Over the last fourteen years I have had the opportunity to ask in a classroom setting over 80 successful leaders the question, “What has been your greatest accomplishment and why?”
This question is asked of the leaders along with seventeen other questions as part of a leadership training program I head up. Other questions involve topics such as how do you deal with critical people, what is the biggest failure of your life and how did you overcome it, and how do you balance work life and home life. If you ask the right questions you can learn a lot about what makes a person tick in under 40 minutes.
After asking about the person’s greatest accomplishments, I am often amazed at what people have done in the years that they have lived.
How would you answer this question if you had a room full of people listening to your answer?
I’ll come back to this question later.
I have a talk I give titled “Invest in Yourself so you can Invest in Others.” The first part of the talk focuses on what the audience is doing to learn and equip themselves so they’re able to add value to the lives of others. A school teacher gets years of education so he or she can teach students. A physician has years of education to be able to successfully perform life saving surgery for those who need it. I attended years of law school to learn how to help others handle legal issues that arise in their lives. You get the idea.
Equipping is critical for anyone to be put in a position to be able to invest in others.
On a plane briefing before the plane takes off the flight attendant tells the passengers that if the cabin decompressurizes, put your oxygen mask on first so you can tend to the senior or child near you. Many times an act of taking care of yourself first would seem selfish. But equipping yourself to help others can save two lives versus not equipping yourself and having two passengers pass out because of a lack of oxygen.
We need to each know the gift set God gave us and to develop it to the fullest in the years we have. By doing this and by being the best version of you you can be, you are able to add value to others. What I do well, I need to work on to become better. What I don’t do well I need to bring others around me who do well in these areas. If I work hard on my weaknesses than I can take something I do “very poorly” and eventually do it “poorly.”
Now, let me return to the title of this column. If you invest heavily in yourself and don’t use your investments to help others, then you are a very selfish person. You may strut around and say to the world, “look at me!” A person who does this is very proud of himself and possibly may still be carrying around a trophy they won in high school.
You should seek to move up the ladder of your organizations not for others to focus on you, but so you can leverage the power you have been blessed with to help others. In your leadership position you should regularly be saying, “what can I do to add value to others?” Because your life should not be about you.
In every step we take, we should remember that what we receive during our lifetime will die with us. What we give to others will live on after we are gone.
The best example of this was the answer Jim Whittaker gave about his greatest accomplishment.
The tip of Mount Everest is the highest point on earth. It is 29,031 feet above sea level in the Himalayas on the border of China and Nepal. That’s over 5 miles high. Over 300 people have died trying to climb Mount Everest. Many of these bodies remain on the mountain today.
Jim Whittaker was the first American to climb to the top of Mount Everest. Without oxygen he reached the summit and planted the first United States flag on top of it on May 1, 1963. He is still alive today at 94 years old.
I would say he has achieved success in his life. What an amazing accomplishment from 60 years ago.
Many years later he was asked in a media interview by a reporter what the greatest accomplishment was of his life. The other reporters mumbled to one another, thinking this was the stupidest question a reporter could ask of the first American to reach the top of Mount Everest.
His answer was unexpected. He said, “I have led more individuals to the top of Mount Everest than anyone else who has ever lived.”
I will tell you, Mr. Whittaker got this answer right. The world will forever see greatness in him for his planting the first United States flag on top of the tallest mountain. He sees his greatness as using his accomplishment to invest in the lives of others and help others accomplish their goals.
Somehow I think that our answer to this question should be the same. While human nature and a normal interpretation of this question leads most everyone to look inward to a personal accomplishment that others have not accomplished, somehow I think our response should be about how we used our blessings to invest in others.
In my life I have been blessed with may individual accomplishments, from 40 years of practicing law to serving as President of the New Mexico Bar Association; from running nineteen marathons to a successful 38 year marriage. And my list goes on from there.
My answer if asked my greatest accomplishment would include how I have had the opportunity to add value to the lives of others through practicing law for four decades, pouring myself into the lives of over 900 students over 30 years in the leadership program I head up, and motivating others to change from writing this syndicated column for over twenty years.
All my accomplishments will die with me except for the ones that added value to others. These will live on after I am gone.
My challenge to you today is to ask yourself two questions. First, have you developed the gift set God put into you to equip yourself and put yourself in positions to help others. And, more importantly, second, are you adding value to the lives of others with the blessings you have received in your life.
It is not that hard for any of us to assess if our lives are all about ourselves or all about helping others get where they want to be.
Make your greatest accomplishment be about what you have done for others, not what you have accomplished for yourself.
Just a thought...
Rick Kraft is a motivational speaker, a syndicated columnist, a published author, and an attorney. To submit comments, contributions, or ideas, e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org:email@example.com or write to P.O. Box 850, Roswell, New Mexico, 88202 - 0850.