The Journey from Success to Significance

The Journey from Success to Significance

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I am going to let you in on a tip that could save you decades of effort.

The thing you are chasing probably doesn’t matter.

What is it you want? What does success mean to you? Wealth? Fame? Achievement? Many people measure their success in terms of recognition, wealth, power and status – and there is nothing wrong with any of those things. But if that is all you focus on, you may be missing out.

I spent my twenties and early thirties building a business, which was sold in 2008 and now no longer exists. Whilst I learnt a huge amount in the process – much of it the hard way – I wonder if it really mattered in the long run. Could I have achieved similar success in a more meaningful way? Now, I am not the sort of person who lives with regret or would change what’s happened, because fundamentally I like who I am. I reflect on the past, learn from it and share my thoughts.

I have noticed that many people in their 40s and 50s hit what I call ‘the legacy point’ – the time in their life when they start to think about what they will leave behind when they leave this earth. I am 37 and as a result of my environment, I have hit this point earlier than the norm – and I am glad, because  these days, my life is massively more rewarding than it used to be.

My journey to this point of satisfaction hasn’t been easy. It has been quite a hard process of trial and error, working out what I really want and why I haven’t been intrinsically motivated in the past. Recognising this earlier could have saved me a lot of time!

So what have I discovered? Success can be fantastic. But a sense of purpose and significance lasts much longer. Some of us derive significance from our children and from the way we work. Some of us need something more. A purposeful life. Bill Gates and Richard Branson both made a significant shift in focus once they got older, and turned to more altruistic causes.

If you aren’t doing something today that really matters, there’s a good chance you’ll feel that sense of lack in the future.  If you are not creating something that counts or doing something with purpose, your life may end up feeling hollow and meaningless. (clicktotweet)

So I say, consider what you are doing for the long term. Think carefully about the impact of the choices you’re making on your long term motivation. It need not be a compromise. It need not be compartmentalised. It does not mean that you have to go hungry. But it doesn’t really matter how much you earn, if it didn’t doesn’t give back more than it takes away.

I derive my sense of purpose from doing things that benefit other people, that will hopefully leave a legacy that lasts way beyond me and even people’s memory of me. If you serve others, true lasting and meaningful success can come your way.

Learn from my reflections. Do something that really counts from ‘day one’, and save yourself an awful lot of time. (click to tweet)

Success is not necessarily what you thought it was. Success is not a number or a place. It is not accumulated like money or arrived at like a destination. It is a feeling.

  • How do you know when you’re successful?

  • What is significant in your life? What do you value most in the world?

  • What would you would like to leave behind you, for the world’s benefit?

  • How can you live your life now, to ensure that your life is one of significance?

I would love to hear about what success means to you and also what you have learnt about the difference between success and significance. Please ‘Speak Your Mind’ in the comments section below.


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add a comment
  1. Marie Sheehan says

    Hi Marc
    As you know I am an ex nurse and when people are dying they talk about what they have done in their life, not what they physically own, actually they are rarely interested in their worldly possessions.

  2. Hi Marc

    I have recently come to this conclusion as well, not quite too late in my life to do so! I find it frustrating however that so many people are unable to even countenance this view, having discussed it around! Maybe I am hanging with the wrong crowd, or everyone is just too wrapped up in their own world / own story of survival??!! I hope to meet you in India soon.


  3. You are the people who you spend time with Mark. There are people out there who believe what you believe. Spend time with them!

  4. Success and meaning are created by you in your own mind. They can be whatever you want them to be. As is the case with fantasy and illusion. If we live long enough, we can see the emptiness in wealth, power and status as we move on from success to significance, as blogged above. But if we live even longer, and get even wiser, what will the next revelation be? I’m sure if we stop trying we’ll recognise that we have burdened ourselves with the ideas of success and significance and move on to…

    Alas there aren’t many words for the next evolution of clarity in our lives, because people don’t live long enough or think fast enough to write them down all that often. But ‘negative’ words like emptiness and defeat are clues. They only seem negative because we think we’ve found something shinier to play with; value, significance and benefit.

    What will we really understand about our lives when we’re 100?

  5. I have been thinking this way too. I have lived a pretty poor life when I was young, so I can somehow relate to what those in poverty feel. I am still young, and aside from having a happy family, it has been my dream to help other people. At this moment, I am a member of some charitable organizations. I extend help to other people in every way I can. My younger siblings have the same mentality too.

  6. It’s going to be ending of mine day, except before end I am reading this
    great paragraph to increase my know-how.

  7. Edward Thompson says

    Thanks for asking
    As a person of faith, l learned that there is good success and bad success.
    No one is truly a success when you alone is the beneficiary of your success. Success that is not producing good for others is damn to be a failure. Good success is enduring and keeps bearing fruit. It can be reproduced anywhere in any circumstances. It brings you fulfillment, peace and significance. It is driven, focused and always looking to meet needs

  8. Wong Leanne says

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    composing it. The very last time I had a similar impression regarding the article was right here It’s now very hard to find something so
    significantly researched. You produced my day!

Speak Your Mind


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