How Do You Measure Success?

I’m no math wizard; I’m lucky if I can add two and two and reliably get four! (NO. Do not remind me that there are plusses and minuses to consider… please.)

But I was watching the PGA Tour Championship a couple of weeks ago – you know, the one where the winner earns a very cool $15 MILLION – and I saw a stat that started me thinking, thinking about how misleading it could be.

I just realized that depending on one’s knowledge of golf statistics, it could look as though Patrick Cantlay did worse that week than the previous one … or better.

The light green bar is tough to read, but it says, “Putts Made Over 10 feet.”

So making more of those usually means good scores; making fewer could mean bad scores.

Then again, if he was only being measured by that one statistic, we’d have no real knowledge of how good he’s been day to day, week to week, or year to year.

We wouldn’t know if he actually got so close to the pin he didn’t NEED to worry about making long putts. It’s a fair statistic, but it needs context for full understanding. “This week,” did he only make one from several that were at least 10’ in length … or was there only one that measured that length with all the others being much closer, a desirable result?

And I realized that we often measure metrics without considering what they actually mean in the big picture with all the details.

Let’s say a baseball player has “only” hit 5 homeruns this summer against the 18 he hit last year. Sounds kind of sad … unless we learn that he was out for two months with COVID, or he hurt his ankle and played a limited number of games, like maybe 10. Suddenly, those five HRs could easily be seen as amazing, given the circumstances, right?

An exceptional tennis player might be missing more shots this year than she did last year, which again could seem to say she’s not doing well, but what if the shots she does hit are all winners? What if she routinely knocks it out of the park, but that fact gets hidden with a single negative statistic?

A personal example: On the latest Meller Marketing #LinkedInROCKSTARS – #LinkedInTrainer report, I ended up in the Top 10 in terms of % of LI followers gained in the last six months.

Based on that specific calculation, I’m number 8 out of 100.

Pretty damn cool, right? Trust me: I’m thrilled!

In that time, I gained 4,040 followers, starting with 31,954 and ending with 35,994, an increase of 12.64%. Excellent, and I’m happy with it!

But, that’s ONE measure of success – the percent increase.

If I had been judged solely on the additional number of followers gained, I would have ranked #9. Yes, of course, that would still be fine.

If I had been judged solely on the total number of followers I have so far, I would have ended up on the bottom of the page (there are many with over 100,000 followers).

Of course, no matter where we end up in that ranking, it’s a terrific honor.

Lucky for me, my personal measure of success doesn’t rest solely on numbers, because I could imagine getting very hung up on one metric and not seeing the big picture.

I could imagine seeing this whole thing as a competition, which it is NOT. Even with others who work in the same field as I do, it’s not competition. We’re all unique.

For me, success includes being able to interact with others around the world who know so much more than I ever will about their world, their society, their specialties. I love how willingly they share that knowledge for the betterment of all.

I love knowing I’m offering value to others, learning that by their willingness to follow or connect with me and to comment on or share my original content. And I hope they know I feel the same way about them with my actions and words.

How do you measure your success, friends?

What rocks YOUR boat and gives you the reason to do what you do?


Susan Rooks
Susan Rooks
With nearly 30 years’ experience as an international workshop leader, Susan Rooks is uniquely positioned to help people master the communication skills they need to succeed. In 1995, Susan formed Grammar Goddess Communication, creating and leading workshops in three main areas – American grammar, business writing, and interpersonal skills – to help business pros enhance their communication skills. She also leads one-hour LinkedIn workshops (Master the LinkedIn Profile Basics) via Zoom to help business pros anywhere maximize their LinkedIn experience, offering it to Chambers of Commerce and other civic organizations free of charge. As an editor, Susan has worked on business blogs, award-winning children’s books, best-selling business books, website content, and even corporate annual reports (with clients from half a dozen countries), ensuring that all material is professionally presented. In April 2022, Susan became the Managing Editor of the Florida Specifier, a bi-monthly trade publication covering Florida’s diverse environmental industry. And although the focus is on Florida’s issues, many of these same challenges are found elsewhere around the world, so the readership isn’t limited to just Floridians or those interested in that state. But in all these endeavors, Susan’s only goal is to help everyone look and sound as smart as they are.

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  1. Dear Susan,

    A most amazing description of reality’s challenges and rewards. I am also useless with math!! Numbers can be alien digits from Mars; sadly not Venus! Your descriptions of analysing numbers which can take on a different perspective is enlightening. Just viewing statistics in another way. The focus is whether you are happy and content and feel you are successful. 50,00 LinkedIn connections but in regular contact with 100 is not a negative if those 100 engage with passion, energy, empathy and kindness. The remaining 49,900 are the gain nothing from your knowledge and expertise.

    What makes me tick? Enjoying regular inspiring contact with a number of treasured connections including you, Susan. You brighten my day! And we’re both crap at math!!

  2. I love the two themes you have in your post, Susan.
    There is the “lies, damn lies, and statistics” theme that for all its insight now totally disavows that you don’t understand math.
    And then there is the great question on what outcomes we cherish.

    Among the joys I find from Linkedin/SoMe are
    – when I see people I have introduced to each other in eager conversation after a post,
    – having a good call or face to face interaction with a LI connection,
    – getting a chance to learn from my network so I become less stupid on subjects I know little about, like DEIB, English grammar, or life in other countries,
    – thoughtful interactions about subjects I care about, whether on any of my posts or on something somebody else wrote. Content and relationships are so much more enriching than anything LinkedIn can count.

    A side note is that I laughed seeing the illustration being a metric measuring tape on a post on metrics and finding that the post had no reference to anything measurable by neither metric nor imperial standards. Well played, Dennis.

  3. One measurement is like drawing a single line from one point. It is misleading, Susan. We need to see the trend and its momentum to get a better picture of real success.

    I love your definition of success “For me, success includes being able to interact with others around the world who know so much more than I ever will about their world, their society, their specialties”. Success for self is an egoist one. We need a broader perspective such as yours.