How do you measure success? Early in my career, it was the massive victories: Breaking into Playboy Magazine (as a journalist, that is), getting my Masters or publishing my first book. I learned slowly, though, that any gains were really made up of incremental wins and losses.

It would make no sense to celebrate just the big victory, as I would not only miss honoring the smaller gains that made the big victory possible, but I would not gain the momentum necessary to even reach the big victory at all.

In other words, honoring the small wins wasn't just being thoughtful. It was necessary to my survival. I'd argue it is essential to yours, too. Here's why:

There are no trophies in entrepreneurship (or in personal relationships). The virtual awards that do exist are not meritocratic: I get praised for being the primary caretaker, yet moms have been doing what I do since, quite directly, the beginning of humanity, and software startups receive tens of millions of dollars based without actual product, yet very viable products aren't receiving a dime. You have to throw your own parties.

Any big victory won't be a straight line. Think about the major achievements in your career. Like a pointallistic painting, the track of you reaching big goals only looks like a line from a distance. In reality, it was tiny ups and downs trekking you towards the finale. The steps to my first startup exit started decades ago when I began researching a book on intimacy and technology. It isn't meant to be a straight line, and it never will be.

It falls prey to extreme thinking. I love investor Mark Suster's recent Inc. post on our obsession with extreme thinking and unicorns (startups +$1 billion):

Victory on the field is more often a result of three yards and a cloud of dust. I like that. So, too, startups. It's not about being on stage at a Demo Day or featured in an article in TechCrunch or closing a $20 million round. It's about continually shipping code. It's about putting our menacing bugs. It's about a 6:15am flight to a customer in Detroit in Winter for a $200k deal to hit your budget for the quarter.

If you're waiting on the magazine cover, the citation or the big check, you may never honor your current success, as none of these things may ever happen.

What small victory aren't you celebrating right now?

Published on: Sep 28, 2015