Monday, April 15, 2013

Healthy Metrics

I was recently involved with a team of folks who planned an event called, Curing the Epidemic:  Rewriting the Story of the Fatherless Generation.  We were bringing in a dynamic keynote speaker and had a full weekend of events planned.  The goal was to raise awareness of the fatherless epidemic, resource people with mentoring tools, and to inspire people to action.   The events were held during the first weekend of April and all went swimmingly.  The following week, a gentleman whom I met at the event contacted me for more information about our local mentoring efforts.  He asked me what my metrics for success were for the recent weekend of events.  Upon reflection, I realized that my metrics for success had changed.  I'm a planner, a detail guy.  Originally, I had outcome goals for the events that included attendance, number of new mentors, and financial support raised.  However, I realized that as the event approached, my metrics for success had changed.  They transitioned from quantifiable outcomes that we had some direct control over (increased attendance through increased marketing) to simply moving forward.  This event, and this mentoring initiative, was so much bigger than our planning team.  We sensed momentum behind efforts to address the fatherless crisis and stepped into planning an event that we believed might be a catalyst for community action.  We had zero dollars to do this.  We had insufficient manpower to pull this off.  And, we were skeptical of how many men would come out on a Saturday evening to hear the keynote speaker (our skepticism reached new heights when we realized that we planned the event to parallel the tip-off of the Final Four).  Our metrics for success moved from controllable outcomes to a commitment to the cause.  We didn't know what might happen, but we felt a calling to step forward in faith.

At one point in the event planning, we envisioned hundreds of men and women showing up for the keynote event.  We reigned in our expectations to more conservative 100-150.  We were close, but we didn't reach the conservative goal.  During the planning phase we also talked of the exposure we'd gain when thousands attended the Senators game on Friday night where we were the featured charity of the night.  Instead, attendance at the game was unseasonably low due to a cold front.  Yet, we gained so much more than sheer numbers.  There is the guy who shared that after years of wrestling with his views on faith, the events of the weekend gave him new clarity on God's love for him and affirmation of his place in the world.  There are the two gentleman who have requested follow-up conversations about fostering the same kind of community momentum in their large, urban, Pennsylvania communities.  There is the business guy who had always supported our mentoring efforts financially, but gained renewed vision for his call to invest intentionally and relationally in mentoring, both with a fatherless child and with his own children.  There is the single mom from Alabama who emailed us saying that she sees the devastation of fatherlessness in her own family and in her own community and that she wants to have further conversation about how she, too, can step into doing something about the crisis.  There is the wife that emailed us to say that her husband is considering mentoring and that she is excited about what this will mean for their family.  There is the pastor who has consistently cast vision for his community to consider mentoring that was inspired to directly step into a mentoring relationship himself.  Our metrics for success changed to simply being a part of the stories that were unfolding.  We don't know the rest of the story for each of these individuals, but we know that we were present in a chapter.  And that's enough.  The bigger story is for another Author and our role for that particular weekend may have only been to show up.  And I'm glad that we did.

My wife and I enjoy the TV show, Shark Tank.  If you haven't seen it, a number of investors ("sharks") hear entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas seeking investment capital.  One of the regular "sharks" is Mark Cuban, entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks.  On a recent show, Cuban declined to invest in a business opportunity that he initially really liked because the business owner had a hobby of doing marathons.  The marathons were a part of who the owner was as a person and it even tied into his passion for the venture that he was proposing.  Cuban said that the marathon hobby would potentially pull the business owner away from unhindered dedication to growing the business and he wasn't interested in investing in anyone that wasn't willing to put absolutely everything behind the goal of business growth and success.  Cuban and the business owner shared a very different metric of success. In a recent article in Bloomsburg Businessweek, Cuban said, "My self-motivation is a) fear of failure and b) a desire to win."  He continues, "Every one of my companies, whether something I started or something I invested in, is a scoreboard.  How am I doing?"  Cuban has a very clear metric for success.  While I have great respect for Cuban, I'd argue that when our metric for success is only a relentless focus on winning and the scoreboard for our lives is reflected in financial statements, it's life itself that's lost.

We have friends who are considering selling their home and moving to another house.  I've known many, including myself, who have moved to another house for a better location, more square footage, updated furnishings, or a more elegant home design.  They are moving for none of those reasons in and of themselves.  They are considering moving, in spite of significant financial constraints, because they feel called to  use their gifts of hospitality and relationship to connect with others.  And, with four young children at home, their current house simply doesn't allow for inviting others in.  So, they're going out.  They are extending themselves because they think that having the opportunity to walk both with their friends as well as their neighbors they've yet to meet is important.  They believe that a metric for success in their family is presence and they are creating an environment for that to occur.

I recently told our Physical Director at the Y that, after a gluttonous vacation, I needed to lose 5 pounds.  He explained to me that while weight loss may occur, I might reconsider my metric for success in different terms.  He explained to me that I might instead focus on my percentage of body fat instead of straight weight.  He tested my body fat composition and unfortunately I still had some work to do, however my metrics for success changed. 

What would our lives look like if we reconsidered our metrics for success?  Too often, our metrics are only tied to quantifiable, controllable outcomes.  I am planning an event and need to have 250 people attend.  I will invest in this company or initiative only if there are significant financial rewards.  I will work hard so that I can purchase the next big home, car, or life for myself.  I have to lose 20 pounds before beach season.  While these all might be admirable goals, I believe that it's important to consider our over-arching metrics for a successful life.  British author, G.K. Chesterton said, "The modern world has had far too little understanding of the art of keeping young.  Its notion of progress has been to pile one thing on top of another without caring if each thing was crushed in turn.  People forgot that the human soul can enjoy a thing most when there is time to think about it and be thankful for it." 

This isn't to say that we shouldn't work hard and have clear goals.  Believe me, I'm a chart-oriented, data analyzing, S.M.A.R.T. goal guy.  I look for trend lines in how well my wife and I are communicating (although when we aren't communicating well, my trending analysis seems to make the disconnection worse).  However, I am saying that our driving metrics might not always be performance based after all.  Instead, our metrics may be more guardrails that keep us present in the game of life and allow us to show up, lean in, and be a part of a Bigger Story.  Victor Hugo, French author, said, "Have courage for the sorrows of life and patience for the small ones, and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace.  God is awake." 

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