Strategic

Why Thinking About Success Leads to Failure

Sam Frentzel-Beyme Follow Managing Partner & Strategy Director

The Short of It

  • Many of the traditional success metrics are really about external validation.
  • Once you begin focusing externally, it becomes much harder to stop from chasing what other people think and want instead of focusing on what you want to do.
  • Before we begin looking for external validation, we need to first have clarity about who we are, what we're doing and why we think it’s important.

There is such a strong focus on success that it’s hard to not be influenced by it at some level. Whether the metrics are sales, revenue or even readership, there is a tendency to begin first with the idea of what success will be, what it will look like - and to some extent what it will actually feel like.

The problem is that many of the traditional success metrics are really about external validation. But once you begin focusing externally, it becomes much harder to stop from chasing what other people think and want instead of focusing on what you want to do.

Let’s be clear, I’m not saying that we should work in a vacuum or saddle ourselves with diagrams that simply show the “and a miracle happens here” box where what we want just gets converted into success.

Whatever we work on at some point has to translate to something that another person can understand and get value from.

What I am saying, however, is that before we begin looking for external validation, we need to first have clarity about who we are, what we're doing and why we think it’s important.

That’s why working with leadership teams on a clarity of vision and strategy is so critical and such an important focus for us.

And it’s not easy.

Having a clear vision about the future isn’t just a conversation about “big ideas.” It’s about clarity on what is happening in the world. It’s about understanding the underlying value drivers. And it’s about detecting subtle cultural shifts that point to larger social trends.

The beauty is that when these insights are combined, there emerges subtle pockets of unmet need.

The interesting thing here is that often when combine a clear vision with an unmet need, success will usually be greater than what you had originally anticipated.

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