How Do You Measure the Success of Your Business? -- Hint It's Not How Much You Made Last Year

In our society it seems like our success is measured by how much we earn, how many promotions we get or how big our bonus is. These things seem to be front and center in the media today. I admit, I have been sucked into this mentality lately. I talk to my kids about "careers" and "long term, stable employment." I have always said you have to be happy in your work to be truly successful. Yet, I hear myself trying to talk my daughter into getting into the tech industry so she can have a lucrative, stable career. Nothing wrong with that, except she has no interest in the tech industry. She's a creative, artistic type, like her folks and that makes me worry about her financial wellness.

My husband and I both have jobs we absolutely love, that make us happy and give us a lot of freedom. Unfortunately they do not bring in a steady paycheck. It has been difficult, to say the least. Never knowing what our monthly paycheck will be. Not once, in the past 25 years of our marriage have we ever earned the same amount month to month. It's pretty crazy when you think about it. Anthony is a Union Carpenter. He can have anywhere from 2-12 different employers, each year. When a job ends, he is let go, usually with no notice. Sometimes another job is lined up, sometimes it can be weeks or months before the next job. For me, as a photographer, I have no idea how many clients I will have at any given time. Sometimes I am booked solid, other times, my calendar is open. When we don't work, we don't get paid.

I had an "ah-ha" moment yesterday during my monthly phone session with my bookkeeper, from Do Your Thing. We were going through my numbers and I was saying how I've been busy with family and I haven't made as much money this year. My numbers were down from last year, and my expenses were up. I told her how I was going to work hard and make more money by year end. The goal is always to make more than last year, right?

Well, this is when my very wise bookkeeper, Ariane, reminded me what our business is there to do for us. She reminded me that it is not all about the dollar amount at the end of the year. She said our business needs to work for us in creating the lifestyle we want. That it changes and adapts to our needs. It can be different things to us at different times. She reminded me what a crazy year this has been. I had a bout with depression, helped my daughter get back on her feet after a manic episode, helped my son with collge applications, trained for a half marathon, and helped my folks with some health issues. Yes, it has been quite a year!

This really hit home with me. My job has given me so much and has allowed me to do so many great things. Most importantly it has allowed me freedom and flexibility to be there for my family when they need me. You can not put a dollar amount on that. When my parents both had emergency hospital procedures on the same day and needed me to drop them off and pick them up, I was able to be there for them. They decided to spend the night with me because they were too wiped out to drive back home to the Central Valley. The next morning, we were able to drink coffee while enjoying the view of the San Francisco skyline from my dining room table. My work could wait. I was able to live in the moment and not be dictated by a boss telling me when and where to be to work. That felt so good. Priceless.

Of course, it's not without some sacrifices. Sometimes I work til 2am every night or work at my desk on a gorgeous Saturday. Not knowing how much I will make each month makes it very difficult to pay the bills. That can be very stressful, yet we've done it for 20 years and never missed a mortgage payment or had our lights turned off. We may eat beans and rice for while, but that's ok with us. For our family the trade off of flexibility and loving what we do, is of more value, than steady money on our pocket. It is different for every person, but you need to decide what your priorities are and make sure your work supports them.

There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about how blessed I am. I have been transformed this past year by a business coach named Jeff Jochum. He wrote a book, "Working Happily Ever- After" It made so much sense to me, I have changed my whole business model. My business is now based on my happiness and who I am as a person. Ariane's words were just what I needed to remind me that my business is performing just as I need it to right now.

Somehow we have figured out how to make it work for our family. I wouldn't change it for the world. I love my life. I love the flexibility I have to be present for myself, my family and friends. This lifestyle is not for everyone and it happens to work well for us. I am going to encourage my children to follow their hearts and their passions and they will be successful. You don't need a Tesla or a vacation house in Italy to be successful. I feel our society needs to put more value on happiness and quality of life, than job title or yearly earnings. I think we need to show our children that success is not measured by your bank account, but by how full your heart and soul are when you go to bed each night.