Keep On Pushing: From Success to significance
Success excites us!
It provides us with evidence that we are capable of achieving regardless of the obstacles we may have had to overcome. Additionally, our achievements serve as further proof that we are capable of even greater success in the future.
Needless to say, success means different things to different people.
Some think of success in terms of what they hope to get—achievement, wealth, fame, recognition, respect, feeling valued.
Others see success in terms of their ability to earn a certain income which would allow them to live in a particular neighborhood, own a particular model car and be able to take multiple vacations each year to exotic destinations.
Still for others, success represents power or status in the community.
What does success mean to you? However you may choose to define it, one thing is clear, we all clamor for it and to varying degrees, dedicate ourselves to its achievement.
Of course, that kind of success—accumulating wealth, collecting toys, enjoying prestige and status, collecting amazing experiences, etc, is incredibly rewarding but there is a different kind of success (or perhaps more accurately, a different level of success) that I would like to explore in this article. One called significance.
The great masters of the past— spiritual leaders, scientists, political leaders, titans of industry, management gurus—have all achieved significance and have spent an inordinate amount of time working to bring us to this level of success.
Significance is success which:
Takes us beyond our own imaginations of ourselves to discover our real potential.
Gives us a sense of fulfillment.
Leaves a legacy behind.
There is no doubt that in our society today, many of the people we declare to be successful have proven themselves be thoroughly horrible, repulsive individuals, who put very few things ahead of their egotistical, self-indulgent desires. Needless to say, we see them as immensely successful because they have in fact accrued tremendous wealth, built great structures or have attained other accomplishments that many of us would have loved to have under our own belts as well. Nonetheless, when you look at the rest of their lives, there is nothing about them that we would want to admire or emulate.
In essence, we have allowed success to become inextricably linked to material gain and outward appearance.
But what if we redefined success?
What if success was not just about how much you can grow your bank balances but it was also about personal growth?
What if it wasn’t just about your accomplishments, status and power but also about contribution to the greater good?
What if it wasn’t just about self-aggrandizement but also about warm relationships, and genuine happiness?
In other words, finding purpose in everything you do.
What I am saying is that we shouldn’t just strive for success as we traditionally define it but we should also seek significance.
Success says, “I will get.” Significance says, “I will give.”
Our lives are meant to be given away —to significant causes, to loving families, friends in need, and to lasting relationships.
And so, your challenge is to find a way to serve others with your gifts— your time, your talent and your treasure.
Only a relatively short time ago reaching 50 years old meant that we had come near the end of our lives and putting our affairs in order and perhaps having a little fun before the clock ran out became our main focus. With the advances we’ve made in medical science in particular, hitting the 50 year old mark still leaves many of us with another three to four decades of life to enjoy.
Most people spent the first 50 years of their life pursuing success as we traditionally define it and then spend the last few decades working on things that can uplift others.
There are some whose careers or business did not quite turn out the way they expected and are now looking for ways to make an impact during the remaining time they have left.
While that is admirable, I don’t believe you have to wait until you’ve lived half of your life to start making a difference. The time you spend bonding at a family gathering, visiting a bedridden friend, mentoring someone, or serving those in need in your community is priceless. It cannot be measured in dollars. You will nonetheless get a huge return on your investment because life always rewards those who give away their time.
You are rewarded first in terms of your own personal satisfaction —you will simply feel good about yourself and you will also enjoy the good opinion of others. There is also fate or karma. The time may come when you need a hand, and there will be many more hands offering help than you can count.
All the tools you need to reach your full potential and live your best life is available to you in the form of your talents—the gifts you were born with. I’m sure you’ve already developed some of them and probably have others to be discovered and developed.
However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that your talents are simply for you to use to make a lot of money, retire, and eventually die. If that is what you think, you’ve completely missed the point of your life.
All the masters who have gone before us achieved significance because they used their talents to benefit others. Your talents are not just for your prosperity and edification. They are for the enrichment and betterment of others as well. And just like time, the more you use your talents to help others, you more satisfaction you find for yourself.
You may have seen some of those viral videos where after a tragedy, a stranger walks up to a piano in a public place and starts playing. The reaction they get from bystanders is tremendous. You yourself might have gotten quite emotional although you are so far removed from the event. That is an example of someone using their talent for the greater good. But when I speak of talent, I am not only thinking in terms of our ability to sing, or play an instrument or something like that. I am also speaking about the aptitudes and skills you have developed over the years in your careers and businesses. They can also be put to use to bring enormous value to someone’s life.
Have you heard of the giving pledge?
It is a commitment by wealthy individuals and families to give away more than half of their wealth to causes including arts and culture, criminal justice reform, education, disaster relief, global health, women’s and girls’ empowerment poverty alleviation, refugee aid, medical research, and environmental sustainability.
All of the individuals who sign on to the pledge are billionaires who have chosen to make their pledge public as a way of encouraging other billionaires to consider philanthropy as well. The effort is spearheaded by Bill and Melinda Gates who are joined by Warren Buffet but there is a host of other billionaires who are pursuing their own philanthropic efforts.
These billionaires are using their treasure to achieve and live a life of significance. The great news is that you don’t have to be wealthy to use your treasure to benefit others. In fact, what can be a modest, even a meagre sum for you can be a fortune for others.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.”
Success can be fantastic but I believe that a sense of purpose and significance lasts much longer. I encourage you to think carefully about what you are doing for the long term. Consider the impact you can make in someone else’s life and know that it doesn’t have to be a compromise. You don’t have to go hungry or risk being a pauper to make a difference.
I personally derive a great sense of purpose from doing things that benefit other people, and hopefully in the process, I will leave a legacy that lasts way beyond me. Adding to the good of others, and experiencing the resulting satisfaction and elation that come from sharing your time, talent and treasure are simply the reason why you exist. The reason why we all exist.
Keep On Pushing!