William Liao

May 30, 2021

Be specific

The term ‘success’ alone is essentially a blank canvas waiting to be given meaning. 

It is only when you define what it means to succeed that you are able to reliably recognize whether or not you’re coming into contact with the goals & outcomes you care about.

An important way to define success is the use of metrics — a standard of measurement that can be used to gauge success in the context of your life, your team, and your business. 

The value proposition of metrics is two-fold: 
  1. Clarity: identifying metrics requires you to be specific about the parameters of success. The more specific you are about what success means, the less likely you are to fall into the trap preceding declarations like “we succeeded” with credibility-shattering statements like “I think” — a comforting but wholly unreliable way of gauging success. 
  2. Cohesion of effort: when you have a clear sense of what you’re aiming for, it’s much easier to align your actions accordingly. 

In essence, metrics are a powerful way of knowing if you’re achieving or have achieved the outcomes you care about — they draw a fine line between conjecture and truth. 

Metrics are abundant in virtually every domain: 

In baseball, talent recruitment eventually shifted from relying on the intuition of scouts towards basic metrics like stolen bases, runs batted in, and batting average.

Eventually more advanced statistical methods were applied to converge on a simpler, more reliable set of metrics: on-base percentage and slugging percentage. 

At Amazon, they collect their core metric at the end of every customer service interaction when they ask point-blankly: “did I solve your problem today?” 

Many B2B and B2C businesses in a wide variety of sectors seemed to be particularly fond of asking their customers how likely they are to recommend their business — a question more formally known as Net Promoter Score.

Whether it’s your personal goals, your team’s goals, or your business’ goals, they all come with the same mandate: be specific.