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Susan Kistler on Life’s Success Criteria

gradhatMy name is Susan Kistler and I am the American Evaluation Association’s Executive Director Emeritus and aea365’s regular Saturday contributor.

Rad Resource – Juice Analytics Blog: The staff at Juice Analytics puts out one of my favorite blogs focusing on data use, analysis, and visualization. Their tag line alone “Your data is meant for action” is enough to get my vote.

Lessons Learned – Everyday Visualizations and Everyday Evaluations: This week, Ken Hilburn wrote about “Everyday Visualizations” – the laundry on the line that tells you that rain isn’t predicted for today, or the indicators on your laptop that tell you when your battery is about to die.

When I teach evaluation, I usually begin by noting that we are all evaluators. We collect data, analyze that information, and make decisions based on it. We read movie reviews and choose a show to see, peruse the meat counter at the grocery and perform a quick cost-benefit analysis and put down the tenderloin, and select a mate based on what might be seen as extensive interviews and evidentiary analysis. Professional evaluators merely increase the scope and systematization of the processes and apply them in situations with broader implications.

Lessons Learned – Identifying Life’s Key Indicators: My family lives at a boarding school where my husband chairs the science department, and (barring the extremely unexpected) from which my oldest daughter Emily will graduate this afternoon

As I sat through a baccalaureate service last night, my mind wandered to the mental calculus of the success criteria for the situation. She completed the program. Check. Did well, graduating cum laude. Check. Got into college to study computer engineering. Check. These are all indeed successes that have made me very proud.

Yet success over the past 18 years is far more difficult to quantify. A new tradition here is that, as a child of a faculty member, my husband will hand my daughter her diploma. To plan ahead, he asked “hug or handshake” – hug of course she exclaimed, excited at the prospect. I sat next to the headmaster’s wife at the service. She noted that Emily looked beautiful at the prom, no small feat for a child who had seen major health challenges. Earlier in the day, a friend had commented that Emily positively beams when standing beside her longtime boyfriend. Yes, said I, she is in love.

Ultimately, are these not what matter? Success is made manifest in health and happiness, confidence that you are loved and the capacity to love with others.

As I change my own work situation, I am setting goals for myself, looking at what should be my own key indicators of success, personally and professionally, in the coming years. If you have experience to share, I’d love to learn from you.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

3 thoughts on “Susan Kistler on Life’s Success Criteria”

  1. Great article, Susan. Event hough we all spend our days evaluation, as an entrepreneur, I am constantly prioritizing – so much to do to move the company forward with limited resources. As such, I do frequently think about how I am prioritizing the important things in life.

    It’s easy to put off things like getting enough exercise or spending quality time with your loved ones when you’re inside the hectic whirlwind of a startup, yet it’s so important NOT to put off those things. For anyone with a stressful or demanding job, it requires discipline to keep doing the things you need to do to stay healthy and happy at home.

    I’d like to add one more success metric, which is the one that keeps me at a startup instead of getting a more secure job at a bigger company: rewarding work. True success has to include doing work that you love, and that you find satisfying.

  2. Megan Walker Grimaldi

    What a great post, Susan.
    One of my dear friends, who majored in music with me and then decided to become a phlebotomist, had to answer the question: “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” She thought about it a bit, and said, “I want to make more people happy than I make sad.”

  3. Sheila Robinson

    Wow! What an insightful post, Susan! It reminds me of the times I get sucked into the vortex of stress and anxiety over work matters (that always seem smaller the more distant they become) and have to pull myself back and ask “What’s really important here?” A good friend reminded me just the other day of a simple yet profound maxim: Things always have a way of working themselves out. True. My key indicators of success are strong, healthy relationships, and a strong and healthy mind and body to help me maintain the former.

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