Why Financial Success should Not be the only Metric

May 13, 2023·16 mins

Our goal is to build a successful organization, but before we do that, we must clearly define the term “success”. If you define success to only mean financial success, or building a large organization, or a market leader, or growing as quickly as possible, etc., then your mind will get to work to achieve that goal for you and your actions will be determined by only that goal. However, if you were to define the goal differently, if you define the problem statement differently, then the same mind will now get to work to achieve this new objective.

For example, if you define the objective as - I want to find a drug that cures fever, you might find a drug that cures fever but after that it leaves the person in a coma. If, however, you define the problem statement differently and say - I want to find a drug that cures fever and does not have any significant side effects on their life, then your mind will accept that revised objective and look for a solution accordingly. Your mind, remember. Not you. Your mind does everything for you and your body follows. So it is important that you understand how the mind works, its pitfalls, its temptations, and understand ways to improve its effectiveness so that you achieve success that bears a superior quality.

So let us define “success” appropriately. Here is how we will define it. Our overarching goal is not to create a successful organization, or to cure cancer, or to reduce CO2 or to go to the Moon. Our overarching objective is to create a fulfilling, purposeful and peaceful life. That’s our primary objective. Everything else that we do in our life must flow from that.

Let’s unpack that - a fulfilling, purposeful and peaceful life. Let’s start with the word “life”. Life is what happens to us each day, so let us look at the key components of life - the ones where you either spend a lot of your time, or the ones that mean a lot to you.

Life is essentially equal to work + relationships + education + a few other things that you might believe in or love doing. So if you are aiming for a fulfilling, purposeful and peaceful life, you won’t have it unless your work and relationships are also fulfilling, purposeful and peaceful. If you are working full time, then you might spend a large number of your waking hours at work or thinking about work even if you are not working actively. Hence, if your work is not fulfilling and peaceful, your life won’t be. Absolutely no chance. Similarly relationships might hold a strong place in your life so unless they are fulfilling and peaceful, your life won’t be. And similarly there could be other things that matter to you in life.

So when you define “success” at work, you must define it as being fulfilling, purposeful and peaceful. If you define it as only financial success, you might miss out on a few other important elements. Why achieve only financial success when you can also achieve a fulfilling, purposeful and peaceful work life? You just need to define the objective correctly, so you can then focus on the right things.

Now let us look at the word peaceful. By saying we want work to be peaceful, we are not implying that we must be lazy, or complacent or easy-going. We just mean that it should not carry unnecessary stress or anxiety or restlessness on a regular basis. We might work really hard, long hours if we want to, but it should not be accompanied by stress and anxiety. Your relationships don’t have to fall apart because of work. Your ability to become a role model for your child should not be compromised because of work. Your ability of taking care of your loved ones should not be impacted because of it. Why are we worried about all this? Because setting the wrong priorities and defining success only as achieving financial success as fast as possible almost always leads to these problems, which then means that your life does not turn out to be fulfilling, purposeful and peaceful. Such problems can also arise if you immerse yourself in an illusion that your work is extremely important and really urgent so you must compromise on everything else. Because the world is ending, you tell yourself, I must make these personal sacrifices. It is almost always never true, unless it is a really short-term emergency like a building on fire or the hospital emergency room. Huge, really huge long term problems can be solved at least ten times more efficiently if you do them without an unnecessary sense of urgency or restlessness. So peaceful means no unnecessary stress, anxiety or restlessness.

The word fulfilling covers financial success as an objective. It also covers maximizing your potential, intellectual fulfillment, etc. Purposeful means there is a strong Non Financial Vision for the organization that inspires everyone. We will talk more about that later on.

So using this model, we are building an organization that is not only purposeful and peaceful but also financially successful. Which brings us to the question - how do you build something like this? You follow the Adios Organizational Framework to be able to build such an organization.

The five layers of this framework starting from the bottom to the top are Values, Non Financial Vision, Culture, OKRs and Compensation. You start with the first layer - Values - and define the core guiding principles for the organization. Then you place the second layer on top of it - Non Financial Vision. What you are asking is - using these Values, which Non Financial Vision would I like to pursue. The next layer is Culture, where you are asking - what culture would I like to have in my organization / what behaviours do I want to see repeated in the team? The fourth layer is Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) where you are asking - how will we ensure that we stay on track. The fifth and the final layer is Compensation where you are asking - how will we compensate our people, short-term, mid-term and long-term, in alignment with our Values, Vision and Culture? You use this five-tier framework to think about your organizational strategy.

However, while this is the framework you will use to build your organization, that is not where you start. You start with your individual values, vision and culture. We start with the organism and then move to the organization, because an organization is essentially a collection of organisms. Unless you have done the work yourself, individually and are clear about these things at a personal level, you cannot successfully implement them at an organization. Your employees just won’t connect with you. To understand why we must start with the individual and not the organization, let us look at why we have failed on this front until today so we don’t repeat those mistakes.

Not starting with the organism, the individual, has been the primary problem for the last many years when organizations have tried to implement these things. Values, vision, mission etc. are not new. We have talked about them for years now. But the way they have been implemented until now is incorrect. This is what usually happens - A few people gather around a conference table for a few days, define a set of values, vision and mission statements and print them out. Designers are hired. Posters are put up. Now that the definition is done, the next step is to get the employees to adopt them. So presentations are made, instructions are given out, to follow those values and work towards that mission. And that is where the problem lies - following certain values or working towards a mission is not an outside to inside process; it is an inside to outside process. An employee needs to first feel within, feel like following those values, feel motivated to work towards that mission. Cold presentations or instructions from a supervisor cannot create that feeling. That feeling comes from only one activity - Contemplation - deep thinking. Unless an employee himself or herself goes deep within and thinks about their values, what moves them, drives them, what makes them fulfilled, what makes them peaceful, what non financial vision inspires them at a personal level, they can never create a strong emotional connection with the values or the mission of the organization. Why? Because the basic ability to connect deeply itself is missing. Why? Because the world is noisy and distracting, and most people live their life looking outward and not looking inward. So they do not have a deep connection with themselves, so they are not in touch with their own values and vision. That is why we start with the organism, with the individual.

The sequence is simple: Use Contemplation as the tool to enable an employee to create a deep connection with themselves and their own values and vision, so they are better able to connect with the values and vision of the organization. And if they find that they don’t connect with what the organization stands for, it is in the interest of both the organization and the employee that you part ways respectfully because the relationship is highly suboptimal - it is a lose-lose relationship. You have a disinterested employee who is probably a quiet quitter not contributing to the mission, and the employee is not maximizing their own potential and deteriorating their quality of life. Not good. Bite the bullet in the short run to create a solid organization in the long run. How do you get that courage and conviction to make these hard decisions - through Contemplation.

So to create an organization where the employees are deeply aligned with its values and vision, you start with yourself first as an individual. Please complete the following exercise where you think deeply about your own values and vision and answer the questions below.

1. What are my personal Values? What are the key guiding principles in my life?

2. What is my personal Non Financial Vision for the current phase of my life?

3. What personal Culture would I like to have in my life? What behaviours do I want to see myself repeat on a regular basis?

4. What makes me more peaceful?

5. What makes me less peaceful or more restless?