Discover more from Right Hand Talent
Your Ikigai and Personal KPIs for Success
And why society's KPIs for success actually suck
Before writing this post, I was debating what the best home for it would be: this Substack, or my personal one, Musings on Awareness? If you’re familiar with my writing over there, you know it’s focused on all things personal growth, awareness, and spirituality. Thankfully, Substack has this neat feature where you can cross-post on separate newsletters, so that’s what I ultimately decided, as I believe this topic serves my two distinct (but potentially overlapping?!) audiences.
This post was inspired by’s LinkedIn post on success:
I thought to myself: the biggest confounder here is that society’s definition of success is warped, and most of us have been running that program for time immemorial without really questioning it.
In short, society’s KPIs for success ≠ your personal KPIs for success.
What society’s KPIs for success look like
Financial Status: Net worth, monthly or yearly income, assets owned, etc.
Professional Achievement: Titles held, promotions received, accolades earned.
Public Recognition: Media mentions, social media following, awards.
Material Possessions: Owning properties, luxury cars, brands, etc. (pls stop renting lambos on every trip to Miami)
Social Influence: Number of people you know, invitations to elite events, etc. (I’m looking at you, name droppers!)
Educational Credentials: Degrees from reputed institutions, certifications.
Legacy and Power: How many people report to them or are influenced by their decisions.
Physical Symbols: Office size, location of house, etc.
These KPIs point to external validation and tangible outcomes. They’re great on the surface — and there’s no doubt that a lot of money and material possessions can make things easier in life — but these measures of success often miss out on gauging personal happiness, contentment, and purpose.
What more, they represent a perpetually moving goalpost. No matter how much you achieve, there's always a higher rung on the ladder, leading to a never-ending cycle of dissatisfaction.
And society, through its institutions, media, and cultural norms, has long perpetuated these KPIs. This collective endorsement exerts a really strong influence on us, subtly conditioning us to equate external achievements with personal worth and fulfillment. And over time, we internalize these societal standards, leading us to believe that they represent an unequivocal "truth" about success. Ultimately, all of this pressure to conform clouds our personal judgment and makes it challenging for us to recognize and pursue our own unique paths to fulfillment and happiness.
What more, your personal feelings of worthiness or worthlessness creep in as you measure yourself against these KPIs…your inner voice asks the question and answers it for you, too: “If you don’t have these [things], then what do you really have? Nothing.”
So, what’s the alternative? How do we start dislodging ourselves from the existing narrative and society’s KPIs for success, and start creating our own? For this, we have to explore our Ikigai.
What the heck is an Ikigai?
Originating from Japan, Ikigai is a philosophy that emphasizes finding joy in life through purpose. At its core, Ikigai is the intersection of four key elements:
What you love
What you're good at
What the world needs, and
What you can be paid for
When these four things converge, one is said to have found their Ikigai, or their "reason for being."
It’s about finding that sweet spot in life where passion meets vocation, mission, and profession, and aligning one’s personal desires and skills with the broader needs of society.
Here’s what Ikigai-inspired KPIs for success look like
Inner Fulfillment: This KPI asks: "Do your daily activities nourish your soul and bring you joy?"
Purposeful Engagement: It’s not the quantity but the quality of your engagements. Are you engrossed in activities that align with your deeper purpose?
Passionate Pursuits: Beyond monetary compensation or accolades, does what you do ignite a fire within you?
Personal Growth & Evolution: True success = continuous learning and personal development. Are you evolving and bettering yourself?
Connectedness: Relationships are the bedrock of human existence. Are you creating meaningful connections and nurturing relationships that uplift and support you?
Harmonious Balance: Are you striking a balance between your aspirations, societal contributions, and personal well-being?
Positive Societal Impact: Beyond your individual gains, how are you contributing to the betterment of society?
Timelessness: When you're engrossed in activities that resonate with your core, time often seems to stand still. Are there moments in your life where you lose yourself entirely and bask in the sheer joy of the moment?
Merging Perspectives for a Balanced View
While the title of my post might suggest a complete dismissal of traditional success KPIs, I think it’s important to relativize them. Yes, in a vacuum, these metrics are flawed. But when you combine them with the Ikigai framework, they can contribute to a well-rounded definition of success.
An example of this is building wealth or gaining recognition. While not inherently wrong, these kind of achievements become genuinely meaningful when they’re tied to a deeper purpose, like contributing to societal welfare.
On the other hand, one might find joy and purpose in a profession that doesn’t align with societal notions of success. But if it aligns with their Ikigai, it’s as valid a measure of success as any.
It's high time we took a harder look at the KPIs we've been conditioned to chase. Traditional benchmarks have their place, but much like a resume, they only offer a limited view. Just as a resume can't encapsulate all of your professional depth, societal standards shouldn't dictate the entirety of what fulfills you. There's so much more to our lives and aspirations than what we've been traditionally told to value. Exploring your Ikigai might initially serve up more questions than answers, but it’s a good step that offers a more wholesome perspective to success, and urges us to find joy, meaning, and purpose on our journey through life.
Above all, what you decide to pursue ultimately has to resonate with your inner truth (frankly, life is too short to live it on someone else’s terms). And if you’re open to a new way of thinking, embrace your Ikigai and chart your own success metrics.
Tying it all back to the Chief of Staff role
Halfway through writing this post, I remembered that I had a mini section on Ikigai in my Chief of Staff 101 course on Udemy (if you want a discount code, just reply to this email!). I love creating helpful resources for people, so I thought I’d share the guide I created that helps folks explore the Chief of Staff role and their Ikigai step-by-step. Check it out below and let me know what you think!
If you’re a candidate looking to get placed as a Chief of Staff with Right Hand, be sure to submit this Typeform.
If you’re hiring a Chief of Staff and want to learn more about the Chief of Staff role or need help accelerating your search with Right Hand, I’d love to talk. Just respond to this email or shoot me a DM on LinkedIn!
Finally, if you liked reading this, feel free to click the ❤️ button on this post so more people can discover it on Substack 🙏
Until next time, Right Hand fam! 👋
Thanks for reading Right Hand Talent! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support our work.