08/13/2014 08:23 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Success Isn't for You


Having come to a place in my career now that could be considered success, I've realized that success isn't for me.

Now, before you write me off, let me explain.

For the past several years, I've tried to achieve the right mix of promotions, great bonuses, and interesting opportunities with the right companies. And it has worked well.

I've also found moments of inspiration that have pushed me to think differently at just the right time. One of those moments came when I started experiencing more success than I ever had before. I was living the dream, professionally speaking, but I felt so empty for some reason.

I went for a run outside, and found a quiet place along a trail by some evergreen trees to ponder as the sun was setting. I thought deeply about my dilemma and what I should do next, to fill in what I was missing. I couldn't seem to connect the dots in my life that would actually make me feel like a true success and not just a guy who had accomplished a bunch of stuff. When I thought about sticking with life in the same way forever, chasing achievements without regard for weightier things, I felt my stomach churn. And I searched my soul. In that moment, something surprising happened. I got this burning feeling in my heart that said, in effect, "Success isn't for you. It's for helping others. You've been given this unique opportunity to achieve your dreams, earning a great living doing what you love. But your success isn't about that. It's not about you, it's about your family, your friends, and all the folks who need you to be there for them and to serve them in ways that only you can. That's what your success is for. Make it for them. Then you won't be missing anything in your life."

Admittedly, this was something I'd considered before -- but mostly in the abstract, not as an approach I'd mastered or applied well at all. And I hadn't come face-to-face with it in that way until then. I knew it was right, and I realized that I knew people who lived that way, who dedicated their lives to their purpose, partnerships, and to powering others with inspiration--literally infusing themselves into the service of everyone they met, in every opportunity at work or at home, and everywhere else.

I know now that success was never about me. It's always been about what that success represents in terms of who I can help in some way because of it. So I've gone back to the drawing board in my life and reimagined why I want to be successful. Instead of setting a big goal with the question in mind of "What will achieving this goal bring to me?" I start with "Who will I be able to help the most by achieving this goal?" and then I dedicate that goal to those people. And they become my motivation, instead of the additional income, personal glory, or prestige. It's become all about others -- and that has made all the difference. Starting things that way has become incredibly motivating, and I've actually been able to achieve a lot more because of it.

When you let success be about serving others, everything changes. Life becomes richer, relationships become more meaningful, and your impact actually increases because of your authenticity. In Greek, "authenticity" is rooted in the word "author," and I can't imagine a more powerful way to write your story than by living a life of selfless improvement.

Focus less on what your dreams will do for you and more on what they'll do for others and skip "having it all" for having more than it all--the connection to others that comes from pure service to them. This kind of lifestyle can't be adequately put into words. Names like Ghandi, Mother Theresa, and Martin Luther King, Jr. come to mind as examples who've done this well. And though they were all amazing people, you don't have to be a Ghandi, a Mother Theresa, or a Martin Luther King, Jr. to make a powerful difference in others' lives. You just need to remember Success Isn't for You--It's for Others.

Follow Chris on Twitter @CDeaver7

Cross-posted on Linkedin