Sunday, January 25, 2009

Significant vs. Successful

There's no lack of people telling you how to live a successful life. There are rows and rows of books in the self-help section of the bookstore. There are late night, early morning, and mid-day infomercials promising you the secrets of success for just 3 payments of $19.95. There are hundreds of talk radio shows that give you guest after guest that are anxious to share the keys to having the life that others will envy. And 99% of these people define success as having enough money to do what you want, when you want, and however you want. But that's a VERY narrow definition of success.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "Aren't you one of those people?"

Yes - it's true. My first non-fiction book will be published in a few short months about creating a radical lifestyle (which is a big departure from my 9 fiction books that have already been published).

Yes - I conduct teleseminars and workshops around living a successful life.

And yes - I have been the host of a radio talk show with lots of guests sharing their "secrets".

But (you know there's a but!)...there is a difference! The difference is how I define success.

My coaching programs are designed around living a radical life. And being "radical" means defining success for yourself and being bold and courageous enough to go after it. Being "radical" means not basing your definition of success on what society says, what your mother says, the media says, your spouse says, or what anyone says. You must define success for yourself.

As a matter of fact, the first couple of sessions a client has with me is focused on defining success for themselves (which is not as easy as it sounds, as many people have been so influenced by outside factors that they have to dig deep to find their own thoughts and ideas). It's only after you do that, that you can begin to live a life that is focused on "significance" - which will then lead to your own personal success.

What do I mean?

Yesterday, I went to the funeral of a college friend who passed away after a long illness. If I said her name, 99% of you wouldn't know her. However, there were hundreds and hundreds of people there. There were many of my Spelman sisters, her Delta sorors, family members, people from her job, the community, and many government officials. People spoke of the impact she had on them and how she inspired them do better, live better, and serve others.

Now, the world tells us that success is millions of dollars, celebrity status, fame, and the ability to buy whatever you want. But a "significant" life is a life that finds a purpose and passion that serves others and pursues it relentlessly. Now, let me be crystal clear, that doesn't mean that money, fame and fortune can't go hand and hand with significance, but success without significance is a lonely, unfulfilled life. That's why people who seemingly have it all suffer bad marriages, drug abuse, alcoholism, and will jump out of a building when they lose their money. And it's also why the "poorest" of people can live with joy, love and a sense of peace.

When you start your journey with passion, purpose and a desire to serve, your life will be significant. And even if no one ever recognizes you for your efforts, you will still be successful.

Think of Ghandi - he began his journey with no cameras and reporters and his beliefs and passion changed a nation.

Think of Nelson Mandela - his purpose and commitment sent him to jail and his actions changed a nation.

Think of Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld - founders of The Innocence Project , they work diligently to free those wrongly convicted of crimes through DNA testing (227 people so far and counting!)

Think of President Barack Obama - no matter your political affiliation, his commitment to community organizing and giving back has inspired many to do the same.

Think of Judith Sandalow, Executive Director of The Children's Law Center - her organization helps at-risk children in the District of Columbia find safe, permanent homes and get the education, health and social services they need.

Think of Dr. Stephanie Jackson Pace, my Spelman sister who was laid to rest yesterday - her commitment to education (her PhD was in Mathematics from the University of MD), the youth, and her community left a legacy that will never be erased. She was truly significant and successful.


  1. This message is so on point for me. In my case,I have a passion for fitness which has led me to the world of fitness competitions. In sharing my journey as I transform my physique, I have been able to connect with individuals who are also own their own journeys to improve their health. Some may define "success" in my case as walking off a stage with a trophy. Perhaps---but the thing that has given me the most joy is the knowledge that I have helped or inspired other indivduals to improve their level of health. Doreen is so right when she states that a significant life is one that serves others.

  2. Ok Doreen...when you get done taking over the world...let me know so I can get next!! LOL!!! I am so inspired by you. Your 1st non-fiction book...What?!?!!! I had no idea.
    God bless you and keep you during your journey. May you continue to inspire, while being SIGNIFICANT and SUCCESSFUL!!!

    Jocelyn AKA iNDIGO

  3. Good stuff! In my opinion pursuing your passion is what keeps you motivated and invigorated. Chasing money alone will not accomplish this for you and could work against you in your quest of true happiness.

    Keep up the good work Doreen, can't wait for the book.

  4. Tawana - I know your passion for fitness and you have been an inspiration to many people - including me. You know I have to be looking right when I see Jillian at my conference!LOL

    iNDIGO - I know you know what it means to be significan and successful - and for people who don't know - here's another shameless plug from me: Here's the link to iNDIGO's new album!

  5. Looking forward to that book! This is an excellent and inspiring blog. You have become one of my idols with all you're doing Doreen. Keep up the fabulous work my friend!


  6. Living a life of Significance, and not soley focused on Success!!! I love it. Good luck on the book.