A Leader’s Paradox: How to Be Happy, While Being Driven to Improve

Scott Dieckgraefe, Managing Partner, President, Studio/D

todayAs a leading full-service agency, we’re constantly asked by our clients to provide more.  More followers, more leads, more applicants, more conversions, more renewals, more sales.  Then, once we accomplish those tasks, we’re asked for more again.  I’m certainly not faulting our clients for this – they’re all driven leaders, and that’s our task as leaders – to continuously improve.  Our team at Studio/D is certainly up to the challenge.

By nature of reading this blog, you’re probably a driven leader yourself.  And as such, you may have also battled with a common demon with me.  As I find opportunities for personal and corporate improvement, it has led me to be dissatisfied with what I’ve already accomplished.  How can I be happy with something that can improved upon?  By nature of having room for improvement, doesn’t that mean that it could have been done better earlier?

Please don’t follow me into this rabbit hole, as it’s a dangerous place.  It’s simply too easy to allow my dissatisfaction with the current to permeate into others around me, eroding a positive culture and hurting our ability to find ways to improve in the future.

Simply put, my question is this:  How can we be happy, yet always be driven to improve?

Over the past few months, I’ve asked several mentors this question, and while everyone has a different specific way they address this, they all revolve around celebrating today’s successes.  Have gratitude for the abilities you’ve developed, for the situations that you’ve been presented with, for the problems that you’re learning to solve, and for the results you’ve been able to accomplish today.  Don’t waste energy being troubled about tomorrow, as tomorrow will come and it will worry about itself.

Each time Usain Bolt broke another sprinting record, celebrated his new success.  What about tomorrow? He just kept improving.

When Henry Ford introduced the Model T, I doubt that he was upset that his car couldn’t go 100 MPH, and have GPS.  What he created was a massive improvement over what was then available.  He celebrated his ability to offer a horseless carriage.

I invite you to join me in a journey.  Keep looking for ways to improve.  Apply yourself to continuous improvement.  As a good client of ours says, “fix what bugs you.”  Then relax, look at your work and declare it to be good.  Celebrate in the moment.  Be happy with every step of a long run, rather than focusing on how distant you are from the finish line.  Celebrate today’s victories today.  Tomorrow, you’ll have more opportunities to improve.