How Do You Measure Success?

by Aug 26, 2021Success

How do you measure success?

Your success.

Isn’t that the ultimate question?

One brilliant little graphic explored that answer, and it’s making waves on social media.

It was created by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy, co-authors of the book “No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotion at Work.”

© Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy

Most people judge success by someone’s salary. In other words, someone who makes 200K is presumably more successful than someone who makes 100K, who is supposedly more successful than someone who makes 50K.

Of course, the story doesn’t say whether the person making 200K is suffering from depression, burnout or compassion fatigue. Or is bored to tears. Or is overwhelmed. Or is miserable.

The other classic way to judge success is to look at someone’s title. Meaning, a practice owner is evidently more successful than an associate, and a manager is arguably more successful than an underling. But is this true? Is a practice owner working 80 hours a week necessarily happy while juggling duties such as clinician, owner, manager, peacemaker, negotiator, psychologist, and so much more?

Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy looked into this antiquated success gauge, and came up with a more modern way to assess success.

They believe that salary and title are minor components of success. To them, there are 4 criteria that are more important. 

1. Liking what you do 

There is certainly a lot of wisdom in that benchmark. If a CEO at the top of his or her game makes a million dollars but is miserable and bored, is (s)he successful?

Veterinary professionals are lucky in the sense that most are passionate about their profession. But that may be an oversimplification. We may love animals and treating them, but we may not love HR and drama and management.

So clearly liking what you do is a critical component of success and happiness. 

2. Physical health 

Certainly, if you make millions yet you can’t fall asleep and you walk around like a zombie, or if your spine and your joints hurt day and night, or if you get an ulcer from chronic stress, are you successful?

And if you are the boss (a nice title) yet you are worried sick about making payroll, paying your bills or affording your generous contribution to the tax man, are you successful?

It is clear that good physical health is critical to be truly successful. 

3. Mental health 

Americans beat every record in consumption of sleeping pills, antacids and anti-depression medications. Sadly, veterinary professionals are not spared, quite the contrary.

As wonderful a profession as we have, it is very stressful. Insane hours, the overflow of patients (especially through COVID), and all of the worries mentioned above, lead to a lot of stress.

This is the reason why you can’t open a journal without finding an article about burnout, suicide and compassion fatigue. They’ve reached epidemic proportions.

We finally understand that good mental health is a critical part of success. 

4. Free time 

Americans are notorious for not taking a vacation, or at least not everything they deserve.

Last year, American workers left a record number of vacation days on the table: 768 million days in total, according to research from the U.S. Travel Association, Oxford Economics and Ipsos. This is up 9% from 2017.

This equates to $65 billion in lost benefits.

And that’s during the toughest year we’ve ever had: the Year of the Pandemic, when we needed free time the most!

Free time is one of the most overlooked secrets to success. It goes well beyond the obvious: recharging your batteries and taking a break from stress.

Free time is a chance to think about your life, your career, your level of happiness.

Free time is when you can explore new ideas, new concepts, new opportunities.

Free time is when you can discover new horizons, appreciate new cultures, discover new dishes, explore new activities and make new lifelong memories.

Free time, rather than hard work, is what defines your level of success.

So there you have it. This is the definition of success by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffy.

More importantly, what are your own metrics for success?

Is it healthy relationships with coworkers?

Is it flexibility, both in time and location?

Is it finding purpose in what you do?

Is it professional growth?

Is it changing lives?

Is it travel?

Only you can come up with your own definition.

It’s worth spending a few minutes thinking about it…

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS
Meredith Jones, DVM
Co-Founders of Veterinary Financial Summit