Why success is not enough
Are you successful? What does success look like? Is it a specific number of published works? Is it a certain amount of annual royalties? Is it the completion of a degree or the achievement of a specific title or position? How do you define success?
Now that you have a clear image of success in your mind, ask yourself, is success the goal? Will those checkmarks of achievement satisfy your pursuit of happiness and meaning or are they merely stepping stones to something more?
Don’t get me wrong, I want to be successful – and you should too – but success is not enough.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to listen to one of my mentors, Mark Cole, deliver a presentation on leadership. During this presentation, he said something that has led me to the topic of today’s post. He said, “I can figure out success, but success is not satisfying me. I want significance.” I’d venture to say that most of us can figure out success.
To a degree, regardless of where we are in our academic careers – whether graduate students working on a dissertation, tenured professors continuing to publish, or experienced authors and industry professionals with multiple textbooks to our name – we have achieved moments of success and we have set our sights on the next goalpost in our pursuit of success in our careers.
But, are we significant? Significance is more than success.
Success is having a paper accepted for publication. Significance is seeing that paper cited by others who take your research a step further in the field of study.
Success is achieving the rank of tenured professor. Significance is the application of your teaching by those you teach and mentor during your tenure.
Success is publishing a textbook. Significance is the countless students who have learned from your book across the many years and editions your book provides value in the classroom.
To summarize the difference, Cole noted, “Success is what happens to you. Significance is what happens through you!”
In order to be significant, we must first be successful. Our pursuit of success in our academic and textbook authoring efforts will be met with future success and that success, in turn, opens the door for a lifetime of significance.
How are you building a life of significance through the pursuit of success? Consider how each successful publication contributes to a larger goal of significance.