I'm Important, but Do I Matter?
Leading on the Edge International
Publication date: May 2005
Digital Book format: PDF (Adobe DRM)
I spent the first 11 years of my career at Accenture. I started in the firm when I was 20 years old and enjoyed a number of successes (and just as many failures) throughout my career. From the day I was hired at Accenture I saw myself as "partner track" material and just knew that someday I would be a partner in the firm. Even with getting married and having two children, I dreamed of the day I would be a partner and was wiling to take time away from my wife and children to make that happen. Then some things happened.. In 1993 I was a senior manager based in Chicago in the midst of being transferred to Seattle. We had a very active three-year-old and a newborn at home. My wife very much enjoyed Chicago and wasn't too excited about being transferred to Seattle. Just prior to moving to Seattle, my Father unexpectedly died. Two weeks after we moved to Seattle, I got staffed on an engagement..in Los Angeles. The job was a real pressure cooker with sixteen-hour days and very tight timelines. So here I am still grieving over the loss of my father, working on a nightmare of a job in LA five days a week with my wife and two kids in a new house in a city that my wife didn't want to be in. On one Thursday evening after working until 1a.m. it all came crashing down. I was lying in my hotel room wishing that I could just end it all to escape the pressure. I could actually hear voices saying "kill yourself, do it, do it, do it." Talk about your wake-up call. I left voicemails that evening for the partners I worked for and told them I needed to get away. I left the engagement the next day, went back to Seattle, took three weeks off work and sought counseling to help me through my breakdown. While I got through the breakdown fine and returned to work after three weeks, I started to view life a bit differently. What became clear to me is there is a difference between being important and living a life that truly matters. So by now some of you may be saying, "What's the difference? How could someone be important but not matter?" For me, it comes down to a simple premise: Looking out for #1 will lead to a life of self-importance. Looking out for others will lead to a life that matters. Now, I'm not advocating that you go sell all of your possessions and take up a life as a hermit. I personally enjoy some of the finer things in life and live a life that in many societies would be considered luxurious. What is different, though, is what I let drive and control me. I have made a personal decision that money, power or fame isn't going to drive my actions. What does drive my actions is the legacy I leave and the impact I will have on others long after I have departed this life. I'd much rather have one of my kids say, "He is a great Dad," my wife say, "What a wonderful husband," or a friend say "He helped me to help myself," than all of the money and power on earth. That's what leading a life that matters is all about. Let's cut to the chase on this: Money, power or fame truly doesn't drive happiness. Lasting and meaningful relationships with others drives happiness. Building lasting and meaningful relationships means investing in those relationships by taking an active, thoughtful and genuine interest in others. When you invest in relationships in an active, thoughtful, and genuine manner, you permanently impact others lives as well as your own. When you permanently impact lives, you move from being self-important to being someone who matters.