PERSONAL: Achievement versus Contribution


One thing that struck me at the funeral (mentioned in my previous post) earlier this week was how much contribution the guy (his name was Rob) made to the local community. It came out later privately from close family that he was actually very successful in business and quite wealthy as a result. However, the focus at his funeral was on his huge contribution to local community ventures, including retirement villages and community services. Now, ofcourse at a funeral the presentation is always going to focus on the good things (how many funerals have you been to where people spoke ill of the deceased?) but that aside, it was telling that his business activities and other achievements were hardly spoken of.
To some this might seem obvious, but to me it came as a surprise. These days we live in a ‘success mentality’ culture where we are the sum of our achievements. Daily I find myself caught up in this need to achieve.
I try to read books on business and goal setting and the like (eg like this one) to keep me ‘striving for excellence’ (as opposed to the ‘striving for mediocrity’ that I would otherwise fall into). But in all of them the focus is ultimately on how successful you can be, usually measured in how may things you accumulate, or how good a quality of life you can achieve. Some, have a ‘do unto others’ line tacked on the end. Sadly though, it is normally tacked on in a spirit of ‘you will be amazed at how much you receive once you start giving’.
So, the funeral this week was a great reminder of the difference between achievement (self-success focussed) and contribution (other people focussed). Here was a man who contributed greatly to family and community, and happened to be a successful person too. Whilst we should always strive for excellence and achievement, my aim is to be a person who contributes to society first, and not as a by-product of any achievement gained.

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By Craig Bailey