Mission impossible

I may have written about this before, but the topic keeps resurfacing in my world. Whatever you do in life, remember this: the measure is not the mission. It’s perfectly acceptable to look at your paycheck or your bonus as a measure of your accomplishments. It’s standard practice to gauge your company’s success by earnings per share or net income. It’s okay to mark your weight loss progress on the scales.

BUT…

Those results are indicators of a successful mission; don’t let them become the mission itself.

If your mission is to write critically acclaimed fiction, your first few successes will net promising royalties and advances for new works. But if you fall in love with the money itself and start writing for the mass market to generate more cash, you’ve undermined your original goal. Your quality will suffer as you crank out more books, faster, without being able to give appropriate attention to the content. (Sorry, James Patterson.)

If your company sets out to roast and deliver premium coffees to an underserved market, its initial success will be visible in financial measures. When the smell of money overpowers the smell of coffee and you look for ways to generate more profit without regard for the principles that got you there in the first place, your premium coffee customers will look elsewhere for their caffeine fix. (Read The Various Flavors of Coffee by Anthony Capella for a great fictional illustration of this.)

If you set out to lose weight to improve your health, you’ll obviously turn to the scales to measure your progress. When you disregard what you put into your body in favor of how much (i.e. calories) you put into your body, you can lose weight without the desired health benefits. You can become nutritionally deficient from empty calories, but Wow! What a weight loss success! (Sarcasm intended.)

If you still don’t get my point, think of it this way.

*Warning. Here comes a sports analogy.*

Owners of football teams want more revenue. Fair enough. When a team is good, more people go to the games. More people buy jerseys and t-shirts. More sponsors sign up because they see more fans. When the team starts losing consistently, the opposite happens and the owners sees his income start to drop. Certainly, the owner can try to creatively promote interest and attendance, but unless his team starts playing well, he will likely only slow the shrinking of his wallet. So he goes to work on the team. If he fixes the team’s woes and they start winning, the fans will come back–with their money. The money is the measure; winning games is the mission.

I realize that I’m starting to ramble here, and I apologize. It’s just that I so often see people managing their lives and their businesses to a measure while they ignore what got them there in the first place. It boils down to this. Stick with your mission and do it really well; the rest will take care of itself.

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