Evaluating Success

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Sometimes the easiest way to evaluate success is by what didn’t happen. I regularly talk to middle school, high school and college students. Usually the topic is about the perils of Facebook for their future be it college, graduate school or getting a job. In that presentation, I measure success in those conversations, not by engagement but by no one running out of the room, crying or throwing up.

What I tell them is scary and there are no solid answers. They can only be mindful of what they put out there. Often I see fear on their faces when they realize they’ve already made some of the biggest mistakes and might not be able to take those mistakes back.

To you, no one running out of the room, crying or throwing up might be odd litmus tests. I could instead measure success by sticking to the script, not saying “um” 20 times and applause. But I’ve learned that you can’t always stick to the script, you have to read your audience. Also, find different ways to present the same information so that if the first approach falls flat, you can try the second. Um is a natural place holder. Unless you’re a professional speaker or have practiced you’ll likely use it, practice as much as you can and then let it go. Applause is fleeting and I’ve learned that with the younger crowds, most of them only applaud when they see their friends applauding.

Some people hate to see their audience whispering to each other. I don’t mind. I’ve overheard comments, such as “I thought I was safe if my Facebook profile didn’t come up in the search or in Google,”  that allowed me to redirect the presentation to include that just because you don’t come up in Goolge, or in the Facebook finder, doesn’t mean you’re covered.

You have to choose what defines your success, even if you aren’t speaking in from of a crowd of teenagers. If a successful day is getting everything crossed off your to-do list, great! If a successful day is not falling asleep in class, perfect! Just make sure at the end of the day you don’t feel defeated.

How do you evaluate success?