10 Surefire Ways to Find Your Greatness
Our world confuses potential with performance. Never let mediocre performance seem outstanding. You insult high performers, nurture incompetence, and sell yourself short.
You aren’t entitled to greatness, it’s earned.
What is greatness:
Greatness is serving; the more you serve the greater you are.
10 Ways to find your greatness:
- Embrace dissatisfaction. The path to greatness begins with discontent. Growth stops with contentment. All leaders are unhappy with something.
- Courageously confess frustration to yourself and others you trust.
- Face discontent with optimism. If you sink into despair, you’re done. Millions of reasons say you can’t. Find one reason you can and hang on. One good reason changes you.
- Reach for noble goals. Tomorrows dream change you today. Does your dream inspire? If not, it’s below you.
- *Forget balance.* Balanced people are safe, dull, and marginally effective. I have a friend who wants to teach English in China. Another couple wants to work with orphans in the same country. A third couple spends most of their spare time working with college students. They are unbalanced freaks, over-focused on serving.
- Serve others by helping them reach noble goals.
- Serve others so they can serve others. Exponential influence begins with multiplication not individual performance.
- Press through fear. Your greatness is on the other side of discomfort and fear. Fear keeps you average. Your greatest fear is letting go of average so you can reach higher.
- Surround yourself with success. Read, explore, and ask questions. I’ll never forget the day I asked a successful business man what he would do different. He said, “If I could go back, I’d take more risks.” KaPow!
- Just start.
Bonus: For goodness sake, say it! “I want to serve many.” Don’t hang your head. You aren’t arrogant. You’re humble.
Which of these ideas are most challenging or useful? What can you add?
What do you think holds people back from greatness?
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NIce and Informative
Thanks and best wishes
I am challenged by #5. Interesting that it’s right in the middle.
Shoot! And here I thought getting myself balanced would be an improvement. Is it possible to be personally balanced while making the unbalanced decision to over-serve? I serve best when my heart and mind are balanced with the same intention. I’m going to have to think about this one for a while. MMF
Looking down through the comments, you aren’t the only one.
I think personal balance makes sense…get rest, balanced social skills, etc.
Don’t be balanced in the pursuit of your passion. Don’t pursue too many goals.
Thats what I had in mind anyway.
I see what you mean now. While pursuing passions (greatness), balance cannot be a strategy. Even the language around pursuit is inherently off balance. “Going out on a limb” “take a leap of faith” “take a risk” “reach for goals” “just do it”. Standing in complete balance makes achieving greatness impossible. Got my mind racing again today…thank you! MMF
Great examples Meagan… thank you. This whole conversation gets me jazzed.
Might add that balance can be seen as equilibrium or evening out or status quo or stagnation, all in the eyes of the beholder. Will say though, a nice calm stretch after a section of grade 5 rapids is good for bit! Do we go on river rafting to paddle all the time, don’t think so.
Sometimes, as my students say, gotta go “buck wild” against the grain, out of the box, do something different–thank goodness Denver did with Tim Tebow!!!! If they remained “balanced” they would have never drafted him–bet the Steelers would have loved that!!:)
Great point Coach Bear! There is that necessary decision to believe in the differences, the off-balance ideas. We spend too much time getting people to conform…to fit in that box…to throw that ball exactly the way everyone else does. I love that the movement seems to be to bring back some more of that “crazy creativity!” The kids you coach are lucky you let them have room and space to explore their “buck wild”!! MMF
Well, It’s a great list (and as the “Desire Engine” guy, I particularly love #4), but my personal number 1 is not on it:
“Define what is greatness for you; understand what feels right and appropriate as your greatness. If you don’t now know, enjoy the journey on the way to discovering it.”
After that, I guess we can proceed.
There are a lot of great questions and methods of getting to the answer to my “number 1”, and of course our most current answer may change from time-to-time, but here’s why I bring it up:
Too often I see clients and friends stretching and twisting and efforting to meet someone else’s (or the consensus) idea of greatness, and in the process, they squeeze off their connection to the self from which their truest greatness might express.
It’s a truly wonderful thing when we are expressing a form of greatness that springs naturally from WHO we are, and yet others are benefitting from and connecting with that greatness. That wonderful, mutually energizing state can only come if the former connection comes before the latter.
Mark, I find your comments wonderfully complementary to Dan’s for the following reason: I think the desire to help other people is universal, but the ways in which we best do that are unique to us. Others benefit most from our efforts when they come from our power core, that place where our likes and talents make doing great things easy for us. I think Rick Warren said that we need to look for that place where our passions and gifts intersect with the world’s need.
Thank you for adding to and extending the conversation.
Obviously, I left off an essential component and you picked it up. Thats what I love about this blog and everyone’s participation.
Thanks for enriching the conversation.
It’s not what you can do, it’s what you do!
Dan, I love this line of thinking. Traditional measures of success — wealth, corner office, power, prestige — focus on self. You’re talking about a selflessness that makes others the benificiaries of your efforts. That is far more rewarding, and only the most mature leaders get to that point. What I hear you saying is we can never be great when we only impact ourselves; greatness comes from improving life for many others.
It’s interesting that experienced, successful leaders often find that despite their accomplishments something is missing. That’s when they start to volunteer, or begin to mentor, or find some other way to give back.
Your encouragement to forget balance strikes home. It seems counter-intuitive — we’ve heard all our lives that balance is good — but it’s true that there is only enough time and energy to excel in only a small handful of things. That’s great advice.
Thanks, Greg! Believe it or not, I haven’t read Warren’s stuff, though I am aware of him, but I do appreciate that insight of his that you shared here. 🙂
You really put some meat to the idea of serving.
You make me think about the tension between getting and giving. We start out focused on what we get but hopefully move toward what we give.
As always, thank you for helping make LF a great place to visit.
HI LF, saw your tweet and was led to this post. Thanks! You provoked me to think about the link between greatness and serving. I agree that serving can lead to greatness, but I think it’s possible to achieve greatness without serving others, except indirectly, even if serving is the greatest way to achieve greatness. I wouldn’t want people to think that the ONLY way to be great is to serve others. I think inventors and researchers who make medical breakthroughs can achieve greatness even if their personal motivation is fame and fortune, not to serve others. What do you think?
A good question, Mitch. I explain it this way… by serving our own highest joy, and our own highest interest, we can’t NOT serve others. They attract from us our greatness. There is an uncanny connection between what jazzes us, and what others would call for from us were we plugged into it… are we listening for the call? 🙂
This goes for every kind of expression, including technological or philosophical breakthroughs and “just being ourselves” in a conversation. How many times have you found inspiration simply from someone’s way of being? Is this not a type of service? Is this not a kind of greatness?
On the flip-side, we’ve seen incredible *performers* who have achieved on practice of skill or subterfuge, and who then crashed and burned because they were performing in an area or service that they were not connected to, and to a level of success that they were unable to integrate into their sense of self or image… and so it drained them to the point where they are no longer of service. Is this greatness???
I’ll point to earlier posts by Megan and me regarding a balance…
Thanks so much for pushing the subject. And thanks to Mark for chiming in.
This post, as all that I write, reflect my values and orientation to a subject – for whatever it’s worth.
Since I defined greatness as serving, it’s hard for me to accept the selfish pursuit of fame etc as greatness. Frankly, I think its emptiness. (reflecting my values again)
I’m having too much fun! Thank you for joining the conversation.
I disagree with #5. If you are habitually unbalanced, you damage your ability to serve yourself let alone others (including being present for your family). There is unending need in this world, in our jobs, even in some of our families. Just like on an airplane losing air pressure, reach for your own mask first before helping others. I’ve taken on too much and paid the price. A year and a half later only now am I slowly rebuilding my service to others. I have found the right balance that keeps me enthusiastic, energetic, very happy and very effective versus exhausted, out of ideas, and angry.
Well, while I agree that perpetual imbalance is not a good thing, I’m hard pressed to think of a kind of forward motion that is not dependent in some way on at least momentary imbalance. This includes flight of any kind, underwater motion, and internal combustion driven motion. All depend on at least momentary imbalance of force or energy.
I tell my workshop participants to remember that even walking is a controlled fall, and since standing still for a long period can be more exhaustive than walking (try it), it’s much more important to know how to come back to balance quickly, than to stay balanced.
I LOVE this! You are absolutely right. Balance is momentary and walking IS a controlled fall.
You illuminated something for me with your comments and insight. To achieve greatness there are two key elements when it comes to balance.
Core strength and the willingness to put it to the test. You are out of balance when you reach out a hand to help someone…but if your core is not strong enough to get you back to balance, you will have been of no use…to anyone.
Mothers and women in general hardly spend enough time on that core strength, yet we feel pulled and pushed and off kilter with practically every motion. So my contention is in order to achieve greatness we need both…the core strength and the internal drive to push that strength to its limits.
Thanks so much for your ideas…
Thank you, Megan… and I enjoy that bit about core strength you wrote above… will probably cite you in my workshop next Wednesday… yes, what you wrote is perfect for providers and counselors to those with disabilities (my audience).
And here’s another thought I’ll share… often it’s the momentary unbalance that makes the return to balance so delicious… because the return often comes at a new perspective.
BTW, thanks for connecting on Twitter and Facebook pages. Feel free to reach out on Linked-In as well.
All the best,
I do like the concept that “walking” is a “controlled fall”
Toddlers certainly reflect that thought. We just get better at it as we get older.
What Mark said!
On another reply I did embrace the idea that personally, socially, diet etc we can have balance.
However, I’m for imbalance when it comes to pursuing our passion.
Cheers and thank you so much for joining in, pushing back, and contributing to the conversation.
And now I say, “Ah ha!” I understand where you are coming from and appreciate this perspective. I hadn’t thought of it that way.
Thanks. I needed this today.
A post dedicated to service. It’s definitely on my leadership list. Thank you.
We would be a better world if heartfelt service was at the root of everything we do. The spin-off benefits of service are:
We connect with our heart (our real core purpose here)
We feel humility because we are using our power in the right way
We feel gratitude because we are fulfilling our destiny.
Every great team has at the core of it, a call to serve, and they know it.
You three benefits are beautiful. Love them.
This is wonderful, except #5. The people you describe are not unbalanced, they are enthusiastic and desire to serve in ways that are a tad out of the ordinary, that’s all. Your illustrate nonconformity here, but not lack of balance.
It’s an important distinction. I can think of several people I know and respect who are on too many boards and try to do too much, at the cost of having enough thinking time to make good decisions. They all eventually burn out. In other words, they become marginally ineffective. They also damage their family and social lives. Balance isn’t necessarily dull and boring, although it can be. So can being perpetually falling down.
I hope you will rethink this item in an otherwise wonderful list. I love your emphasis on service. The two items that really got me thinking were Embrace Dissatisfaction and Serve Others So They Can Serve Others. Thank you for those gems.
The term “balance” seems to challenge. I’m not sure of a better term but see the issue than “unbalanced” suggests.
For now, with a few qualifications that are scattered through the comments, I’m sticking with it.
Thank you so much for contributing to a wonderful and useful discussion,
Here’s a really bad paraphrase of Marianne Williamson: Our greatest fear is not our darkness but our light.
If we had the courage to step into our light (a really scary place), greatness immediately follows.
I’m heading toward the light…thanks Michael.
Face discontent with optimism. I love that and it’s been a personal trait that has been the fuel to sustain me through many low periods during a long creative life of ups and downs. This is a great list and serving others is not only satisfying, it always comes back around.
You have my respect. In my own life and experience, facing discontent with optimism is rare indeed. Cheers, Dan
Love this list! Fantastic.
Thank you Dondi!
Which of these ideas are most challenging or useful? What can you add? I have a love/hate relationship with the “forget balance” idea. I agree that trying to maintain balance may keep life very vanilla. However, I also don’t want to achieve “great” in some of my non profit volunteering efforts to the expense of not having the kind of time I need with my family to keep that foundation strong.
What do you think holds people back from greatness? I think we feel like time is infinite – there is always tomorrow, next week, someday – that’s just not necessarily true and we need to take our most passionately felt of goals and find our greatness sooner rather than later — as you said, just start!
Paula, you are so right. Do something now! People never decide not to work toward their goals, they just decide not to do it today.
As usual you add value and wisdom to the conversation.
I had to respond to you today! 🙂
I love this list, especially number five.
thank you Nicole.
A very insightful post. Some of your points fly in the face of common sense.Though when I reflect on them , I see their relevance to our times.Points 3, 5 and 10 make my day!
And your encouraging comment makes mine…cheers, Dan
“Fear keeps you average.” Well put.
It seems #5 is the most “interesting” on the list.
I’m all about finding my greatness and through my journey, I’m helping others just by my own travels to find the true me. Thanks for this post, it’s so right on where we can all be. Let’s find us, find our true selves and shine!
Thank you for your encouragement. Best wishes, Dan
This is so true, but to answer the question of what holds us back I’d say that society in general is geared to reward (and even worship) the person who serves themselves. Rock stars, sports stars, mega CEOs are all celebrated because of their individual accomplishments. I remember an article a few years ago about a university that tried to require students to do some community service and the students complained that they weren’t getting credits for the time spent. A wonderful learning experience 🙁
I feel as though comparing services, as if one is more noble than another, can backfire on us. How did the rock start or the sports star become a star? Answer: they provided pleasure, distraction, inspiration, uplift. And many of these stars are also involved in charities and person:person outside their public persona.
Sure, there are a few among the “stars” who don’t seem to fit anyone’s idea of balance, or a quality leadership paradigm, but they are serving, or they wouldn’t be where they are.
Further, I’ll respectfully argue against the assumption that our society rewards a person who serves themselves—at least not in the healthiest, heart-connected way.
In fact, I find it is quite the opposite: my workshops and coaching sessions are populated by folks who have worked to someone else’s (or consensus) equations for so long, that many can’t even list their top ten desires in 30 seconds… some can’t get past one or two, and a few look at me and say, “I haven’t considered what *I* really want.”
I think it is important to make a distinction between a strictly ego-based, intellectual desire, and one that serves our heart, and WHO we are, and our highest interest and joy. Some folks are on this planet to uplift millions at a time in their own way, while some are better at one:one, and there are all types in between.
Personally I find it limiting to think that a brand of service that I am comfortable with ought to fit everyone. I know you didn’t suggest this, but I often see that attitude out there… this comparison of one kind of service as more noble than another… and personally, I don’t think that operating on that belief is a healthy approach for an individual, or a leader.
Interesting observations, Mark. And you are to be envied for the types of people you attract to your coaching sessions!
I had the idea of the sports/rock star who has a charity profile in mind as I was writing my comment and thought about mentioning that there are some who are truly special (Brian May of Queen comes to mind). But I’m cynical enough to think that in most cases charitable work is done to enhance the brand rather than because of altruism. So it’s a question of the glass being half full or half empty when it comes to our take on the subject.
I don’t agree with your definition of “service” expanding to include the entertainment that stars provide us at least with respect to points 6 & 7 in Dan’s post. Are the people on reality TV serving us? Is the Internal Revenue Service serving us? And what about the banks who served us by giving subprime mortgages?
I think what Dan had in mind when he referred to service, and what I envision, is giving of ones self. That’s what you seem to be talking about when you mention people who can’t list their desires. I don’t think a basketball star making a photo op out of signing jerseys in a childrens hospital an act of self sacrifice–it’s an act of self service.
As I write this I realize that it’s a matter of perspective but it goes back to Dan’s opening statement: “Never let mediocre performance seem outstanding.”
Thanks for seriously considering what I wrote, and for sharing your own thoughtful response!
As for the Internal Revenue, Subprime, and reality stars? My qualification was “uplift.” If anyone can honestly say they are uplifted in some way by any of your examples, well, I’d have to answer yes… otherwise, I’d say that each does serve something, or they wouldn’t exist, but not in the context of uplift that I was writing about.
Further, I’ll explain that I don’t believe self-sacrifice exists. I believe what we CALL self-sacrifice is a willing act of service connected to who we are and our highest joy, for which we are not receiving material compensation. OK. That said, a heart-connected act of services uplifts the uplifter… it does not sacrifice them in any way. It serves them in a special, soulful way… that is the distinction. 🙂 Even if I CHOOSE to give my life for another, or risk it, that is MY choice, and it is only a valid, powerful one, rather than done out of compliance with an ideal outside myself… and if I am uplifted by the action.
There is no true altruism in the sense that we can act for another without self-benefit. It is not possible. It IS possible to go through the motions of service without feeling connected, and this act is a travesty of what truly connected, high service would look like. In such a case, the receiver might receive some benefit, but not nearly the level of impact that might have come from a truly connected giver.
Does this make sense???
Oh, one more thing regarding my clients…
Most are good people who are looking to feel better and add more value, and they’re realizing that the only way to hit both in stride is to start connecting what truly moves them, and what sparks their desires and cherished aspirations, and start serving from THERE.
The ones connected to what they are doing and having a ball at it and who are adding value to others at the same time sure as heck don’t need me!
I don’t know–there’s too much room for semantic difficulties in a subject this complex–especially in one sided comment posts. But . . . your initial qualification for service was not only “uplifting,” but also “pleasure, distraction and inspiration”–a fairly broad and subjective landscape.
Next, an more philosophically important is your assertion that self sacrifice doesn’t exist because there is always an uplifting component to acts of service. That makes perfect sense in theory, but in the real world don’t people make some sort of value assessment of the “sacrifice” and the “Uplift?” and isn’t that where all human relations problems arise–because of differing value assessments?
Let’s say I can give up an hour of my time and visit a stranger in a nursing home. I get tremendous uplift from that–from seeing their face when the see me, from the insights I get and from the perspective I get when I see how some people are forced to live, etc. And I know that the person I’m visiting also gets a huge uplift. But in the real world, I have to make tradeoff decisions–some day’s I’m tired, sometimes I have schedule conflicts (ignore for the sake of discussion that I can reschedule). So every so often I have to say something like, “going to the ball game will uplift me more than visitng Mr. X.”
This brings us back to my initial comment about what society values. If I get more bragging rights having gone to a playoff game than I get from visiting an old person or get more kudos by working overtime (to “serve” a client) than I do from taking care of an elderly parent or a child or, God forbid, get more emotional affirmation on Facebook than I do in the real world, it should come as no surprise that people so often do not choose to serve.
Yes, I agree… exchanges like this are best done one:one!
I think that your real-world scenarios are excellent examples of the choices we face on a daily basis, so let me leave you with a thought that I hope will cut through all the semantics: I believe that regardless of what we choose, the choice is OURS, and we always choose the choose we think will bring an improvement of some kind. If we scratch beneath “improvement” we will find that what we are looking for is to feel better.
I run an open-ended exercise in my workshops that in a sense allows the the individual to discover this fact. I put them through a process wherein they uncover this for themselves. They are not guided in anyway to their conclusion, but thus far, no individual has come away from the exercise with a different idea. It is quite illuminating to witness.
Thank you for this dialog!
Two more things: I enjoyed reading your blog—entertaining!
Sorry for the typos above… 🙂
Thanks Mark! I checked out the Desire Engine Model and Success Waypoint–very impressive.
I want to play devil’s advocate on the whole issue of balance, and I hope that I don’t step on any toes…not my intention but food for thought: Is it possible that we are confusing the word “balance” with “boring?”
What is exciting to one person is taxing to another, yet all of us have basic needs so that we stay healthy and I believe that includes having balance as it relates to the individual.
Being too far off balance can contribute to a lot of “drama.” Take for example the person who never gets enough sleep or skips meals. There is a lot of research out there about how we get addicted to adrenaline and it feels good at first but later because of the lack of balance it creates health problems.
I like the book “From Chaos to Coherence” where the author says that it’s not about avoiding the chaos but it is about getting back to coherence quickly.
From my understanding, we will get out of balance occasionally because of our passions, or because of what life throws at us, but the moment we justify the lack of balance and avoid meeting basic needs is the time we start making excuses for being too cranky, or too hard to deal with. Even the body tries to come back into balance after healing from an illness.
So the question I have is how are we defining balance? .
Marlene, LOL… I made a similar point about getting back to balance quickly in an earlier post. I am not familiar with the book you cited, but the analog of what I wrote about (“…getting back to coherence quickly…”) struck me differently than the same point made with balance.
I find myself reconsidering my own point, thus: knowing HOW to get back to center or coherence quickly is key, however, part of me now wonders if exercising this ability at the appropriate time is also key.
Using my walking example… the controlled fall… it is all a delicate question of timing that we take for granted.
Every ancient civilization had a Rune or symbol for chaos… that is how important it is to creative change. My suspicion is that (and I am going to work this further), arbitrarily getting back to coherence as quick as we can may cut short our ability to innovate and create lasting solutions… that there is an appropriate time that we just KNOW we need to make new sense of the disruption, and if we do so before that time we may short-change an important process.
Now I am thinking that appropriate time is just after accepting that chaos is here, and is serving us, and has offered us a new opportunity.
What an inspiring list! This is one of the rare times I have read a list like this that’s presented so well!
It actually makes achieving greatness (or trying) a worthy goal.
YOu have my best wished…
Love this stuff…
I find Point No. 1 & 9 are quite useful in the process of building greatness. I also like the idea of serving others which would fetch self-satisfaction and help to all those who can benefit with your knowledge, experience, wisdom or monetary support.
I’ve found #1 = embrace your dissatisfaction the starting point to personal transformation. So glad you found it useful.
You are one of the successful people I like to hear from… 🙂
Absolutely awesome advice to get on track…
Thank you for a good word!
This was truly an inspirational post. Thank you!
Thank you Melissa, Best to you, Dan
Is the balance conversation over?:) I like the fact that #5 was an issue. In the past couple of years, I have been thinking that the whole concept of balance may be a moot point for an increasing number of people, specifically those who find a really good fit for themselves in terms of their life’s ‘work’ or meaning. A while back, I was asked to do a session on work/ life balance and I said no, but I will do a session on life enrichment. I think if you are enriching your life in whatever way works for you, you are highly likely to feel engaged, passionate and impelled, so balance really does not come into question because by the nature of your enriched life, balance has lost its value. When we are doing things that we dislike or are not a good fit, then balance takes on more meaning because we need to ‘balance’ those tasks with relaxation or other activity. So, it could be a sign of the times we are living in that balance has become controversial. I loved how imbalanced the content became as a result of this point. Thanks for stirring it up and enriching the dialogue!
I absolutely love the dimension you bring to this conversation.
In particular the idea that we need balance when we are doing things we don’t like, don’t fit us, etc. An important poitn.
#1 is so powerful and true. It’s so easy to get complacent and every success you have makes it easier to get complacent. A true mark of a champion. Thanks for the great list!
Discontent/dissatisfaction is one important motivation of innovation, change, and progress… cheers, Dan
Own up to your mistakes…and learn their lessons.
Great article. I specifically like how you recognise and put the role of discontent right up front. Totally a key factor to leadership, also that it should be matched with unshakeable optimism. I cannot really agree with your view on focus vs balance though. See the picture of the climber you posted at the top of the article? That climber is BOTH totally focused and in balance. In fact one unbalanced moment will lead to failure. Losing focus will certainly lead to a fall.
How is it possible though? Can balance and focus be married? Yes, if you are purpose driven and all your goals are contained under the umbrella of that life vision. If you’ve taken the time to synergise your goals so that all activities lead to the attainment of that purpose. And lastly, if you understand that a leader does not do it alone, he is by definition only the catalyst, the glue and the guiding force behind the vision. He is the champion of the cause, not the team.
Many years ago I leanred that FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real…..for some that may be a reminder for others it may be a revelation….it was for a revelation for me that allowed me to step out and take more risks.
I think the entire “MIX” makes sense as we all are “forced” into using or applying some or all of these at some stage in our lives.
I firmly believe the only permanent thing in life is change itself.
A wise man once said:-
“The more you know, the more you realise how little you know and
the less you know, the more you THINK you know”
Thanks for your comment and the great quote.
Best to you,
Really enjoyed this!!! Thanks for sharing!!!