Success vs Fulfillment

/ culture

I was recently chatting with a friend and he used the word "failure" to describe a personal relationship that didn't work. It struck me. He thought of a relationship with another person as measurable, as successful or not. It was phrased in a way that implied two people being eternally intertwined as the only way to measure a life outcome.

I disagreed. Every relationship, whether personal or professional will end in one way or another. Trying to evaluate the "success" of that relationship completely devalues what we learn along the way. Every relationship changes who we are in ways we cannot understand. Just as we learn from school and on-the-job experiences, everything is a journey to our ultimate selves.

I was reminded of this and how it relates to employment when I stumbled across this image on LinkedIn:

(Note: I didn't save the LinkedIn post, just the image, and social media quickly evaporates anything you don't explicitly save. So apologies in advance for not being able to attribute the creator. If someone knows who made this, please let me know and I'll update this article.)

It really resonated with me as something Matt and I talked about early on when starting Border (and previously Tourrs). The diagram extends the concept to encompass important aspects of being a whole person. I truly believe that someone who is holistically taking care of themselves, and that we are caring for as a company, will be the best employee possible.

My only gripe is with the word "success" (well, and the fact that it's a pie chart) as it implies that we must measure our lives. I prefer to think of lives as fulfilled by what we do, the company we keep and the pursuits we follow. It's not a race; it's the journey.

Creating a work-life balance may be a bit cliché, but the antiquated idea of "success" through title and compensation means people are measuring their lives by other people's standards. We've been doing a lot of work lately in financial and retirement planning. It's reminded me just how much our lives are measured by dollars and, in the end (i.e. when you die), if you still have a few in your bank account or not.

There's this concept I connect with: saving too much for tomorrow and not living today. I'm not recommending that you ignore your retirement planning and spend today as if it's your last. Quite the opposite. A solid plan is critical to enable the most enjoyable journey through life possible. I do think this concept of balancing your current and future fulfillment is the same idea. If you are working for 'tha benjamins' today with the hope you'll have a better future, suffering in the process, you're out of balance.

During interviews, I often get asked to describe where I want the company to be in five years. This is a classic question. It's a question that makes complete sense for the CEO of a rapidly growing tech startup where stock option values (and therefore future dollars) are the primary reason for joining–again, referencing back to title and comp. But I've always stammered a bit. I don't want the company to be anywhere in five years that it's not today. Some might call this a "lifestyle" business. Historically this has meant a business that benefits the lifestyle of its owners. Let's reframe that to represent a company that benefits the lifestyle of the people and I'm 100% onboard.

I want to build a culture of challenging work and enjoyable experiences that contribute to all of the slices of pie that lead to a fulfilled life. This is something that we're driving toward every day of every year and with each of our employees and clients. Whether we're fifteen employees or 500 in five years time does not change this goal. Our vision is building a company that enables people to be the best at whatever they want to be. I don't think we need to wait five years to make that happen.

Next time you're interviewing for a new job, I might recommend a different question for the hiring manager:

How will this job fulfill me and enable me to be a whole person?

Aaron Martlage

Aaron Martlage

Aaron loves innovative solutions to complex problems. He's a strategist and designer who fights fiercely for great products. His vast experience and focus on process encourages new thinking in others.