coming Friday at 8:00 AM to network further.
Fast forward to Friday (2 hours ago as of this writing), with his steaming Sencha Tea in hand, Sergio started off the conversation with, "So I've done a ton of research on you and your company this last week so I knew what questions to ask you and what I could learn from you." Good start!
As Sergio recapped everything he learned about me and Online Growth Systems, I sipped my honey infused black tea. He then proceeded with asking his first question: "why?"
Wow. Heavy hitter!
Not an easy question to answer (sorry Simon Sinek). As the discussion progressed we dove deeper and deeper into rabbit holes and diverged further and further into tangents. My personal favorite kind of conversations- ones that can't stay on the same subject for long... a rather good indication of a fun dialog! :)
Success as a definition.
What is your definition of success?
I think that everyone's definition is different. It's customized to their goals, their viewpoints, and their perspective. This isn't, or shouldn't be, a dictionary defined term. It's like trying to categorize things that fit the word "cool." Isn't that your personal opinion?
Sergio's definition: Doing what makes you happy.
My Definition: How many people's lives have you made a difference in? How deep?
Neither is right or wrong, its just how we prioritize what makes us feel successful. I hope that your's is different too.
Success as a metric.
How do you measure success?
If everyone's definition for success is different, that means everyone's metric for measuring that success is different too. If you're running a marathon, you measure distance. If you're in a hot dog eating contest, you measure # of hotdogs eaten.
Sergio's measurement: How happy do you feel?
Dick's Measurement: How many lives have you impacted?
Then comes the debate. Doesn't being successful by your own terms mean you'll be happy? Maybe. I don't know. We dove a lot into psychology, philosophy, and even ethics. It depends what your definition of success is.
For Sergio, he wants to do what he feels most passionate about. That is what derives him happiness, and that is what makes him feel successful.
For myself, I want to impact people. It's a numbers game for me. Yes, my definition also corresponds with my happiness gauge, but that's irrelevant.
It's worth mentioning that I think the most successful Mother in the world might impact only her two children in a positive massive way, compared to a mother who impacts 7 children in an average way. Another example might be a meme. Let's say it impacts 1,000,000+ people if it goes viral on Instagram. Compared to an inspirational video of a military vet coming home to see his kids for the first time in over a year, it reaches 50,000 people. Which is more successful? I think it depends on what you're definition is. If your goal was to get views, the meme is more successful. If your goal was to make people support military vets, the meme impact is worthless and veteran video is more successful.
How do you measure success?
Case Study: Albert Einstein
Sergio and I used a mutual hero of our's, Albert Einstein to compare what we deemed as successful. Einstein was the famous mathematician and physicist who came up with the e=mc2 equation and the father of nuclear energy.
Einstein is also know as drafting a letter to President FDR which prompted the development of the world's first atomic bomb. He is also know for his love of the pastry bagels. The comparison is almost humorous! :) I wanted to use the atomic bomb for an example of measuring his success. (THESE NUMBERS ARE FOR DEBATE PURPOSE ONLY, NOT HISTORIC ACCURACY. ETHICS ARE ALSO NOT PART OF THIS DEBATE, JUST MATH.)
Let's say that when the USA used the nuclear bomb, it killed one million people. Bad impact, right? But let's say your definition of success was lives saved. A number. I want to think that Einstein's biggest success was the number of lives he saved and impacted. Let's say that if Einstein didn't prompt the development of the atomic bomb and it wasn't used to end WW2, another three million lives would have been lost throughout the remainder of the war. Let's do some math...
Einstein wrote letter to build bomb: 1 million lives lost
Einstein didn't write letter to build bomb: 3 million lives lost.
= Einstein saved 2 million lives by writing the letter to build the first atomic bomb.
AGAIN, we are just using this for math purposes, not ethical or historic purposes.
It's also worth mentioning that after Einstein learned the Germans wouldn't have developed an atom bomb to use on the Allied Forces (the reason he wrote the letter was to warm the President), he regretted ever writing the letter in the first place. In an interview with Newsweek magazine, he said that "had I known that the Germans would not succeed in developing an atomic bomb, I would have done nothing." Since this didn't provide Einstein happiness, by Sergio's definition, this made Einstein unsuccessful. Sergio argued that he would have been more successful being a professional bagel critic, assuming that would have provided Einstein the most happiness out of any other career path.
The Debate: Passion VS Impact
I believe that you should try as many things as possible so that you can find what you're good at. What you're the best at. So you can find what industry you can dominate and impact the most people's lives. Or for Sergio, find what makes you happy. What if Picasso never picked up a paint brush? What if he pursued something he found himself enjoying before he learned to paint? Yes, he would have been happy and by Sergio's definition a success, but he surely would have impacted less people and perhaps we would have never known his name.
What if Michael Jordan never dribbled a basket ball? Few people know that he also played professional baseball in addition to basketball. He is arguably known as the best basketball player of all time, but just an average baseball player. Both made him happy- but only one sport left him in history books. Basketball left a greater impact on more people's lives. Let's say that a career in Baseball would have built up more of a passion and love of the sport for Michael- Sergio would say that would have been the more successful route. I disagree.
Where do you stand?
Passion or Impact?
Thanks for reading.
PS. I read every comment. Please join the conversation below by leaving your opinion of this blog/argument, and perhaps discuss what you think drives success.