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Success vs. Significance

How do you define success? Are you significant in your personal life? What is your ultimate goal and true happiness? I recently came across a story that represents something I always tell my clients, but explains it much clearer than I ever could. Take a read through and see if you can relate to it.

A corporate executive, on vacation in a small Italian seacoast village, was strolling by the docks and taking in the local flavor. He noticed an angler bringing in a large sum of fish. He stopped and complimented him on the quality of his catch.

“How long did it take you to get all those fish?” he asked.

“Not very long,” answered the Italian fisherman. “An hour or two.”

“Then why didn’t you stay out longer to catch more?”

Shrugging, the Italian explained that his catch was sufficient to meet his needs, and those of his family.

The executive asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

“I sleep late (dormo tardi), fish a little (pesco), play with my children (bambini), and in the afternoon I take a nap with my wife (mia moglie). In the evening, I go to the village to see my friends (amici), dance a little (ballare), play a little music (suonare), and sing songs (canzoni). I have a full life.”

The executive said, “Well I have an MBA from Harvard and I’m sure I can help you. You should start by fishing longer every day. You’ll catch extra fish that you can sell. With the revenue, you can buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring you, you can buy a second boat and a third one, and so on, until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can ship fish to markets all around the world. In time, you can then move to New York City to direct your huge enterprise.”

“How long would that take?” asked the fisherman.

“Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years,” replied the executive.

“And after that?”

“When your business gets really big, you can sell stock and make millions!” exclaimed the executive with zeal.

“Millions? Really? And after that?”

“After that you’ll be able to retire, live in a small village near the coast, sleep late, play with your grandchildren, catch a few fish, take a nap with your wife, and spend your evenings singing, dancing, and playing music with your friends.”

This story cuts to the core of our desire as business people. We have to ask ourselves, what is it we are trying to accomplish? Are we focused on making a difference or are we zoning in on prestige and vanity. The difference between the two is substantial, and will make a substantial impact on our life.

So ask yourself, how are you creating abundance in your company, and significance in your life?

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