Oprah Winfrey once said, “Don’t worry about being successful. Just work toward being significant and the success will naturally follow”. And it worked for her, didn’t it? She did not become the world’s wealthiest black woman by chance. She was –still is– significant, and continues to be relevant, years after she retired.
This is what we need to talk about today. There’s so much focus on success, ambition, and goal-chasing, that most people completely forget why they’re doing it in the first place. Sure, there’s always the superficial goal of being wealthy and/or famous.
But after that, what’s next? Go buy some remote island and spend the rest of your days there? Really? People who are truly significant are driven by more than just pecuniary rewards. There’s a fire inside them that burns really bright and “afflicts” them with the “curse” of restlessness.
Which brings us to the important question: how can we become truly significant? How can we not only build wildly successful businesses but also become truly incredible people?
Are We Living for Others?
It’s interesting that every truly remarkable person or business is other-centered. The people who have truly made their mark on the world –from the late Mahatma Gandhi to Mother Theresa of Calcutta to living legends such as Oprah– always seemed more interested in helping other people.
While Gandhi and Mother Theresa weren’t wealthy, we still remember them today. Their “brand” still lives on, decades after they’ve left us. The only reason is that they lived solely for the benefit of humanity. For them, the purpose of “elevating humanity” propelled them to be the best they could and give the most they could –we still have a ton to learn from them.
The same thing applies to truly transformative businesses. And this is what we need to figure out if we’re going to be great at business and even greater at being humans. We’ve got to go beyond the money –which is great by the way– to truly being in a state of “perpetual helpfulness”.
Are We Solving REAL Problems?
How many businesses are truly changing lives? More importantly, what big world problems are you trying to solve? No, we’re not talking about how to meet Q4 targets or go viral. We’re talking about the mistakes and problems that the world is currently dealing with.
How is your business contributing solutions? Elon Musk may be a capitalist, but we’ll be talking about him long after he’s gone. Why? Because his business is tackling real-world problems –carbon dioxide emissions.
If you cannot genuinely answer either of these questions, then, it’s time for some reassessment and introspection. Greatness and significance are possible if we all aspire to it. But first, you need to figure out what it is that your business can really contribute to the collective human experience.
If you have no idea of where to start, you might want to go study how truly remarkable people are doing this. Learn from them, pick the one problem that directly affects humanity –doesn’t have to be massive– and see how you can solve that problem.