To be Famous or Significant?

In the recent past weeks we have been discussing how we can measure progress as we edge towards the close of yet another year. Whilst the focus was on reviewing what has been accomplished, who we have been accountable to and what adjustments we can make going forward, this analysis and introspection would be incomplete without interrogating our motives at the onset. Many of us are passionately engaged on the road towards success, but if we were to be questioned as to whether or not we are living a life of significance, we may not have an immediate answer to that question. What is the reason you are in pursuit of the goals you have set? Is it for Fame, Success or Significance?

In Greed of the glory

Fame brings out some ugly beasts that, if not tamed, can consume a person’s life. One taste of the spotlight and greed feeds the desire for more. The adoration is gratifying until the high wears off. Fame is enticing. Who does not want to jet-set around the globe with a limitless budget? That would be our version of heaven on earth, would it not? To have it all – popularity, money, adoring fans worshiping our every move. The problem with this type of lifestyle is that the exhilaration eventually disappears. Stardom is the great deceiver that blinds people into thinking more money or power or prestige will solve their problems.

Robin Williams inspired an entire generation of movie buffs and actors when they were just children. But his tragic end in an apparent suicide has also served notice of the dangers that come with fame. Williams struggled for years with substance abuse and depression, and his death came just months after that of another huge Hollywood star, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died of a heroin overdose as he relapsed after years being clean. Dr Tom Nunan, founder of Bull’s Eye Entertainment and a professor at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, said Williams’ career showed young actors that “they really can do anything. They can perform on broadway, do fundraisers with their talent…” “He did stretch way beyond what a stand-up comedian does in entertainment,” Nunan said. “That’s a huge contribution.” But the comedian’s tragic death also serves as a warning of the need to deal with one’s inner demons, he said.

The Pressure of Success

Max Clifford, Britain’s most high-profile celebrity publicist, shared with Reuters that stars pressure themselves to succeed. Clifford stated that “even at the top, celebrities were always worried about who could replace them.” Worry, fear of failure, and the pressure to outperform their last role puts unthinkable weight on artists, which can prompt self-destructive tendencies. Clifford explained, “People assume that fame and success is all about riches and happiness but, as someone who has worked with famous people for 45 years, I know that is not the case.” Clifford claims, “The success becomes like a drug to them that they have to have, and they are always worried about losing it so they push and push and work harder and harder. You have to be competitive in these fields otherwise it will not work.”

What makes life worthwhile?

In 1951, at the age of 72, Albert Einstein received a letter. It moved him deeply, and caused him to reflect on what, after seven decades of living, made life worthwhile. He responded with a revealing letter. Whilst there are thousands of letters recorded, to and from the great scientist -this exchange was new, deeply personal, a rare glimpse into Einstein’s judgment on the worthiness of a life well lived. So what did Einstein write? On August 24, 1951 Einstein responded: “I was really moved by your letter. It is true that the number of people striving ardently for the right and the worthwhile things is small. But the existence of these few is what makes life worthwhile.”

Stop Chasing Success, Seek Significance

Joshua Becker, a writer, speaker, pastor and blogger believes that success is characterised by many limitations. His blog, Becoming Minimalist, has become a source of inspiration to millions around the world. Joshua remarks how financial success is a powerful motivator which controls the lives of many, chooses occupations whilst dictating how time, energy, and resources are spent. “Success influences relationships, schedules, and families. To some, it even becomes an all-consuming passion that leaves broken people and morality in its wake.” He however laments that unfortunately success is not the greatest call we have on our lives because in comparison to significance, it fades quickly. Here are some limitations of success he shares:

•         Success ebbs and flows with the economy. As recent years have proven, financial success is always at the mercy of a national economy and world economy, when the economy takes a downturn, so does net worth.

•         Success ends on the day you die. On the day you die, all wealth and possessions will be immediately transferred to someone else.

•         Success is never enough. Financial success will never satisfy the inmost desires of our soul. No matter the amount of financial success earned, it always leaves us wanting more.

In his conclusion he compares how success is outweighed by the advantages of significance:

•         Significance always lasts. Significance will always outlast you. Even when you are no longer present, your significance will still be yours. And nothing can ever take that away from you.

•         Significance carries on and keeps on giving as you positively change the life of another human being who in turn changes the life of another, who impacts the life of another and influences another.

•         Significance satisfies our soul. While the thirst for success is never quenched, significance satisfies our deepest heart and soul. It allows us to lay our head on our pillow each night confident that we lived a valuable and fulfilling day.

Joshua concludes that “it is unfortunate that many people spend most of their lives chasing financial success and while some achieve it more than others, almost all find it unfulfilling in the end. When they begin to shift their life focus to significance instead of success, they wonder why they wasted most of their life chasing something different.”

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