“What is greatness?”
“What does greatness mean to you?”
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve asked myself this question.
The reason why it took me a while to articulate my response is because, the end goal is to share it with you.
Having an idea in your head is one thing. Expressing it on paper or, in this case, your device is an entirely different thing.
I wanted to share my sincere view about true greatness without trying to be politically correct or “deep, sir”.
I believe in simple truths. However there is a thin line between simplifying a concept and watering it down, thereby making it lose its pure essence.
With that in mind, here is my answer in its purest form.
“True greatness is living for others, in others, and through others.”
Let me explain.
As you can see from the simple definition, there are three parts to greatness.
We are all familiar with the first part. As a matter of fact, that is the politically correct definition we see all the time. Let’s be honest; we say them, too.
“I just want to serve the world.”
“I started this business because my heart aches for my people.”
“I’m going into this position because I can’t bear seeing you suffer.”
“Please let me help you do it because I love you. Just pay for the equipment”
We’ve seen it over and over again. It is not new. We all have our versions of it. We have all learnt to create a mantra for ourselves.
Something nice to the ears.
As far as I’m concerned, this is just one part of greatness. Whether people are sincere with this approach to life or not, it is still one part. Very important part, but one part nonetheless.
I don’t have to tell you.
33% is still very poor in Academics. In life, it is even poorer. Your head is barely out of the water. There is so much more to greatness. And we shall explore it together.
Here you are in this room.
A delegate in a foreign country.
You are sitting at a table with 3 other men, having an important conversation. They all speak the same language. A language you understand. A language that isn’t your own.
One of the 3 looked at you. He suggested he’ll explain things to you in your own native language later.
The second person told them not to worry. He had heard you speak their language earlier, even if not fluently. You can manage.
The third man paused. He looked at you straight in the eyes, looked at his other fellows and said,
“Let’s just speak his language so that he could easily understand and also contribute to the discussion.”
Be honest. Who just made your day?
Just like the above scenario, living for others is like suggesting to interpret later. Of course, it is way ahead of just saying “they will manage.”
However, nothing beats being spoken to in the language you natively speak and understand.
Beyond living for others (usually a masked form of sympathy), the world bows to those who can empathize and live in other people’s world.
A lot of people try to live for others. What they end up doing is trying to push their way on others. The problem here is that it simply doesn’t work.
While everyone could see how hard you are trying to help, the problem is that the effect of your effort is dampened.
Everyone needs help. For them to take it, though, they need to trust you. How do you get from a total stranger to someone they can trust?
One way is to simply live for others. Give yourself as a living sacrifice. People will know you, like you and trust you. Maybe.
Or you can go one step further. Live in others.
See things from their point of view, even if you don’t agree. Feel their pains. Put yourself in other people’s shoes.
They won’t only know you, like you, and trust you. They will also know deeply that you know them and get them.
It is not about cursing the darkness. Greatness is about entering the darkness and shining the light.
Remember the X-Men?
The fictional mutants who graced our TV screens. Cyclops, Jean, Storm, Wolverine…
Our favourite. Strong and skillful. Oh, the things he did with his claws!
But then, he was just one man.
The benefit of being an individual is that you can do your own thing. The downside is that there is a limit to what you can do.
Guess where the real power was.
On the wheelchair.
The leader of the X-Men. Even though he rarely “stepped” out of the house, he was everywhere.
If there was a great quality he had, it was more than the generousity to offer help. It was the humility to ask for it.
To be great, darling, you need help. There is no way around it. I know. The “one-man-army” thing feels great.
However, like anything done alone, there is a big limit to it.
Of course, don’t be a leach. You can’t receive where you’ve not given. That’s why the first two stages of greatness focus on giving.
Living through others is about releasing part of your life or business and surrendering it to others who can help you run abroad with it.
(Not just anybody, darling. You know better than that. Do your due diligence.)
Great ideas don’t die with the originator. Great businesses don’t die with the founders.
Do homes collapse at the death of the head?
Is it not interesting that, to be a person of influence, you have to let go of some control?
Yet, this is life.
There is a reason why the world richest men don’t run a one-man business. There is a reason why the greatest men on earth have comrades and disciples.
Greatness is not a one-man show.
Granted, you need to find your own footing before inviting others on your journey. However, to go far, there must be a release at some point.
Let me say it simply.
Here is the ultimate test of greatness.
It must reach where you can’t. It must live long after you’re gone.
Greatness is a marathon. Not a sprint.
Greatness is a baton. Pass it on.
This is the Firebrand way.
SIMPLIFYING GREATNESS was written by Tope Fabusola. He’s the CEO of The Firebrand.