“Our old definitions of success were wealth, power, and fame,” he says. “We need to see those as a means to an end, and those need to be impact.”
– Howard Buffet, grandson of Warren Buffet
The above quote comes from an article that describes how Howard Buffet plans to bring private-sector savvy to the world of non-profits. The article itself is very interesting, and worth a read; I love the idea that he is championing. Yet, the above quote is what stuck with me.
What is your definition of success? Does it fall within those “old definitions” he mentions?
If you are fortunate enough to meet your definition of success, what would be next? What would be missing from that success? Perhaps that is what you would really want to focus on?
Buffet’s argument, from that simple quote, is that “impact” is what would be missing, and that’s what we should focus on. Wealth, power and fame are not enough. Those three are simply ways to impact others. Though, arguably, the more wealth, power or fame you have, the more impact you can have. Perhaps it is a two-step process.
I think much of our generation is focused on “impact.” It’s why we elected Obama. It’s why we’re so frustrated with the political process. It’s a large part of why we love blogs and social media.
So what is impact? The literal definition is, “the action of one object coming forcibly into contact with another.” But in this context? I would argue that impact is intentional action to cause some reaction in another’s life.
We elected Obama (and we hoped that would solve everything, which may be part of the problem there). We don’t have a clear idea of how we can act intentionally that causes a politician to react in the way we want. We write something on Facebook and others “like” it, or comment on it. It’s not the act of sharing that gives me a rush, but when others engage.
On a larger scale, many of us (myself included) are unfocused on our impact. Where do we want to focus to have impact? How do we start? What’s most important?
The difficulty of these questions may be why so many college graduates get stuck. And it also may be why so many of us focus on impacting ourselves, and our immediate friends and family. Building my life and impacting my friends and family is challenge and fun enough, and keeps my life full. But I know, deep down, it’s not ultimately rewarding enough.
The trick may be to pick some way to impact on a broad scale, try it and run that thread through our lives. There may be times where we are more focused on personal impact (on our jobs, to accrue wealth, for example) and there may be other times where we are more focused on our broader impact. If we do not like the thread, we can change it.
I am very doubtful that anyone died wishing simply that they had more wealth, more fame or more power. There was something beyond those which they would have wished for. Some impact. What lies beyond traditional success for you?