Success vs. Significance

About 10 years ago, I was at a leadership offsite in Silicon Valley. The host was a GM of the company I worked for at the time. As he wrapped up the day, he said something that was both profound and guidng to me since. He said, “there’s a difference between being successful and being significant”. Ive since used that sentence as a compass for me in my personal & professional life. 

 

You can be successful, but not significant. 

 

But you can’t be significant without being successful.

 

This concept has since become a cornerstone of my professional journey.

 

Success is measured by tangible assets, like a big house or a luxury car. 

Significance is gauged by the positive change you bring to others’ lives.

 

Success focuses on your individual accomplishments. 

Significance emphasizes mentoring and uplifting others to achieve their best.

 

Success is about reaching personal goals like a promotion. 

Significance is about creating opportunities and pathways for others to thrive and succeed.

 

Success can be fleeting, often tied to specific milestones. 

Significance is enduring, creating a lasting impact that persists after your lifetime.

 

Whenever I consider a new opportunity, hire more talent, or manage my direct reports, I stop and wonder if I’m aiming for success or significance.

 

To me, trying to be significant in everything I do is table stakes.

 

So, as you navigate your career, ask yourself: 

 

“Do I want to be remembered for my achievements or the difference I made?”

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