Thoughts From Cappsule Tribe’s UnConference: Defining & Measuring Success

by Ben Kostiuk

I recently spent my Saturday attending the Cappsule Tribe Conference at the Garneau Theatre in Edmonton on May 28th. Despite my cynical reservations, as it describes itself as an “un-conference” and “Millennial as ****,” this networking and entrepreneurial connected me with similarly driven people and changed my attitude towards building a resume and achieving future ambitions. Indeed, too often I look for a successful summer weekend as one that involves camping, attending a music festival, or simply having drinks with friends. Despite the immediate enjoyment they provide, these short-term successes are often in direct conflict with what I want to achieve. My afternoon at the Cappsule Tribe Conference helped clarify what is important.

The drive for success is universal. However, what is success? Conventionally, there are many ways to frame success. For instance, a successful night out might involve several beers, good music, and a shwarma. A successful semester for some might be straight As and for others a healthy mixture of Bs and Cs. A successful life often involves a combination of family and financial security.

For something as universally chased as success, it is often ill-defined, and it is a moving target. The same activities that give a feeling of achievement early in life, such as making new friends or performing well on an exam, are often replaced in adulthood by starting a career or making a meaningful relationship. However, researchers have argued that leveraging success based on achieving abstract goals, although well-intentioned, ends up backfiring.

Harvard Business School professor, Max Bazerman, and his research team found that goal setting leads to narrow-mindedness and poor learning outcomes. Simply put, blindly following goals with the intent of being successful often has the opposite effect.  Instead, psychologist Karl Weick argues that setting small discrete goals work better and that these “small wins” increase motivation as well as keep an open mind towards other possibilities.  

Tying this into the Cappsule Tribe event, Indochino co-founder Kyle Vucko touched upon this phenomenon; more specifically, he spoke about how his definition of success changed after running a financially lucrative start-up company for eight years. After getting married and subsequently leaving Indochino, Vucko has changed the paradigm to now integrate his family and work life, as he now works with his wife.

Hearing his story, I thought about choices, both big and small, I can make to achieve happiness. While I am far from fulfilling my goals or even realizing them, I can start seeing uncertainty as a good thing. Instead of placing an idealized future on a pedestal I can make small goals that improve who I am both as a person and on paper.

My conclusion: “Show up!”. It’s time to consider a successful Saturday as learning something new and meeting like-minded individuals instead of trying to binge watch an entire season of House of Cards on Netflix. It might also be time to define a successful summer as going to a networking and educational conference, such as TEDx or a HubSpot.

As we enter early adulthood, we are at a time where we are constantly changing. Our priorities, our friends, and our careers. We should also be changing and redefining success, slowly – one step at a time.

Banner photography courtesy of Etoroma Creative.

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