Chris Brogan wrote a post today about how many of us in new media seem to be multi-tasking all the time, and wondering whetehr we are accomplishing everything we set our minds to, or merely juggling too many things to make adequate progress on any ONE thing.
Chris then went on to ask a more important question, which is how many, or what percentage of projects fail, and what succeeds? And I think the biggest question is how do we measure success?
In podcasting, we are all worried about metrics. How do we measure our audience? How do we measure our audience’s level of engagement? How do we turn listeners into subscribers? How do we turn any of these numbers into something that might be meaningful to others, including advertisers or sponsors?
Personally, I look at the “numbers” part of podcasting and blogging as a set of discrete data points, where trends in the data are more important than any single day or post or entry’s stats. I am much more interested in the comments I get from people who read my blog or listen to the podcast. If it reaches them, or helps them in some way, then the effort was worth it.
Sometimes the blog posts are more theraputic for me than anything else- a rant if you will, about something that really makes me crazy or angry or otherwise moves me to express myself. The podcasts can be about talking to someone I admire, about learning something new, about teaching these things to my audience in turn.
I find it hard to quantify the level of satisfaction I get when someone comments on a post, sends me an email, or otherwise continues the conversation. There’s no specific measure that says “This is Good, That is Bad”- but the iteractivity is what I seek more than anything else.
Some people measure success solely in terms of dollars & cents. Yet, the jobs I’ve made the most money from to date have not always been the jobs that I’ve loved the most. I find that I’m not as motivated by the dollars as I am by things that are exciting and engaging- and often, I find I do many of those things for free. And currently, the ability to have control over my work along with the support of my family have made me happier than I have ever been. This feels like success.
I subscribe to the “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” philosophy. If you are getting paid to do something, whether it’s by an employer, a sponsor, or a client, there will be work involved. You have to measure, or calibrate whether your effort and stress to accomplish Goal X will be worth the monetary compensation and intangibles, such as reputation, relationships and the like.
Sometimes projects go on and on, without any clear beginning or end. Raising children can be like this- What are the goals? What is success? Is it if your child goes to Harvard? Is it if your child is happy? Is it if they don’t go to jail? Clearly, a report card is a measure of mastery of the material a kid’s supposed to learn, or at least a reflection of how well they communicated this information back to their teachers in a marking period. But in honor roll the only way to measure success? And even if it does, whose success are we measuring? Yours as a parent? The Child’s? The job the school has done in molding their little brains?
I often feel education is a long term Research and Development project, where the endpoints are open, not closed. Similarly, I think all of this “new media stuff” is very much an online interactive R &D project, where the goals and endpoints are always clear or quantifiable. This brings up the next question, which is: “If you aren’t getting anything out of it, why are you doing it?” And the answer is that what I get out of it are intangibles, not always dollars & cents.
Helping to organize Podcamp NYC and see how well it went was very much in this vein- I didn’t get paid to do this, yet I made many more new friends, and gained a level of satisfaction and sense of accomplishing something big I would not have had otherwise. Sure, I hope someday that these efforts, having proved myself in the real world , will lead to a paying gig. But it also has to be the right gig, something I feel I can contribute to, and make a difference.
I am done (hopefully) with the days of punching a clock, and instead have entered the stage where I want to make meaningful contributions to others, whether or not these things are easily measured.
Success to me is measured more in my happiness and satisfaction, even when things are crazy-busy, than it is ever measured in material terms. How do you define success? What does it mean to you? Will you be successful if you have a house in the Hamptons? Is it Fame? And if you become “successful”, what comes after that?