Success versus Significance

In the wake of prepping to evacuate my family from our home due to the persistent fires in southern California, I have continued to reflect on this idea of “success versus significance.” The over 5000 firefighters risking their lives right now, as I write this, are a testament to those who choose significance over success. Sure they want to be successful in putting out the fires and saving lives, but their over-arching vision is to be significant in the lives of those they are serving.


(Dozens of structures have been destroyed and 4,100 acres have been charred in the Lilac blaze, which broke out around 11:20 a.m. Thursday. Everything within the area bound by West Lilac Road, Interstate 15, Gopher Canyon Road and East Vista Way has been evacuated.)

Scores of people go through their lives focused on being successful, without paying much attention to being significant. It is the general educational rubric that is laid in front of us from an early age. Pick up your own high school yearbook and go to the section that details who is “Most Likely To…” and I bet the word “successful” is there. The word “significant” likely not to be found.

Many of us tell ourselves that we will one day make a large donation to a charity, that we will start a non-profit, or that we will volunteer our time to a group in need. I will be the first to admit that I have fallen prey to such a notion, but that over the past 10-years of my life I have really tried to alter that course, each day trying to get one step closer to living a significant life vice JUST a successful life.

I will also admit to you that earlier this week I allowed someone’s perception of me to really bring me down. You see, we have these periodic feedback sessions at work where our “superiors” review our so-called performance over the past 3 to 4-months, and someone is then assigned the task of providing us with that feedback. In many other organizations your performance feedback is given directly to you, not conjured up in some private meeting and then told to you in a top-secret, confidential sort of way. The reasons for this are obvious. Many people will talk about you behind closed doors in one-way, but then act completely different in public. A sad, but true reality of life in many arenas.

My feedback included such words as “entitled, self-promoting, and self-centered.”
It also included the phrases, “he takes on too many tasks, and a good clinician would be primarily focused on his or her work in the hospital,” along with, “he can be disruptive while someone is giving a presentation because he is always taking notes.” The bottom-line, 13 people in a room, and these statements provided by one, maybe two of the folks in the entire room. It makes you wonder. But it still bothered me.

The details I received appeared to be solely focused on my character. And last I checked, I see my patients behind closed doors, and of course with a chaperone when needed. The real work of building rapport, making a difference, and changing someone’s perspective kept private. I would have loved to have some feedback directed toward my skills as a physician, not my ability to carry-on with multiple tasks or hobbies. And then again my hobbies are not many: family, writing, exercising, church. I really don’t do that many things, but someone obviously knows me better than I know myself.

I will tell you, I am no saint. I make mistakes each and every single day. It is one of the reasons that I choose to write and Blog. It allows me to reflect, share and grow, and to offer up my mistakes so that others will not make the same ones.

After seeking advice from others around me, I was able to accept the words partitioned upon my character. I get it now. I cannot make everyone happy. I am going to keep failing. If I want to be significant for someone, I may be looked upon harshly by someone else.

And then today, someone that I work with sent me a pleasant message. It truly made my day, especially since that person has plenty of other things to worry about on a Saturday morning, with fires blazing and things to tend to. And that person knew nothing about what I myself was dealing with over the past few days.

I know I tell my own children to not let words affect them. Name calling will happen at school. You will get picked on. I had not been able to listen to my own advice.

And then just now I wanted to pass on something that I have also been thinking about during my own personal growth journey. Something that I think could become valuable as those of you reading this run into your own obstacles, or better yet, your own opportunities to make a difference and to live a life of significance:

  • Decisions: We must know the truth and accept it.
  • Servant-leadership: We must find a need and fill it. 
  • Determination: We must face a challenge and meet it. 
  • Sacrifice: We must lose ourselves to find ourselves.
  • Preparation: We must develop a plan and follow it.
  • Action: We must discover God’s (or just your own) will and obey it.
  • A gift: We must find our talent and share it.
  • Durability: We must be tenacious and finish well.

Thank you for taking these past few minutes of your life to read today’s Blog. That alone tells me that you are trying to make your own life more significant.

If you are interested in developing your own personal growth plan for 2018, send me a message and I will create a personalized template just for you. I will even help you fill it out, and then guide you along the way. We can talk, share and grow. No strings attached. What are you waiting for?

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