Do you want to be successful, or significant?
Do we have to choose between the two? While they are not necessarily mutually exclusive, these two adjectives that can describe a person’s life, or life’s work, are often potentially at odds with one another.
Success is typically something one gains or achieves. Significance means something is gained or achieved by others because you empowered them to do so. Success is often self-serving. Significance implies serving others. Success internalizes. Significance externalizes. Success is a destination, while significance is an eternal calling -- at least, that's how author David Cook sees it.
In his book "Golf’s Sacred Journey," he writes, “Significance will be defined by your character, relationships, values, virtues, and faith.” Significance is not based on a golf score, a salary, a new car, a beach house or any other achievement or possession. It is a legacy, an “impact factor,” a life’s story. It’s a “the-world-is-a-better-place-because-of-you” effect.
On our humanitarian aid teams, we have had many wildly successful people – Hollywood actresses, large business owners, corporate lawyers, department chairs at major universities, former NFL players and directors of global mega-companies, to name a few. Interestingly, not one of these individuals was looking for more success by volunteering for our work. They were looking for significance.
They decided to sacrifice many of the things that their successes had brought them to go serve others who are less fortunate, less “successful,” than they are. They stopped looking for the next thing to go after and looked for the next person to go to. Based on their own accounts, they found what they were looking for, and significance trumped success in every case.
So, how do we become significant? We truly believe that most of the world’s problems could be solved if each person stopped asking, “What can I get out of this?” and started asking, “What can I contribute to this?”
If we all empowered others to achieve their dreams and goals, started serving others and externalized based on an eternal calling, imagine the changes that would take place in our families, our schools, our communities, our country and our world.
Wouldn’t that be significant?