This is the fourth (and final) part of a series of posts that I started a couple weeks ago. Each week has addressed a different self-evaluating question that I am using to help focus the direction of my time and energy.
I recently heard a quote from a book about Winston Churchill’s life. The author said, “Great men are almost always failures as fathers.” And unfortunately it has some merit to it. So many of the figures in history that we see as being truly great, achieved that stature at the expense of their spouses and children. If you’re aiming for public recognition than you will be tempted to sell out your highest values and greatest priorities to get it. So, I think an important queston to ask is… Is that worth it?
For me, any definition of greatness that allows for complete failure as a father is not good enough. And that will affect the degree to which I will be able to succeed in certain avenues. I may not ever get enormous recognition for what I do, but does that mean that it wasn’t worthwhile? Or could I actually be sacrificing the things that are worthwhile and significant for something that will be ultimately inconsequential?
The truth is that we can only do a few things well at a time and we are going to have to prioritize in some way. To excel in one area will, by default, mean I have to put less time, energy and focus into another. So, how are you (and how am I) going to make those decisions?
I think the desire for wealth, power and fame are the greatest obstacles to true significance. We are far too easily seduced by these counterfeit gods and their empty promises. Without realizing it we often end up making major decisions about our lives based on the fastest road to the top, when we should be asking questions about significance. What is actually worth doing? What will leave a lasting impact? What will leave behind a legacy for my children and their children?
How will I measure success in my life? Of all the things that I could do, and do well, and enjoy doing, which of them is worth doing? Which of them could have the greatest impact without trumping my goals as a husband and father? As a Christ follower?
Very few will go down in history as great men or great women. We won’t all be recognized for our contribution to the world, at least not equally. There are thousands who have given their lives for the gospel yet we don’t even know their names. There are thousands who chose to invest in their spouses and their children rather than become workaholics who clawed their way to the top of the corporate ladder. There are too many heroes to count that we will never read about, men and women who live quiet lives of relative anonymity but have made lasting impact that has changed the world forever.
Don’t settle for success, aim for significance.
What is actually worthy of your one and only life?
As I sort through these questions it’s really helping me narrow my focus and identify areas of my life that I need to put more energy and time into and others that I need to do the opposite. It’s been a good exercise. I hope they have also been helpful to you in your own journey.