Home > Leadership > Few do it well – from success to significance

Few do it well – from success to significance

At least that’s my current observation.

Do most successful people, which you can define any way you like, reach their destination and quit? Well, maybe not quit, but do most enter a “maintenance mode”, doing only what they need to…to preserve their level of success? Playing it safe, taking no chances, holding on to stability.  Said another way, once they “arrive”, is coasting inevitable? Is it that they’ve hit a plateau? a wall? Have they given all they had, last chapter – end of story?

Lots of questions…just some of which have been in my observation and reflection lens recently.

My take aways from some recent readings show that a common characteristic of some individuals nearing the first half of their life, develop an unquenchable desire to move from success to significance. After spending a period of time doing what they were suppose to do, they now search for something in the second half that is more meaningful and which meets their definition of significance. This can be a restless, challenging & invigorating time. It can also be the time period which results in a midlife crisis – which unfortunately for  many lead to bad decisions, and a journey into the wilderness.

Here’s a quote that has been attributed to Peter Drucker, “people now have two lives — life one and life two…. They are over prepared for life one and under prepared for life two…there is no university for the second half of life.”

I want to go deeper into stories of those who navigated successfully this period of success to significance.

What are your observations?

Who do you know, and what are their stories that are shining examples of navigating from success to significance?

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  1. G. Bulmash
    December 5, 2009 at 9:12 am

    But can’t there be some form of level balance throughout one’s entire career and still reach both success and significance?

    I have known many people that are willing to relinquish their duties as a parent and spouse in order to be overtly successful in their careers. In some cases it’s ego and others the inability to balance work and family. After it’s all said and done, when they have “arrived” at their professional destination, they are eventually saddened by the tolls it took on their children, marriage, health, and quality of life. At that point, perhaps by maturity, reflections of history or intervention, they try to make up for it by seeking, rather superficially, some form of a legacy.

    • December 7, 2009 at 7:09 am

      I’ve had the same experience/observation of your comments in the second paragraph.

      Regarding your balance comment…I believe there can be. Although, from my experiences/observations, it seems to be the exception. Our culture, which fuels our quest for the “good life” and all the material goodies that come with it, plays a pivotal role in taking us down another path.

  2. December 5, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    Steve, interesting topic. Do you think I may have a glaring blind spot?

  3. December 6, 2009 at 7:44 am

    I dunno…glaring is a matter of interpretation, a measurement, and one in which requires more knowledge than I possess. But a blind spot? Absolutely, without a doubt! 🙂 We all have them. Even those who have a high-degree of self-awareness. That’s why it is so immensely important that we have truth teller(s) in our lives.
    Do you have a truth teller?

  4. Rick Telberg
    December 6, 2009 at 8:50 am

    If you’re looking for examples of “from success to significance” (a brilliant phrase, by the way), the first that come to mind are a few if the most famous ones:
    Gates, software to philanthropy
    Glenn, astronaut to politician
    Reagan, actor to president
    Carter, president to humanitarian
    Bradley, basketball to politics

    • December 7, 2009 at 7:01 am

      I agree with your famous list…each one making the transition and finishing well. How rare of an occurrence is this??
      Think about your folks you’ve known in the past or currently in your workplace and your community, …do examples come to mind of a great navigation to significance?

  5. Lois Ribner
    December 7, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    This topic came up twice over the weekend. Once with friends contemplating sacrificing or changing career for the benefit of family. The other was in church when the priest commented how success doesn’t always lead to happiness or significance. He noted that Tiger Woods is a highly successful person who has recently had a remarkable change in significance.

    If we look around us we can see many individuals who make the switch effortlessly. My brother is retired and works and now volunteers at his church and with the Open Hearts Misitry. As we age we understand that which we should truly cherish. The trick is keeping the balance while we still need to work. Adding significance or value to each person we meet should be an everyday goal.

    I like this new blog format. It’s very user friendly.

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