The CEO of LinkedIn would often ask prospective employees, “Looking back on your career, 20 or 30 years from now, what do you want to say you’ve accomplished?” Most people didn’t have an immediate answer to that question.
If they think about it, the answer most people come up with centers around providing for their family, living the lifestyle they want, and being able to be comfortable in their retirement. The problem with these objectives is that they are “self-centered” objectives. If these are your main objectives, the only person really hurt by you letting down is yourself. (Spouse/kids being considered an extension of yourself). Therefore, it’s easy to let down or find yourself uninspired.
Truly inspirational objectives center around what we can do for OTHERS.
What can you share with other people? I think of the “3 currencies of life” shared by my friend John Ruhlin: time, talent, and treasure/gifts.
- What opportunities can you open up for other people?
- What attitudes/beliefs/actions can you model for the people who look up to you?
- (DO people look up to you?)
- Who could benefit from a little bit of your time and attention?
- What can you teach others around you?
- What potential can you help other people see in themselves?
- How can you help people take action?
- What can you give to others?
In training and developing mostly young (student-aged) people in my career with Vector/Cutco, I often try to get people to put themselves into the frame of mind of being at some future time and place, looking back on the journey of their lives. Participating in an exercise like this fully can help people realize what things they are doing that are truly important, and what things might not be so important in the big picture. Our own personal achievements ARE important, especially to the extent that they enable us to help others. But in the long run, the things we help OTHERS achieve or do or experience will become far more valuable moments and life-long memories in our lives.
I was lucky, at a young age, to wind up working in a place where I saw that the truly great, enlightened leaders in the company found their inspiration in what they could do for others, not in what they could get for themselves. By sharing with others, opening doors of opportunity, modeling correct beliefs and actions, and inspiring action through your own personal example, you WILL undoubtedly provide for your family, live a nice lifestyle, and eventually be comfortable in your retirement. Those outcomes are not the primary objectives, but instead are byproducts of a grander vision.
Think right now about the 5 most influential people you have had in your life.
Looking back from 20 or 30 years in the future, how many people will have YOU in their top 5?