When I first started Skillcrush I would hear a lot of talk about “vanity metrics” but I had a really hard time understanding what they were.
When you’re starting a business every metric feels like it matters–How many Twitter followers do I have? How many people visited my website? Did so-and-so venture capitalist think my idea was cool?
But as Skillcrush has grown I’ve come to understand that vanity metrics are those things that make you feel like you’re making progress but don’t actually do anything to move your business forward.
You’re probably thinking to yourself…but I don’t run a business…why do I need to know about vanity metrics?
What I have come to realize is that vanity metrics play out in all aspects of business and life.
The pull towards what sounds or looks or feels good in the moment—instead of what will actually help you progress towards your goal—is incredibly strong and everyone feels it.
I think it’s pretty easy to spot when we’re doing something so that it looks or sounds good to other people, but the worst is when you catch yourself trying to deceive yourself!
I fall into this trap all the time. I knocked 25 things off my to-do list today! Only one left to do! Is the one left the most important and hardest one? Of course, but look I did 25 other things!!
Or another good example is the time that I refused to go running until I had bought the exact right running outfit. Because, as you all know, it’s impossible to start running unless you’re dressed head-to-toe in Lululemon.
::facepalm emoji :: Vanity metrics!
For better or for worse, getting the important work done is usually quiet, unglamorous, and often, a little bit hard. And it usually makes for terribly boring party conversation.
So what are you up to?
Just putting away 10% of my monthly take-home pay so that I have a solid emergency savings account…
Just learning new design and coding skills to help me make a career change without going into thousands of dollars of student loan debt…
Just trying to take care of my heart and body by running 3 miles in my old ratty t-shirt and some sweatpants I dug out of a drawer…
Just taking care of my employees by making sure my business is profitable…
Just working my network to line up clients for my new freelance business…
Just signing a lease on my new restaurant space because I know that if I have to pay the rent I will figure out the rest pretty darn fast…
The thing is, if there’s something you know you need to do (learn a new skill, start exercising, find a client, quit that job), it’s easy to convince yourself that you need someone or something in order to do it.
You need 1,000 Twitter followers, or a celebrity to endorse you, or an acceptance letter from a top-ranked graduate school, or the perfect logo, or a second master’s degree, or a well-researched business plan, or the right outfit, or your mother’s blessing…
But 99.9999% of the time, the only thing you actually need is yourself—and to start doing the thing.
Stop revising your portfolio design and just launch the darn thing!
Stop worrying about your business cards and start sending emails to potential clients!
Stop thinking you don’t know enough to make money and start using what you know now to get paid!
Get to work doing the thing that will actually get you closer to your goals :)
I’ll be here trying to do the same!
Adda is not only the CEO and founder of Skillcrush, but also an instructor. With her self-taught tech skills, she’s worked on building sites for the New York Times, ProPublica and MTV.