Original Thought · Self Improvement · Uncertainty


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What constitutes success? How do you measure the value of a minute, an hour, a lifetime? Is the accumulation of material goods and zeroes a meaningful metric? How much is enough? Is there such a thing as too much?
For regular readers, you will know that I tend to believe and try to practice the belief that our lives aren’t measured by what we have but rather by what we do. Too much creates an expectation of more and a dissatisfaction with the present.
If I live my life with open hands; allowing gifts and possessions to be shared rather than accumulated, my hands never seem to be empty. When I close my fists on money, material belongings, relationships, ideas then there isn’t room for additional, new, exciting possibilities. There isn’t a motivation to seek out new people or room in the closed fist to caress a new idea.
My success is measured by the incremental changes that my curiousity and relationships bring me. I am better (more successful) on the days that I am open to the unknown, interested in mystery, and able to have impactful and challenging conversations with the people that I encounter on the adventure of my day.
We have stuff and sometimes I cling to it but mostly it gets in the way of explaining, learning, sharing because the stuff says more about me (and things I don’t aspire to have said) than my intellect, rhetoric and actions. If the bling and accessories don’t add to my essence then they are detracting from who I want to be and how I want to be remembered.

Shedding stuff is difficult, especially if we have vested personal importance in their status and allowed them to become proxies for true meaning. It may be easier to succeed in not acquiring objects that are peripheral to your life mission. If I want to live a more self-sustaining life, does a luxury SUV or the latest Keurig machine fit inside or outside the path? (does the latest anything fit?)

In a Business Insider article Arriana Huffington says “To live the lives we truly want and deserve, and not just the lives we settle for, we need a Third Metric,” she says, “a third measure of success that goes beyond the two metrics of money and power, and consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving.”
In the same article Winston Churchill says “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm”.

It seems that others have been asking the “what is success” question for decades, maybe centuries. How do you know or feel your success? Do you? What needs to change so your metrics are meaningful for you? Are you ready and willing to shift your focus and live life a new way?




Are we measuring the right things? Last night I attended a d.talks event on suburbs and tomorrow. One of the presenters posited that we shouldn’t measure units per acre to calculate density. ” We should be calculating based on people per acre and then we would see that lower income areas have truly higher ratios. Another panelist suggested that we consider density, as Teddy Cruz challenges, as a function of human interactions. ┬áIsn’t the metric, number ?/area attempting to measure community? The proxy is easy to calculate by official because it is just arithmetic.

Understanding that community flourishes in the conversations and informal understanding of our neighbours, we should begin an exercise in sociological urbanism and tactical urbanism. In East Village in Calgary, the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation is counting mothers with strollers as a proxy for perceived safety. This makes contextual sense because EV has a history and the redevelopment has been bumpy. As moms come from across the region to walk the pathways and take in St Patrick’s Island they change the brand, the culture and the ecology. If we are already observing (really just counting) mothers couldn’t we create a behaviour crib sheet where observers select from a list , talking, walking, sitting, alone, in group (2,3,4), jogging, playing, reading..? The list would measure interaction with the built environment and interaction with others. The value to planners and developers is in the unexpected interactions and the aha’s of place use.


The data could present new opportunities and save significant time and expense trying to stubbornly create conformity.

Maybe CMLC is already doing this but as in all things there are lessons that can transfer to other area of our life. What am I measuring and what relevance does it have to my mission? Is scale needed? Is the interplay between people more important? Can we solve a problem together? How do we move this forward?

As always, more questions than answers.


Make Today Remarkable, by observing how you and others interact in a public space,