The following is an excerpt from N6A CEO Matt Rizzetta's upcoming book, Embrace the Pace: The 100 Most Exhilarating Lessons Learned in a Decade of Entrepreneurship. Pre-order now before its official release on March 1, 2020.
When I first started our business, I was an impatient and naive twentysomething with a misguided sense of what success was all about. I’ve kept the initial business plan that I built for N6A when I was 26 years old, and from time to time I’ll look at it and laugh. It’s funny to me, because these were the superlatives that I used to define success in our business plan back then: “immediate,” “instant,” “sprint.”
Back then, success to me was nothing more than a sprint to see how fast I could make it, how big I could build it, and how disruptive I could be in the shortest amount of time.
In reality, elements of this probably contributed to our early success and survival during our formative years as a business. However, I’ve learned that these are hollow, shortsighted and unfulfilling principles that are the furthest thing from making you a success in your career.
When I evaluate myself today as a business leader and when I meet with people of all walks, including entrepreneurs, founders, CEOs, prospective employees and entry-level youngsters, I am no longer interested in overnight success stories. I am no longer interested in instant gratification or fast-tracking the road to success. I am much more interested in two words:
Consistency and longevity.
These are perhaps the two most overlooked qualities in one’s career.
Anyone can be a one-hit wonder — just ask Milli Vanilli or Fountains of Wayne (I’m dating myself now!). I’m no longer impressed by one-hit wonders who boast of quick success or have achieved overnight stardom. But find me someone who can churn out Top 40 hits consistently, year after year, and now we’re talking.
Over the past 10 years, I’ve seen many people in my network strike gold. Some of these people remain close friends of mine to this day. Many of them were in the right place at the right time, riding the waves of tech booms, perfectly timed venture capital windows and bull markets. I would never take anything away from their accomplishments. In fact, many of them have an innate ability and vision which I could never dream of having. However, while they’ve had successful outcomes, I wouldn’t necessarily call their careers a success.
As I’ve gotten deeper into my business and career journey, I have seen that the true success stories are the ones whose careers are defined by consistency and longevity. These are people who have achieved sustained success over long periods of time, oftentimes reinventing themselves in order to constantly churn out winning outcomes year after year. They might not have experienced some of the big wins over the short term that others have, but over the long term they’ve achieved consistent success without many blips.
Case in point: I can name hundreds, maybe thousands, of people in my network who have had successful financial exits in a relatively short horizon. These are people who have struck gold quickly and got out at the right time.
However, I can name only a handful of people in my network who have achieved consistent winning outcomes, year after year. By winning outcomes, I don’t necessarily mean financial outcomes, although that is one metric for determining success. Beyond financial outcomes such as profitability, shareholder returns or valuation increases, winning outcomes in your career could mean other things, such as employment creation, promotion rates, product innovation, customer success track record and impact on others. To me, those are the true “one-percenters,” and the ones who embody what it means to have a successful career.
As I look back at the decade we’ve been in business, I wouldn’t say we’ve ever had one grand-slam year. However, we’ve had 10 consecutive winning years of consistent profitability, innovation, job creation, improvement and growth. I don’t think that I appreciated this as much as I should have in the early days, but nowadays I’m very proud of our track record when it comes to consistency and longevity.
When all is said and done, I want my career and business journey to be remembered for consistency and longevity, and I’m fine with it even if it comes at the expense of short-term gratification.
My ideology around success has changed quite a bit since I was an impatient and naive twenty something.
Posted by Matt Rizzetta