I once gave a commencement speech where I made a comment that took the parents and graduates completely by surprise. I said, “I don’t want you to try to live a successful life; it will limit you, as success is only about you and the accolades on your wall. Instead, live a significant life. Significance is about what you do for everyone else. Elevate your significance, and success will follow in a much more meaningful and impactful way.”
Success Is Selfish, Significance Is Selfless
In order to find out where you and your organization are in pursuit of success or significance, we must first understand the difference between the two from a leadership and organizational level.
A successful organization is based more on surface value accomplishments, whereas a significant organization broadens its reach and impact, focusing on the difference it can make on a larger scale.
A prominent difference between success and significance is whether you are acting in a selfless or selfish way. When your mindset is trained only to focus only on success, you tend to be focused on what will benefit only you under the guise that with enough money, you can afford to be impactful. The problem with that assumption is that one never really knows what “enough” is.
When you set out on a business venture based on elevating the impact you will have on others, you shift your focus from your own personal desires to building something that everyone needs.
The Road To Significance
When someone aims for success alone, it breeds limitations, but once we break those limitations, we break free and find a pathway to significance. Take for example a rather inspiring individual I met who embodies a physical shift from success to significance. His name is Sam Schmidt, a former Indy race car driver.
Before racing, Sam was a successful businessman, purchasing his father’s parts company in 1989 at the age of 25. He began racing at the amateur level, but ultimately decided he would work toward racing professionally in the Indianapolis 500, making his debut at the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series in 1995.