How Do You Define Success?

In a recent meeting with a property owner to discuss the merits of the Cypress Creek Management District, a question was posed to me that triggered a state of panic and temporary paralysis.  It was a great question, and seemingly so basic, but one that was difficult to get my head around due to the myriad of ways it could be answered. Cursing myself, I thought it should have been obvious for me to have already contemplated this question beforehand.

The property owner asked, “How will the management district define success?”

I admitted that I would have to get back to her on that one.  Of course, I have visions of short-term and long-term positive outcomes that come from having a management district for Cypress Creek Parkway in place, but how does one go about assigning quantitative and qualitative milestones of success. Then it occurred to me that my notion of success was coming from a different perspective, one built around the status quo. Essentially, I had been telling myself the current state of affairs is not acceptable, it is getting worse, and something has to be done about it. But before we embark upon the exercise of answering her question, it would be beneficial for you to have a little more insight into how my brain works, so that you may have a better understanding of why that simple question stood me up the way it did.

Many of you are familiar with the DiSC Personality Assessment, but for those who are not, it is a simple way to identify personality types by answering a series of multiple-choice questions about different everyday life scenarios, which the software cogitates, and then marks your personality by placing a dot on a round target with four sectors. It is Myers-Briggs lite, if you will.  Each section on the target represents personality categories that make up the DiSC acronym, Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Conscientiousness.  To help clarify what those names mean there is a similar personality assessment program that defines those same categories but with more descriptive names, as Driver (D), Expressive (i), Amiable(S) and Analytic(C).  Most peoples’ dots fall somewhere in one of the categories and closer to the center of the circle, meaning they have a dominate personality type but share traits of some of the other categories.  Not me.  My dot landed on the furthest outer band of the circle deep in “C” territory.  To help better illustrate my DiSC results, if the State of Texas was the DiSC grid, then I am Brownsville.

Yes, this means I like data, however conversely, I am not the greatest at math. Imagine my inner torment. Hence, I am not as cut & dry as my DiSC assessment might indicate. I, like so many of my fellow humans, am complicated.  So, when someone asks me the question, how do you define success, my brain scatters in different directions.  One part of me is frantically trying to open a mental Excel spreadsheet to line out rows and columns of statistical categories with percentages and ratios neatly aligned underneath, and the other part of me goes all Bob Ross and paints a picture of kids playing with puppies in the front yard surrounded by a white picket fence and a midnight blue Porsche 911 in the driveway.

Adding a layer of complexity to answering this question is the nature of my position at the Chamber.  I represent a collective of members and members of this community who also have opinions about the definition of success. If I am serving with this Chamber with any degree of integrity, my answer should reflect their ideals as well.  Some view reductions in crime and vandalism as success. Others would like to see more landscaping.  Some are zealous about the eradication of bandit signs and those blow-up flappy stick people in front of mobile phone stores. Some would like to see dilapidated buildings torn down, and others want to see greater occupancies with higher quality tenants.  The point being, is depending one’s perspective, exists a different measure of success.

To the task-at-hand of answering how does the management district define success. To do so, I am going to call upon a past success I had at the chamber of commerce back in Durango.  The issue was the level of air service at the Durango-La Plata County Airport (DRO), or the lack thereof.  Durango being a small Colorado mountain town was never really perceived by the airline industry as a significant market for regular air service. We knew differently. To exacerbate the problem, the two carriers that served Durango at that time had a duopoly on the service and the price gouging of fares was borderline criminal. Thus, began the arduous task of convincing the airline industry they could make money flying their airplanes in and out of Durango. We eventually did just that, but it was not an overnight success. It started by convincing one new carrier to create one new route. After a year of this new service, we proved we were right.  Enplanements at the airport increased significantly, and price competition among carriers was created, further attracting more passengers to fly out of DRO instead of Albuquerque or other cities.  Once the airlines saw this, they added more flights and new routes, and each time they did this, those planes would fill.  In fact, enplanements at DRO have steadily increased year after year since 2005.  Today, Durango Airport has the third highest number of enplanements in the State of Colorado behind Denver and Colorado Springs.

The point of this story is I still look back on that work as a success, but at no point did I establish a quantitative goal or fait accompli.  What has happened with Durango air service has far exceeded any measure of success I could have imagined. Therefore, my definition of success is we changed the trajectory of air service at Durango-La Plata County Airport, and that is how I will chose to define success of the management district.  We need to change the trajectory.  Beyond that, there will be others who will come along after our work is done, who will establish the incremental goals of success, but our job today is to change the trajectory of Cypress Creek Parkway. Like Durango air service, success will build upon itself.