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Success vs Significance - What Will You Choose?

November 3, 2016

A few months back, I had a very interesting conversation with a professor from the Indian Institute of Technology. He was mentoring a team that made it to the finals of a global business plan competition called Shell Ideas 360. He told me something that's stuck with me and influenced my thinking since. 


He said that there's 3 types of lives people lead - lives of:


1. Survival or sustenance 


2. Success


3. Significance 






Unfortunately, a large part of the worlds population still live a life of survival and very often they have little choice to change it. We're talking about the billions in Africa and Asia who earn below the poverty line, those who are forced to spend most of their time ensuring they have basic necessities like water and as a result are forced to live a life of survival. According to some estimates, the number of people in this bucket are over 3 billion. 


If you're reading this, I imagine that you will almost certainly fall into the second or third category. Firstly, you have access to internet and a smartphone or computer and you will most likely have a job or be financially 'successful' or comfortable. It's a fortunate position to be in given the billions living a life of survival. However, it also means that you have the ability or capacity to do something meaningful and significant in life rather than just being successful. Here's a few differences between the two:


1. Success is consuming existing knowledge, data and news for your benefit. Significance is doing something news worthy and creating knowledge that others can benefit from.


2. Success is being able to afford to send your kids to a good school. Significance is educating others.


3. Success is earning a steady income, saving and retiring happy. Significance is empowering others with employment and a livelihood. 


Yet few people choose to make the leap from success to significance. I will relate this to another post on 'The Different Parts of the Brain' according  to Daniel Priestly, a well known author and entrepreneur. I feel there is a strong connection between the two topics that I will explore. 


At the end of my conversation with the professor, he was quite blunt when he told me: "You're living a life of success but have a chance to do something significant." And I leave you with a similar question: "Success vs Significance - What will you choose?"




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