Success is a powerful motivator. It can dictate how we spend our time, energy, and resources. It can influence relationships, schedules, and families. It may even become an all-consuming passion that leaves broken people and morality in its wake.
Yet, success is not the highest calling that we have as leaders. In fact, compared to significance, it fades pretty quickly.
Consider these differences between success and significance:
- Success ebbs and flows. Significance always lasts.
- Success ends on the day you die. Significance carries on.
- Success is never enough. Significance satisfies the soul.
Unfortunately, many leaders spend their careers chasing success. And while some achieve more than others, almost all find it unfulfilling in the end.
Instead, think of success as a stepping stone to significance. You have to experience a certain amount of success before you can to take the step to significance. You know you’re ready to start down the path if you’ve asked yourself what lies beyond professional and monetary success.
Here are a few practical ways to begin:
- Realize that your career won’t last forever. It’s never too early to start thinking about your legacy. How do you want to be remembered? Make a list and post it somewhere. It will help you make long-term, positive choices each day.
- Be a leader worth imitating. In my post, “Leadership by Imitation,” I noted that you are a living example of what it takes to get to the next level. While no one is perfect, strive to model character, integrity, and morality every day. It will be noticed.
- Focus on people. Not dollars. Begin to transfer the value of your work from your income to the people around you. Rather than pouring over how to squeeze another 0.01% point of profit, spend that energy focusing on your team. Find ways to inspire and equip them in their roles.
- Start with one solitary person. Find one person who needs you today. Start there. Significance takes as little time as it does to have one cup of coffee, or be as simple as one heartfelt question. If you are unsure where to start, try this, “No, how are you really doing?”
- Add biographies to your reading list. The next time you’re looking for something to read, try Team of Rivals or Long Walk to Freedom to consider how Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela sought significance over success. Their stories will inspire you to think about ways to create meaning that lasts.
Rarely do people look back on their lives and savor their professional achievements. Instead, they celebrate the impact they have had in the lives of others. Give yourself much to look back and celebrate. Stop chasing success. Start seeking significance.
Question: Where are you along the road to significance? Please leave your comment below.