This is not about ego, it’s about living a full life, helping others succeed and contributing something positive to the world. Intentionality, kindness and serving others: three characteristics of every one of “the greats” that have ever lived. Each of these characteristics is a key ingredient to living greatly, but not for the sake of being called “a great.” Rather, it is the fulfillment of living out those characteristics that makes us feel as if we were living greatly. Let’s explore how each one fosters greatness.
No one is ever great by being mediocre, doing what they do with little effort or care. The greats who turned the pages of history were all people who were 100% in on something. They woke up every morning with a mission, with something that they believed needed to be done. How much time do you spend drifting through the days or weeks relative to the time you invest in a particular direction? Can you say with confidence that the hours and minutes in your day are aiming at something specific?
And I don’t mean that you’re able to retrofit an explanation that makes it sound like everything is aiming at something. What I’m talking about is the ability to explain to others how what you’re doing moves you towards your greatest mission (whatever that is).
I can say with confidence that I’m not in that situation, that I’m not always dialed in on my greatest mission. I fight the drift as much as you or more, but I haven’t forgotten that tugging feeling on my soul. Have you? To be great is to consistently be intentional toward something great that serves humanity. No one is intentional 100% of the day, but we can be more intentional by setting reminders that periodically prompt us to consider what we’re focusing on.
Question for you: What is your mission today? Are you focused? Are you on point?
How many “great” people do you know that treat others with disrespect? How about someone who takes credit for the work of others? Someone who believes their time is more important than the time of others’?
Kindness toward others seems to have lost its allure in today’s world, replaced by the desire to satisfy one’s own self. We’ve become obsessed with self, taking selfies and worrying about how we look on social media, what people will think of what we say or “like”. We’re so absorbed in this charade that we forget the joy of being kind.
It’s as simple as saying a nice thing to a friend, holding the door for a stranger, letting someone go in front of us in line, donating time to a good cause. To be great is to put the human back into humanity; to be compassionate towards those around us, both near and far.
Question for you: Have you taken time to show kindness to those around you today?
Reflecting on those you would call great, you’re likely to see a pattern of humility and servant leadership. If you want to be great you have to put others first. We don’t pursue greatness because we want to be great, or because of what other people will think of us. Greatness is not the specific goal we pursue, it is the act of pursuit that creates enjoyment and fulfillment.
Servant leadership, serving others, putting the needs of the others before your own – that’s the very definition of a great person. They wouldn’t say “I’m great” because they aren’t in it to stroke their ego. They’re in it to help others achieve their goals.
Question for you: Have you helped someone achieve their goals recently?
In the Face of Adversity
Being intentional, kind and serving others all seem pretty straightforward until something gets in their way. Think of the “greats” you remember from history, did they have a cushy life? Most of the world’s historical figures stood in the face of adversity and were still able to live intentionally, show kindness and serve others. Persistence in the face of adversity is what forges those very characteristics into greatness.
It’s simple to say and hard to do, but we should not abandon our pursuit of living greatly because we experience failure or run into obstacles. Instead, adversity should drive us to pursue it with ever more fervor. As these greats say so well, failure is a key ingredient to success.
Robert F. Kennedy – “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
Thomas Edison – “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Michael Jordan- “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
This post was inspired by and adapted from Burchard’s latest video.