Recently it became apparent to me that my friend Brian and I have a slightly different idea of what successful looks like. Growing up, Brian and I weren’t necessarily interested in all the same activities. For instance, he participated in theatre while I participated in sports. Nonetheless we both had, and still have, an appreciation for one another’s interests – it helped that we were both Cubs fans in some of their worst years, and misery loves company.
Just last week, I saw how experiences, interests and knowledge impact our perception of what success looks like. Brian and I saw The Big Short. After the movie, as Brian and I analyzed the movie, he commented on the moments in the film where B List celebrities break the fourth wall to explain, “subprime mortgages” and “collateralized debt obligations.” To Brian, these pauses were “cheap” and “created a disjunction in the directorial narrative,” he believed they were out of place. To me, these asides were great! They made me laugh and want to cry at the same time – after all, the movie is a comedy based on real events that left real people homeless and jobless only eight years ago. Even though Brian and I saw the same movie, we clearly had two totally different experiences.
Brian and I went into the movie looking for very different things. I went in looking to watch a film and escape reality for a couple of hours, not necessarily with an eye on the quality of acting and directing. Brian on the other hand, a person with acting experience and knowledge, went into the film looking to see how well a stack of great actors performed, along with the director Adam McKay.
Based on our previous experiences, interests and knowledge, we construct a meaning for everything. Just as Brian’s knowledge of theatre led him to focus on acting performances in the film, a client’s or customer’s previous experiences will dictate what they define as “success.” Success looks like many different things for each person. A “good" piece of work takes time but also thoughtful input from many different parties involved. At sr4 we start our work by asking clients for examples of what "good" looks like. By defining what good looks like early on, we can better align with the needs of our employees, friends, coworkers, clients and get the most out of everyone involved.