How do we measure success in our lives?
I talk often about the grand vision, the life-defining projects that shape our entire lives. The continuous pursuit of these lofty goals is a life well lived, a life of success. But there is more to it than that. The dreams we pursue leave a legacy. Our accomplishments are sweetest when they enable others to thrive in their lives. And we are remembered by both the accomplishment, and how we conducted ourselves as we chased those goals.
To bring this idea into some clarity, let me tell you a story.
Earlier this summer, I attended an event celebrating the life of my uncle, Don. For all that knew Don in his younger days, they knew a man of great strength and sharp wit. Those attributes helped him climb the rungs of his career ladder, eventually becoming Vice Principal at his highschool. To achieve these accomplishments, he embodied the qualities that lead each of us to success; a positive attitude, a vision of where he could take his life, and consistent action working towards that goal.
Like any accomplished professional, his resume was strong. Solid performance in academics, being awarded a degree from a reputable university. Excellent job performance, a proven ability to rise to new challenges. Coaching extracurricular events, and strong involvement in the school. But for all the bullet points on a piece of paper, none of these accomplishments were talked about as we remembered Don.
You see, your accomplishments, the ones that really matter, are the ones that you leave written on other people's lives and hearts.
Hundreds of people filled the room, all the seats were taken, and many of us were relegated to standing room only as we crammed in the large auditorium to celebrate Don. Friends and family members alike took turns standing, giving speeches, remembering the man. Story after story, letters dug up from hundreds of young students that had been impacted over the years. Each of these stories touched on similar points; the kind words of encouragement that picked you up on your darkest days, the smiles that always seemed like they were saved just for you. The countless times Don had gone the extra mile for his students to see them succeed. The supportive friendships he developed with fellow teachers and school administrators.
We laughed and cried, as grief mixed with joyous memories of all the good times. And there were so many good times. Through it all though, those same themes held true. The strength, kindness, his smile, a kind word, the little actions that seem so trivial but have the largest impact. These are the true bullet points on Don’s resume. That is the resume he wrote on his casket, that is the legacy left by the man.
For a man who did so much good in his life, it would be a lost opportunity to not evaluate how to measure success in our own lives. The career resume, the list of professional accomplishments were essential for Don. Those goals, that vision for a better, brighter future provided him the strength to see him through hard times. And by accomplishing those goals, he was in a better position to have a greater impact on others. By setting goals, and taking action in pursuit of those goals, Don was able to fill an auditorium to overflowing with the people whose lives were brighter thanks to his efforts. And that is why our goals are so important. They provide us the opportunity to impact more people in a positive way.
And the other way we measure success is through the little actions that we do every day. If we can learn anything from Don, it is how you show up every day is important. The little things, like a kind word to a friend or stranger, or a smile to brighten someone’s day. Those little things, done consistently throughout your life, will build you a legacy that fills stadiums of people positively impacted by you being here.
So dream big, accomplish those goals that you have. Achieving those goals multiplies the impact you have on the world. But the impact, the true resume on your casket, will be how you show up every day as you strive for greatness. How can we measure success? We can measure success through the legacy that you leave behind. Let’s make sure that your legacy fills stadiums with joy and cherished memories.
Action Item: What can you do TODAY to build your legacy? A kind word for someone in need? A smile for someone who needs it most?