Derek Sivers

Entrepreneur, programmer, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

How do you grade yourself?

In New York City, there are dozens of buildings that say “TRUMP” on them. As I was driving about an hour into the rural countryside, I even saw a “Donald J Trump park”.

It made me wonder if he grades himself by how many valuable properties bear his name. Plenty real estate tycoons have made billions without putting their name on everything, but maybe that's his measure.

Then I thought about how we all grade ourselves by different measures:

For some people, it's as simple as how much money they make. When their net worth is going up, they know they're doing well. For others, it's how much money they give.

For some people, it's how many people's lives they can influence for the better. For others, it's how deeply they can influence just a few people's lives.

For me, it's how many useful things I create. “Things” can be songs, companies, articles, websites, or anything else I created. But doing something useful that doesn't need my creative contribution doesn't interest me. And if I create something that's not useful to anyone, it doesn't count.

Friends:

I asked a few friends, “How do you grade yourself?” and got some great answers:

Pilar, a teacher, said, “How many kids I'm steering in a positive direction.”

Mara said, “How well I'm achieving the various goals I've set out for myself.”

Gary Jules said, “How helpful I'm being.” (And noted that his measure has been changing, now that he has a family.)

Ariel Hyatt said, “How my work affects and resonates with people. And how many great joy-filled moments I've spent with the people in my life.”

Jared Rose, my business coach said, “My personal measure is how loved my friends and family feel by me, and how much of a difference I've made in their life. My business measure is how much of an impact I've made for my clients and their customers. I grade that by the percentage improved.”

Tim Ferriss said, “Both of equal importance: How many people I help overcome fears. My rate of skill acquisition. I like to have at least two measurements, but not too many, to diversify your identity, just like you would diversify a portfolio to hedge against risk. If one of your metrics takes a nose dive due to factors outside of your control, you want a balancing metric that can make progress and save you from depression.

Interesting!

You?

It's tempting to say, “How happy I am.” But like Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

For this question, I think happiness is the end result of living in line with your measure - or grading yourself well. So I'm interested in the 2nd-to-last step: the measure where the positive result is happiness.

So what's that measure, for you? What are the common threads running through your pursuits in life?

Please leave a reply in the comments below. I'm sincerely curious to hear different points of view on this.

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