The Secret to True Success
If Martin Luther King Jr. had been just a preacher…
Imagine a world in which Martin Luther King Jr. had been nothing more than a preacher with a sizable congregation, Bill Gates nothing more than an effective manager at an IT firm and Oprah Winfrey just a newscaster at a Baltimore television station. Suppose Warren Buffett were nothing more than a man who managed his money well in order to provide a nice life for his family. We probably wouldn’t know any of their names, but by most standards they would be deemed successful.
Yet I believe that true success is the degree to which we reach our full potential. By that standard, Martin Luther King Jr., Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey and Warren Buffett could not be called successful if they did not achieve what we all know they were and are capable of. Where would our society be without the contributions they have made? What would the landscape of 21st-century America look like without them?
If we were really honest with ourselves, we would admit that we tend to compare ourselves with others to gauge our own success. I believe those comparisons leave the important questions unasked and set us up for mediocrity. Warren Buffett could have decided it was enough to build a bigger house than his neighbor’s, purchase a nicer car and send his children to better schools. Oprah Winfrey could have landed her job as a Baltimore newscaster, compared herself with her friends and colleagues, and decided she was doing quite well just where she was.
It’s human nature to make comparisons. Perhaps you don’t measure yourself in these ways, but most people I know do. Most organizations I know do it as well. Benchmarking against other organizations can produce benefits, but it can also be a slippery slope.
Comparing ourselves to the competition brings about the question of so what? So what if you are the highest in retention? So what if you are the leader in a certain technology? So what if you can move widgets faster than Widget Movers Express? Are those reasons to be content?
That is why I believe we need to drop the judgments and comparisons with others and strive to continue to excel regardless of the people (or organizations) around us. We need to stop looking behind us to see who is chasing us, and we need to stop looking ahead at what the other guy is doing. Instead, we need to look at ourselves and at the future and ask this question: What could be ahead? It is time to run faster, regardless of the others in the race, and push ourselves to see what is possible for us. It is time to excel and push our organizations and ourselves as if there were no competition.
This is the key to success.