How Would You Measure Your Impact Without a Chart?

Aaron McHugh

Photo by Holden McHugh
Photo by Holden McHugh

If you’re the alleyway graffiti artist from the photo my son took in Paris, how do you measure impact?

Our world is finitely measured.

Charts, graphs, metrics, this vs. that, goals, targets, and baselines.

Your impact cannot be plotted and measured on a chart.

Impact is so much greater and yet so allusive to always quantify.

Big Data Drives Big Charts

If you’re a musician then you have been programmed to believe that ticket sales or downloads are how your effectiveness or success is measured.  Where is the impact meter on your screen that shows how your music influenced another musician to dig deeper to find the lyrics buried inside them?

If you’re a writer, book sales are your master.

If you’re a sales person, year-to-date sales performance is your dogmatic boss.

If you’re a CEO, profit for shareholders keeps you awake at night.

If you’re a (fill in your place in the story), (then fill in your metric).

There are clear elements that belong on a chart like sales, profit, average order, cost of sale, number of downloads, total new customers and the like.  For every plotted data point there is a more human sub-text story of impact that usually gets ignored, dismissed or forgotten.

How would you measure your impact?

Our impact, the real deep way that we each shape and influence the world cannot be measured on a chart.

I had lunch with a friend over the weekend and we talked about this idea of impact. He wrote a book a year or two ago and it wasn’t a NY Times Best Seller.  He threw everything he had at it: video, online, radio, and social media support.

But it did not break any sales, download or viral video records.

Are the measured results the only verdict on his work?

Despite the record smashing desires, he is still hearing echoes about the impact that his book is having on individual people.  The stories that are still come in are about how his book is making a difference in one or ten or twenty people’s lives.

Should that be enough?  In the business world, you have to make a profit or you simply have a hobby.  Profits, progress, and popularity are a necessary ingredient to get a chance to write your next book or keep the doors of your software company open.

I want to highlight the tension between achieving the required profits and digging to measure the impact of your life and work.

If you threw out the charts and graphs, how would you attempt to plot your effectiveness and impact?

You might be surprised how the sub story of impact is more significant than you know.