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Choosing Significance Rather Than Chasing Successmotivation: are you leaning your ladder against the right wall

“If you don’t change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” -Lao Tzu

A while back, I spoke with 40 individuals for a full day seminar. The goal of the event was to bring together some of the highest achievers, connect them with one another, and together expand their businesses and their lives. I was charged with stretching their minds, encouraging bigger dreams and reminding them that anything is possible.

To kick off my session I asked what they would do professionally if they knew they could not fail.

After a moment of reflection, a brave gentleman stood and proudly announced, “I’d make it big. I mean, like really, really big!”

I asked what “making it really, really big” meant to him? He said he wasn’t exactly sure, but he knew it included an increase in sales, expansion of personal accomplishments and significantly more success than any of his friends or former classmates.

This conversation was eerily similar to one I was part of almost a decade earlier with another gentleman. He, too, had striven to “make it really big.” The difference was that the conversation wasn’t taking place in a boardroom with a lifetime of possibility in front of him, but in a hospital room with a lifetime of regrets staring back at him. Let me explain.

Is Success the Right Pursuit?

You see, in my late 20s I spent a several years working part-time as a hospital chaplain. One emotional visit was with a former business owner suffering from congestive heart failure.

Slouched in an over-sized hospital bed, connected to various tubes and fully aware of his fatal prognosis, he talked openly and passionately about his life.

He spoke of his business and its outstanding success.

But he added that it had come at the cost of things that mattered even more to him. He spoke disconsolately about his youth, his family, his health and how he had lost each of them through choices he made along the way. We visited for over an hour, and one of the final things he shared impacted me so deeply that I wrote it down in my journal that night.

He said, “John, I spent a lifetime sprinting up the success-ladder.” He looked away from me and out the window, before adding, “only to discover I had the darn thing leaned against the wrong wall.”

My friend, I coach individuals to discover passion, live vibrantly and make a difference. I partner with organizations to increase top line revenue and bottom line profit. I speak with sales teams to encourage greater results and passion for what they do. And I serve hospitals to improve employee engagement in order to elevate patient satisfaction and outcomes.

The point is that I love growth!

The reminder from this story, however, is that not only should our lives be a journey toward continual progress, impact and success, but that these goals must be achieved in accordance with our values, our principles and what matters most in our lives.

Nothing could be more painful than to gain the world at the expense of losing the very things that matter most.

(I thought of this man during the most recent Live Inspired podcast. Rich Donnelly not only enjoyed a successful baseball career as a player, but enjoyed decades of success as one of the most accomplished coaches in the Major Leagues. The journey up the ladder cost him everything, but his daughter’s diagnosis of cancer changed everything. It reunited the two of them, brought the entire family together, reminded Rich what actually matters, and eventually even lead to him winning the World Series. It also lead to one of the most miraculous stories I’ve ever heard. Listen here to be inspired, encouraged and reignited with possibility.)

Why Pursuing a Life of Significance Matters

My friends, I invite you today to make it big. I encourage you to climb high as a teacher, to soar as a salesperson, to expand as a business owner and to thrive as an employee. Choose to sprint toward significance rather than success and decide to thrive in life.

Just make sure the goals you’re charging toward are advancing you toward a life of true significance and not one of regret.

Before continuing your rapid climb, take pause long enough to ensure the ladder you’re climbing is leading you up the right wall.

Because if you don’t change direction, you may end up exactly where you are heading.

Today is your day. Live Inspired.

This article was originally published on #1 National Bestselling Author of ON FIRE and Inspirational Speaker John O’Leary’s Monday Motivation blog. John inspires the R.L. Thomas Service, Inc. and we’re honored to share his inspiration with you! Get his Monday Motivation in your inbox here and enjoy his daily inspiration on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube.


You can see all of John’s Monday Motivation posts here:

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21021Ventura Blvd., 215                        9655 Granite Ridge Road, 200 
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