By Jim Bell, Siloam Mission CEO

How do you measure success?

I’ve thought about this question frequently over the past several years — and I used to think I had the answer.

There’s a saying in the sports world that “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” I believe that to be a Vince Lombardi quote.

When I was with the Winnipeg Football Club it was always clear that we were playing to win. Why else go out on that field?

Football is a game for winners. You go for touchdowns, not field goals. And in the end, it doesn’t matter how good of a game you played, how many battles for field position you won or how much heart and effort you put on the field.

All that matters is whether you won or lost. At the end of those three hours, you’re either a hero or a zero. You’re either a success or a failure. As unfair as that sounds, it is the reality.

That’s the yardstick you’re measured by.

When I left the football club and got involved with politics, I realized the end goal in both professions is the same – you play to win.

During the federal election of 2015 I walked the streets of Kildonan – St. Paul and knocked on the doors of hundreds of homes hoping to earn their trust — and vote. It was a tremendous experience.

Just like in football, I didn’t hit the campaign trail every day being ok with a loss. I was in it to win it.

When election night came around and I was watching the polls come in on TV, I was painfully aware that in the end it wouldn’t matter how many voters I talked to. It wouldn’t matter how much effort, sweat and tears I had put into the campaign.

All that would matter is whether I won or lost. That’s the way the world would evaluate me. In the eyes of the public, I would either be a success or a failure.

I will never regret having run for office, as this taught me a lot; but I am also glad my life took a different turn.

Over the last two years I’ve gotten to serve and learn from thousands of men and women experiencing homelessness and poverty in Winnipeg.

They’ve changed my view on how we measure success. I no longer believe that life is a zero sum game — or that success is entirely based on individual merit. There must be more to success than that.

For people using our services, success is measured by a different yardstick.

What does it look like? Depends on the person.

For some, success looks like 6 months sober. For others, it means having found a job — maybe even an apartment of their own.

Some are successful when they start meeting with a caseworker and start setting goals of their own. For others success can mean overcoming extreme social anxiety and actually talking with a volunteer in the drop-in centre.

We consider some people successful when they adhere to a regimen of meds that help curb the effects of their schizophrenia. We consider others successful when they complete an anger management course and learn to recognize triggers.

What’s true for most clients is that they face a huge handicap in life that prevents them from being as accomplished as we might expect others to be.

Be it addictions, mental health illnesses, fetal alcohol syndrome, physical and cognitive disabilities or significant health challenges, people use our services because they got stuck in life one way or another.

And yet, I consider many of them more successful than I am. They are more resourceful and entrepreneurial than I can hope to be.

And they’ve taught me that sometimes success isn’t just based on what we have achieved, but also what we have endured.

I wonder what you, the reader, think success looks like for all of us as a community?

Originally published by The Winnipeg Free Press