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« Chasing Charlie | Main | Frame Jig. »

How do you measure success?

I have spent many hours pondering the question, what is success, and by what yardstick does one measure success? I have come to the conclusion that success has a different meaning for different people.

Some measure success by money, but unless success brings one joy and satisfaction, is it really success? One can be successful in terms of money, but an absolute failure in terms of everything else. A relationship with a spouse or children, for example.

Friends who recently returned from Africa, after several years in the Peace Corps, told me, there are people who live in mud huts, existing on a handful of rice a day, and yet are basically happy and content with their lives.

People do not know they are poor unless they have contact with wealth, and can see others who have more than they do. It would be hard to live in a mud hut in America and have the degree of contentment of someone living in remote parts of Africa, for example.

Success is meeting your expectations. If your expectations are a handful of rice a day, and that is what you get. You are successful, and you are content. If you have a little chicken to go with your rice, you have exceeded expectations and you are even happier.

Success can be fleeting, but that is alright, there are always other successes that follow. I think I can honestly say I was a successful framebuilder. I became a good framebuilder because I built a lot of frames, and repetition is the key to success with any skill.

There was a time when I made a lot of money as a framebuilder, but the success was fleeting. Market trends and consumer tastes changed. I could have changed too, but I didn’t and so moved on and set other goals. That doesn’t make me any less successful as a framebuilder now, than the day I left the business.

This is why I believe one cannot quantify success in terms of money only. To me success is measured in satisfaction. Knowing that people are still riding bikes I built back in the 1980s, and enjoy doing so, brings immense satisfaction.

After I left the bike business, I wrote a successful novel. My intentions were to write a best-selling novel, but I settled for satisfaction once more.

Without exception, everyone who reads my novel Prodigal Child, raves about it. That is highly satisfying. The book was never a bestseller, because relatively few people know of it. It was never reviewed in the New York Times or blessed by Oprah Winfrey.

This blog too is no small success. Started in 2005, coming up 12 years, draws readers from all over the world. It gets recognition from other quarters too, recently listed in the Top 15 Cycling Blogs by Test Facts.  (See this and other awards in the top right column of this page.)

Success is recognizing the small or partial successes, because collectively they too bring joy, and satisfaction. The key is to have a few more successes than failures in life, and you are always ahead of the game. Occasionally there will be a little chicken to go with your rice.


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Reader Comments (9)

Good post Dave.

It makes me think of Oliver Sacks' last book, from which this quote:

"And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life—achieving a sense of peace within oneself. I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest."

October 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterStephen McAteer

For me being content or satisfied is largely a result of setting your own standards, and not feeling that you should be held to external measures.
Your book is good, it was published and sold, which is more than most people that attempt to write can say. That is a success. Now some people will say that unless you sell $$$ or so many copies it isn't really successful, that is just their perception.
I am content and satisfied with my life, I like what I am doing most of the time. And I have the money and time to do many things that I want to.

October 23, 2017 | Unregistered Commenteredstainless

As a lucky owner and rider of one of your Fuso bikes and of one the Masi frames that you built, I am always grateful for the effort you put into building those. On each ride there always comes the moment when I say to myself..."man, this is a great bike." Thank you for your work.

October 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBill Hermann

Dave, having returned to cycling in the last year, your blog has provided a tremendous amount of invaluable information. As to your frames, I love to see the evolution in the builds as the owners' needs change. I have a few "vintage" steel bikes with period groupsets. My Fuso is a retromod with a 10 speed drivetrain and brifters. It is becoming my go to ride. Thank you for all you do.

October 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRichard D

You can't buy success, you have to work hard to obtain it.

October 25, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSam A

"A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness." -- Albert Einstein

October 25, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterStephen McAteer

I wonder about that. I remember the book ‘Stay Hungry’, the title’s concept being about always striving. Since success is measured, success must be achieved, to be measured. So why strive after you are successful?

Success is different from being happy. And being happy is different from being satisfied. You can be satisfied with having the minimal to get by, and not be happy, and at the end of the day not be accused of being a successful person.

And you may not care, or you may make yourself a victim, or blame others. Or you may change all that.

How do you think Strava succeeds? By convincing people they need to record their activity to see how they compare to others. How does Social Media keep everyone addicted? Users compare others constantly, most subliminally (see definition).

Why did Thomas Jefferson write: “the pursuit of happiness” and not The pursuit of success? Because happiness doesn’t have a metric, or unit of measure, while success does. Imagine if he had used that word, we would all be demanding our measure of success!

October 25, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Bonnie Raitt asked a similar question; What is Success? http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/3530822107858664394/

My favourite formula is that success equals achievements divided by expectations. You can increase success by achieving more or by adjusting your expectations (to make achieving them more likely).

October 27, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterpeter

I have spent my life, 'as a jack of all trades master of none?' From an artist, sculptor musician, bike rider racer, private eye, parent, Husband for 54 yrs, mentor. SUCCESS? Yes, for the most part. BUT the most important thing, is happiness for my self and the people that I have affected. 84 years young now and I am still happy and content. Mistakes, I have made many, regrets none. Money ??? who cares??? make do with what you have and enjoy life to the fullest!! I have out lived most of the millionaires that I have ever had contact with.

October 27, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

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