Many of us relate business success to empirical markers such as company size, sales volumes, net revenue, and other competitive measures. A relentless pursuit of such definitions can create anxiety, a feeling of never achieving enough, pressure, and always having one eye on the other guy.  

Enough. There is another way to consider success.

Real success has nothing to do with money, real estate, cash, or other exterior trappings – it’s the ability to be in a position where you can chart your course freely. It’s loving the process of daily discovery. It’s recognizing that all good things take time.

The idea of being an overnight, meteoric success still stirs the passion of some aspiring entrepreneurs. They envision themselves at the helm of a large, smooth-running company, solving problems with razor-sharp insight, reaping the material rewards and accolades of admiration from an army of employees, and envy from not-so-successful competitors. A TED talk and best-selling (ghost-written, of course) how-to book are next on a long, glittering list of accomplishments and industry recognition. Ahh…success!

Time for a reality check.   

A business is born when an individual identifies a service or product that fills a need and develops a way of delivering it that attracts customers and leads to an eventual profit. Turning this vision into reality is not for the faint-hearted. It usually involves a series of small wins over time, mixed with several steps backward, many life lessons, and plain hard work. 

Judging your success on purely monetary or exterior milestones misses out on the true rich rewards that come your way as you develop your business – and yourself – over time.

Here are five alternative ways to measure success:

Resilience

In the face of adversity, if you can draw on a deep well of strength and an ability to keep focused, you’ve built successful fortitude and grit.  Never has this indicator been more prominent than during the pandemic.  Successful businesses are resilient and able to meet unexpected challenges through creativity, shifting gears, and being tenacious at sourcing resources to call on. 

Freedom to chart your path

If you can take time out for yourself, consider it a sign of success. You’ve got systems and people in place and can breathe and enjoy life. We don’t go into business for the sake of working; we do it to solve a problem and earn enough to build a good life for ourselves and our families. A measurement of success is when you can focus on things that matter to you without any adverse effect on your business.

Flexibility

When you reach the point of meeting each new day with an open mind and joyful anticipation of what you might discover, it reflects a successful mindset elusive to anyone tied strictly to numbers. Continuous learning and a healthy curiosity mean more success developing creative solutions, attracting fresh ideas, and realizing that the answer to a problem is always within reach by being flexible.

Sense of community

You are part of a whole, not a stand-alone wonder. Without the help and support of a community, your business won’t last long. Being able to give back by supporting the next wave of entrepreneurs, donating your time and expertise to a project, or learning more about the history and environment of those who paved the way, is a sign of growth and achievement.

Gratitude

We rarely reach a goal, whether in business or life in general, without receiving gifts along the way. It could be a gift of someone’s time, expertise from an industry expert, guidance from an unexpected resource, or the support of family and friends. A successful person values this assistance and never takes it for granted. No one owes us. No one is obliged to take on our burdens. Yet when the days seem darkest, inevitably, someone is there for us. There’s an old saying, “The universe has the perfect accounting system,” and without a doubt, successful people know that giving and receiving – with thanks – these gifts of self are what makes the world go round.

Try not to become a man [person] of success. Rather become a man [person] of value.”

— Albert Einstein