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Choosing Greatness

Posted On  August 17, 2015

Abe Lincoln said, “Whatever you are, be a good one.” For years, I thought the quote was “whatever you are, be a great one,” and I took what I thought the words of our greatest president to heart and looked to pursue greatness. But how do you know what greatness looks like?

After years of trying to wrestle greatness to the ground, I believe there are four main ingredients in greatness: 1) Dreams, which allow people to think about “the possible”; 2) Competitiveness, which provides a point of reference; 3) Tenacity, which keeps the fire burning; and 4) Resilience, which keeps the hope alive.

  1. Dreams are our ultimate fuel. They let us see possibilities that we otherwise wouldn’t see. They give us the desire to achieve more than we otherwise would. Because they’re “just a dream,” they come with an optimism that has no expectations or requirement to achieve.
  1. Competitiveness is also essential. The good kind, though. Not the kind that tears people down to allow us to come in first. I’m talking about the kind of competitiveness that fuels us to achieve new heights, not at the expense of others but because of others. It’s even the kind of competitiveness that causes us to build up others, if that’s what it takes us to achieve our goals.
  1. Tenacity is also critical. Winston Churchill said, “Never, never, never give up.” So many of us sub-optimize our potential after we encounter the first, second or third obstacle. It is true commitment and tenacity that allows you to stay the course when you know that what you’re trying to accomplish is both important and possible. It is easy to start something, but it’s hard to complete it. Progress only occurs when people complete things.
  1. Resilience is the final piece. Without the power to bounce back in tough times — following initial … or subsequent failures – nothing will get accomplished. Nearly everything worth achieving had failures along the way. It is one’s response to those early failures that determines the final result. These early failures, no matter how disappointing and sometimes exhausting they are, require optimism, a belief that one “can.” Without this resilient, optimistic response, the dream simply dies.

Anyone can achieve greatness, because greatness comes in all different forms and can be played out on any size stage. A mother who raises extraordinary children achieves greatness on a small stage. Certainly, Ghandi, Mother Teresa, and Martin Luther King Jr. achieved greatness on a grand stage. Most of us don’t achieve greatness because we don’t choose to achieve greatness. Care not about the size of the stage, but do care about being great at whatever you choose to be. Choose to be great.

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a three-part series.

Written by Dave Sackman
Dave joined LRW, a Material Company, more than 30 years ago and has since built a reputation as an expert strategist with a passion for innovation and nurturing talent. As Material’s chief executive, he oversees the company’s mission to provide modern marketing services that seamlessly combine insights, consulting, and activation into one integrated offering. Dave is an avid tennis player and lives in Los Angeles with his wife of nearly 40 years. You can follow him on LinkedIn (@DavidSackman).


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