Define your own success 22 Aug 2006
47 comments Latest by Blake
John Battelle makes a good point in Failure to Fail:
In short, we don’t have a company creation crisis. But we might have a company destruction crisis. Something is off in our ecosystem - there’s simply not enough failure out there right now. For an ecosystem to be truly healthy, bad ideas (or good ideas poorly executed) need to fail, so we can all learn from the failure, incorporate the lessons, and move on.
I fundamentally agree with this. Forest fires give way to new growth. However, there’s something missing. The definition of failure. And when you leave that out it’s hard to define the flip-side: Success.
Failure seems easier to define. When your business is out of money then you’re out of business. The business failed.
But what’s success? Do you need to make Google money? Do you need to have Microsoft market share? Do you need to have Apple’s brand loyalty? Nope.
So what do you need to be successful? Luckily that’s entirely up to you. Success is relative.
The best way to be successful is to define your own success. Success can be tiered too. If you want to eventually run a public company you can still be successful on your way there. If you want to stay small you can fight growth and remain successful too. It’s up to you, not up to someone else.
A small company with a few employees pulling in $25,000/month can be successful. Another company with a couple thousand paying customers can be successful. And another company that just breaks even but stays happily afloat can be successful. You don’t need to win every medal to be successful.
I tried to illustrate this point in the comments section of our Google does not render resistance futile post last week. Someone said…
Isn’t Google’s market share (or rather, user base, since its service is free) many times greater than 37signals? Maybe the 37s definition of “win” differs from the standard, but the sheer number of Google Calendar users and income that Google may generate from advertising therein is likely much greater than Backpack signups. Neither Google nor 37s publishes data on how much income various products generate, so this is just a guess, but I’m wondering in what way other than quality does Backpack Calendar “win” in regards to Google’s product?
And I replied…
Jough, Google doesn’t define our success. We do. “Winning” isn’t a zero sum game. This isn’t a 100 yard dash or a boxing match or a F1 race. It’s building a sustainable business. There’s lots of room for lots of those.
We don’t have to match Google’s userbase, or even have 1/10th of Google’s userbase to be nicely profitable and build a sustainable business.
That is success to us. Being able to provide a great service to our customers, follow our vision, generate enough revenue to build a sustainable long-term business, and enjoy doing the work we do everyday is a success to us.
And that, to me, at least, is the key point. When you define your own success you can achieve your own success. Don’t live by other people’s definitions of success. Hit your targets, not theirs.
Like Steve Jobs said in his commencement address at Stanford in June of 2005…
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
Your definition is the right one. That’s how you succeed. If you can do what you enjoy doing then that’s your success.