As the end of 2011 draws near, my annual ritual of assessing the year in review is here. As it turns out, I, along with my wife and son, are on a plane flying to California to visit my parents and brother. As my wife sleeps and my son plays with our iPad, I am grabbing a few minutes to admire the wake of 2011 before committing to my 2012 goals (not resolutions). This year has been exceptional by just about any measure, so it is that I find myself focusing more on the various measures we use to qualify an exceptional year.

Looking back over the year, I feel good about acknowledging that YES, I have been blessed to be a part of many teams that have accomplished much; YES, I have personally created opportunities to contribute (and sometimes to fail) in new and unique ways; and YES, I have had the privilege of observing and/or helping others to personally enjoy great achievements. Each is plenty of reason to declare 2011 an exceptional year, yet none is the reason 2011 will go down as one of my favorite years to date. That is not to say I am not proud of the accomplishments, contributions, and achievements to which I have played varying roles…clearly, I am. This year, I am most pleased by the warmth created in my life.

My most prized accomplishment of 2011 is gaining a more complete understanding of the value of warmth in personal and professional relationships. This is the year that I really came to understand how many of us view achievement as the primary means to fulfillment. In fact, I have come to believe that those focused most on achievement live the emptiest lives of all. Straight A’s in school may be the path to an elite college and the (false?) promise of a great job, but what are we likely giving up by encouraging (even demanding) our children to pursue such a path? The long, stressful hours we force upon ourselves and our coworkers may very well result in greater pay, additional promotions, and increased recognition, but what are the opportunity costs of such an approach?

In my opinion, the answer is warmth…the warm relationships we build over time. The warmth of the relationship I enjoy with my son is far more important than the metrics others may use to assess his level of achievement. The warmth of the relationships I enjoy with my Shipmates not only makes the journey that much more enjoyable, but also serve as the foundation for even greater professional achievement…mission accomplishment. And the warmth of the relationship I share with my wife is more important than anything else.

Others may measure our life by what they perceive as our achievements, what they read on our resume (or biography), or even the material goods we accumulate.  Let our measure be the warm relationships we build along the way.

  • How do you measure success?
  • Are you successful by that measure?
  • What might you be missing by focusing on such measure(s)?