Keeping Score

Friday night I attended a surprise party honoring my close friend David’s 40th birthday. Naturally, a several-hundred person bash was fun, but I got a lot more out of it than a Saturday morning hangover.

David is a successful entrepreneur and investor, but I realized he was far wealthier than his balance sheet. As dozens of friends and family fought back tears, they gave speeches that lavished love and appreciation on the man who touched their lives so deeply. It got me thinking about the current incomplete measures of success, and wondering what would happen if we added some new metrics.

In the U.S. we measure success by things like money, power, fame, good looks, possessions, toys, trophies, and degrees. In the digital age, we now strive for likes, followers, a high Klout score, and a giant LinkedIn network. At the same time, big-picture numbers like unemployment, divorce rates, environmental quality, educational results, trade deficits, and even overall happiness continue to plummet faster than a teen idol whose 15 minutes of fame have expired.

Today, someone can have a lot of cash and power, but be an overbearing jerk with no points deducted. Narcissistic celebrities are allowed to act like thumb-sucking idiots without a consequence in sight. A great-looking, successful, well-dressed guy can be a total jackass, yet his cup still runneth over with praise and admiration.

What would happen if we added some new metrics to our scorecard?

What if you measured and celebrated the number of times you bring joy to others each day? The number of people you positively impact or teach per week. The amount of sadness or fear you helped a loved-one overcome after receiving a devastating personal setback. The number of times you said no to life’s temptations and had character carry the day instead of impulse. The things you created. The compassion you extended. The responsible risks you took. The people you helped. The lives you changed. The impact you made.

Now I’m no tree-hugging, Pollyanna softie that thinks we should all just lock arms and the world’s problems will melt away like a snow cone on a late august afternoon. I’m a hard-charging, 80-hour-a-week business guy that eats nails for breakfast and celebrates toughness and winning just like so many others. However, I’d suggest that adding some focus on a more enlightened set of measures can not only make the world a better place, it can even drive real business results.

My friend David showed me that when you make a difference and build relationships, the success comes as a byproduct. In today’s complex and competitive world, being a cold-hearted Mr. Scrooge no longer gets you to the promise land. In order to win today, a new set of metrics is needed to measure not just near-term material gain, but long-term societal impact. The more you drive the later, the bigger the former will become.

Personally, I have a ton of work do to on my new scorecard. Do you?