My north star metric

Every great company or a business usually focusses on one single metric. The metric that helps them take decisions, the metric that helps them measure success, the metric that gives their employees a clear guidance and direction, like a north star. The north star varies for different companies. For companies like Facebook, it’s the number of daily/weekly active users. For Uber, it’s no. of weekly trips and so on.

This north star metric is not some random number but a very conscious choice. It makes sure; everything that is important to the company is accounted for and is directly or indirectly affected by the north star metric.

So if you are improving on the north star metric, it automatically means all the other metrics important to you are improving. Case in point; Uber. If the no. of trips are increasing, it means the below —

  1. The number of repeat users (users who take more than 1 trip) are increasing
  2. The number of new users (new trips) are increasing
  3. The number of drivers on the platform are increasing

Notice how the single north star metric takes care of everything else. Say if Uber chose their north star metric as the number of new users, it doesn’t necessarily mean that either the repeat usage or the number of drivers are increasing, which can be disastrous for a two sided market place like Uber.

It’s easier to assign a north star metric to companies but how do we do it for humans? How do we make sure that we align ourselves with a very objective metric to define our success or progress in life? This, like companies will vary from individual to individual. For many people who I’ve come across, it’s bank balance, no. of countries/places visited, designation in a corporate structure and so on.

Not that these are any wrong, but the point of a north star metric is to make sure the metric offers a wholesome approach to measure progress. And for me, neither of the above are wholesome. After few weeks of thinking, the north star metric for me is the number of major regrets in life. Lesser the number of major regrets, better is my life.

Optimising for this metric takes care of a few things —

  1. Makes sure I do the right things in the long run
  2. Makes sure I don’t do something just for instant gratification (it’s a trap), something that I could regret later on
  3. Makes sure I do the things that I would regret not doing at a later point, no matter how hard or difficult it may get at the moment

Given how often I change my point of view, this could change as I gather more knowledge and understanding. But it definitely gives me a singular focus towards my life in the coming year, and something with which I can measure my progress with.

What is your north star metric?


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