How do you measure success?

By Marc Littlemore
4 min read

The dictionary defines success as:

“The accomplishment of an aim or purpose”

Everyone wants to feel successful. But what does it mean to you? What is the aim or purpose of your life?

Peter Drucker, one of the great theorists on management techniques, has been attributed with the saying:

“You can't manage what you can't measure”

But how do you measure success?

Create your own definition of success

I've got a friend who often compares themselves to others. How their own life is not as good as mine or one of our mutual friends. They tell me how successful I've been and how they've not. I live my own life optimistically. I've always felt that this was the wrong way to consider success by looking at what others do. Success should be what's truly important to you and to nobody else.

Everyone's definition of success is different.

Your definition of success will be different to mine. Many people look successful from the outside but only they can define what it means. They may not feel as successful as you think they are.

When I was in my late teens, I started DJing as my DJ Cruze alter ego. I came to Manchester for university in 1990 and slowly started DJing at the student nights. I met my good friend Mark and sent him DJ mixtapes over to Germany when he lived out there. Before I knew it, I was DJing every other weekend in Germany and in Manchester and I became a pretty successful DJ. It felt great to spin new house music tracks to adoring clubbers every weekend. This continued for almost 18 years but towards the end, it felt less and less like success. Sometimes it felt like going through the motions and playing the music because I felt I had to rather than I wanted to.

It's never easy to admit, but sometimes your idea of what success looks like changes. We should embrace this but we often don't.

I got married in 2006 and we had our children in 2007 and 2009. These key moments in my life changed my measure of success. It was no longer about partying every weekend. Having a happy marriage and a healthy family meant much more to me than anything else.

I was incredibly ill in 2014 and almost died. I was training for a half marathon at the time and one of the consultants commented that having exercised as much as I did, and therefore having a healthy heart and lungs, was one of the key factors in keeping me alive. Being healthy is one of the key success criteria for me in the past few years and will continue to be so in 2021. I don't think I'm necessarily as healthy as I could be, but I'm definitely walking and cycling much more than I ever have. I want to ensure that I keep active and eat well and I encourage my family to do the same. Being out in the fresh air and enjoying life after near-death feels like a big success for me.

I'm lucky that I found a career that I enjoy. I got my first home computer, a Commodore VIC-20, when I was about 11 or 12 and I've continued to love computers and software development since those early years. Getting to work with people who also love writing software and to be able to help them to develop their own careers is another key success measurement for me. It's helped me to earn a good salary for what I do, and it's enough to keep my family and I well cared for.

In my earlier career, I worked in the video games industry. While I loved games, and still do, the industry suffered from a tendency to push the developers to work beyond the normal working week. The so-called "crunch time" was one of the main reasons why I decided to move out of games and into the world of web-based applications. One of my other success indicators is to ensure I have a good work-life balance. There are other ways I could look to earn more money in the software industry but I'd never want it to come at the expense of my family. A healthy work-life balance will always been one of my key success measures nowadays.

While 2020 and 2021 have been years like no others, I see my own success as something I love to share with others. Sharing my money, time, experience, or help with other people is something I cherish. Spending time with friends and family, or helping others I perhaps don't know as well, is something I love. A successful life is a happy life and being able to share it with others really makes me happy too.

Don't compare yourself to other people's definition of success. Only you can define your own values and what it means to be successful. Define your own succesful life and strive to make it happen.

Marc Littlemore avatar

I'm Marc Littlemore.

I’m a Senior Software Engineering Manager who works with high performing development teams and loves to help to grow other software leaders and engineers.



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