Lately I’ve been giving more thought to the difference between success and significance. There was a time when success was my top priority – I wanted to make a certain amount of money and have a certain amount of shoes, and
buy a certain amount of nail polish because I felt that would somehow validate the meaning of my work. Then I started to thinking about death. Let’s go back in the story…
My personal development journey started in 2007. Prior to that, I had read an inspirational article here and shared a quote there, but I didn’t really immerse myself in personal education until January 2007. The first book I read on this journey was “The Power of Positive Thinking” and it changed my life to say the least. From there, I had an insatiable appetite for information and tools that would help me evolve into the person I believed I could be. I did the stuff that worked for me but I was careful not to drink anybody’s Kool Aid because I believed (and still believe) that success is a super personal journey and no one can draw the map for you.
Some time later that year, an acquaintance of mine died. This was a person who was youthful, vibrant, and in good health one day and gone the next day. The night I found out, I stood in the mirror and looked myself and asked, “Would I be okay with what I’ve done and how I’ve lived if I died today?” The answer was a vehement no. I felt like I hadn’t even started to scratch the surface of my potential. I wanted to do so many things: books, movies, companies, initiatives, all kinds of things. I mean, I hadn’t even fulfilled my dream of flying a plane or going to Japan at that point! And then I asked myself the most important question: What the heck are you waiting for?!
We always think we have more time than we do. I had to come to terms with my mortality in a way that would inspire urgency in my life. That year, I got busy making plans to do the things I claimed were important. Even though I didn’t have a ton of money, connections, or resources at the time, I decided to use what I had and do my best and trust that what I truly needed would meet my effort. It did. In the 18 months that followed, I wrote, directed, produced, and co-starred in a play that sold out multiple weekends, I wrote my first book, I started speaking more consistently, I started a company that created content for young women, and I purged the people in my life who weren’t adding value. It was a strange yet exhilarating period of time. I was a happy and productive insomniac who was doing what she wanted to do.
I frequently get notes from people who tell me how something I did has impacted them. They say I’ve inspired them or made them laugh or helped them through a tough time or helped them solve a really difficult problem. These things light up my world because they’re indicative of significance…not in the sense of craving external validation but in the sense that my work, because it was crafted with a pure heart and a loving intention, has reached the people who needed it and made their lives better somehow. That’s the whole point – to create things that will outlive you and to leave things better than you found them.
I don’t believe my way is necessarily the “right” way – it’s just the way that’s worked for me. What I do know for sure is that success is rooted in significance for me and that impact is the name of my game. Life is much, much richer when you lend your personality to your purpose and execute a vision that serves others in addition to serving yourself.
If you’re living and working this way, kudos to you. Keep climbing and reaching and lifting and building. If you’re not, it’s time to retool. It’s totally possible to find the sweet spot that aligns with your values and enriches the world in some way. If you don’t know what your purpose is, then your purpose is to find your purpose. And once you discover it, the sole item on your to do list is to take consistent action toward making the ideas in your head a reality.
Life goes fast, and you’re doing to die at some point. Get to work.