Really, regardless what field you pursue, you can ask yourself this question. A teacher, doctor, lawyer, business owner, pastor, or yes, a writer can pursue success or significance with their chosen vocation.
If you google success vs. significance, you will find page after page of articles, blogs, and videos discussing the difference between success and significance.
What exactly is success? Merriam-Webster defines it as, “the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame.”
I set some goals when I began writing—success goals. It’s what I was supposed to do right? Become a best seller. Make lots of money. Become well-known and respected as a writer.
To write simply to meet those goals seems empty. If I pursued any other vocation for similar goals, I would feel the same way.
A comment made by a friend, who has achieved what many would call success, caused me to ponder this question.
In my research on the difference between success and significance, I ran across an article by John Maxwell who has written several books on the topic of leadership.
His article, Success or Significance, resonated with me. You can click on the link to read his article in its entirety. But here are a few points that spoke to me:
His definition of success—’knowing your purpose in life, growing to your maximum potential sowing seeds that benefit others.” Simply put, “are you adding value to yourself or to others?”
Success is a journey. But the journey to significance requires time, patience, and commitment.
Maxwell states that there has to be a certain level of success in a person’s life before they are willing to take the step to significance, where they ask themselves, “What else is there in life beyond professional and monetary success?”
That’s the question or statement I heard my friend make. I see him making this shift from simply adding value to his own life to wanting to add value to others.
You might wake up one day and ‘find success”, but you will never wake up and say, “I’m significant.”
Maxwell quotes Rusty Rustenbach stating he hits it out of the park with this one,
Maxwell goes on to list 5 differences between Success and Significance:
- Motives – Significance and selfishness are incompatible.
- Influence – With success, my influence is limited; with significance, my influence is unlimited.
- Time – People who desire significance value time.
- Focus – Success asks, “How can I add value to myself?” Significance asks, “How can I add value to others?”
- Reward – If I pursue success, my joy is the result of my success; if I pursue significance, my joy is the result of others’ success.
Writing holds such a delicate balance for me. I do care about making money, what people think about what I write, and respect, if not fame. But when I write for significance, my focus shifts to far beyond my existence to a time where all those things will no longer matter.