How do you measure success?
What’s your measure?
I never expected to hear these things said about my entrepreneurial efforts. But recently I did when a financially successful family member offered to pay for my daughter’s college. These negative views of my work were his justification for why he should.
It took me aback and I think it would surprise anyone.
Here’s the thing: the easiest thing I ever did was to work for someone else. Spending someone else’s money, using someone else’s equipment, leveraging someone else’s staff to get work done. It was easy to get the good paycheck with three weeks off every year; working for someone else.
What wasn’t easy was working for myself. Everything changes when paying your mortgage depends on your hustle and avoiding pitfalls. When situations out of your control, like a dock strike, can send you reeling back six months and set you staring uncertainly at your future.
Being an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone, and many days, I wonder if it’s for me. When my company ended, there were successes, failures, lessons learned, and soul searching on what was next. Every entrepreneur feels this at one time or another. I decided to go back to work for someone else. But being almost 50, in a youth-centric industry and a youth-centric community, finding a job working for someone else wasn’t easy. It’s still not.
So not one to sit around in despair or avoid a tough path, I relied on myself. I started an event series from scratch that has become wildly popular. We take hundreds of people into the wilderness, providing experiences that challenge expectations, and for some, changed their lives. Thousands since we started, and thousands more to come.
Lucrative? It pays the bills. Fulfilling? Absolutely. I feel a great honor that folks let me challenge them, and they open up to our events and keep signing up. I’m grateful that both family and friends sign up to work them, and that many of my partners have become friends.
But Lazy? Not in the slightest. What may seem like three or four busy weekends each year, actually is a dedicated and focused year-long effort by lots of people. It takes a lot of effort to make something so hard look easy.
Worthless? I guess it depends on your measure. Not worthless to the guests that cry at the end after finishing something that they’ve never done before. Not worthless to the overweight guest, totally unprepared and spent nearly every day in the sag wagon, but who has now lost over 50 pounds to take me up on a free entry when he hit his goal. Not worthless to the hundreds of guests who call these events “experiences of a lifetime.”
When money isn’t the main motivation in business or life, I think a lot of people have a problem with that measure. If someone doesn’t drive around in a company leased car, or take expensive European vacations, or if we don’t measure our success by the amount of money we have or size of our home, what’s wrong with that?
If you’re working for someone else, you’re working for an entrepreneur. Or for a company started by one. You never know where someone’s efforts will lead. I might be on the path to the next successful adventure and travel company. Or, I might get a job where I use all this experience to add to someone else’s dream, adding to a collective effort rather than charting my own and let the events settle into a side hustle.
Or, I might be happy with the way my life is going now.
So on this Labor Day weekend, cheers to all those that follow their own path. To those following their own dream, whatever it is. To those that measure success by whatever yardstick they want. Cheers to you and keep it up.
And my daughter? She politely declined, saying she wasn’t raised to accept offers like that, and certainly not in the way it was offered.
That’s a measure of success I’ll take any day.