The No. 1 secret of successful people

Making a difference. Stay passionate and purposeful.

This morning as I started my day I thought of an old story…

A few years ago a beautiful lady would make her rounds of the streets of Mumbai, India,  carrying food for the ill, sweets for those who couldn’t afford it, and bringing good cheer in general to all around her.  Her day job was running a kindergarten. But ever so often  she was helping in some way or the other in the community.

Her children watched aghast as they saw their christmas sweets being divided 50 times over to be gifted to neighbors instead. Years passed and they never quite understood why she did what she did. Even better (or worse) her husband started helping her do that as well.

Consistently the lady told her kids “You don’t have to be well off to give back. Give what you can, when you can.”  They began to accept it as a way of life.

The lady and her husband were not well off. In fact quite the opposite. But somehow they had an incredible influence in the community. Students of the kindergarten (open for 40 years) would come by with their own children and then grandchildren. All going through the same kindergarten.  Some neighbors came for support, advice or just a little time away from some of the stresses of their  homes. Children who found little love at home always found compassion and a listening ear at this beautiful lady’s home. Officers  levels higher than the husband would visit with him  for advice over a cup of tea or a special omelette. Respect.

The kids grew up. One became a teacher like his ma. I believe he has spent 30 years at the same school in Mumbai, the longest serving teacher at the school. The second kid grew up to be an office manager and a musician. By day he manages an office for a school, sometimes on the weekend, he uses his other magical gift of music, training the local choir or singing at the weddings of friends. He also married a teacher, his first love whom he met at 16 (when she was 14). They have been together well over 25 years.

The third kid left home at 21, and embarked on an international career, and was also a teacher in the evenings for several years.  When out of India, he still visited his Mum every three months wherever he was. He  got one thing right. He was a decent son.  He attributes his professional success over the years to the blessings of parents.

Over time and with  hard work, the family became more prosperous.

When the beautiful mother passed in 2012 she was surrounded by all the people who loved her.

She had a simple life but a life of purpose. And   had passed on to her kids a magical gift.  MAKING A DIFFERENCE.

In the last two years I have spoken with over 5000 women leaders across the world in my work on gender diversity. The biggest theme they consistently played back to me in career is their aspiration to make a difference. The most successful of them view their “jobs” as missions to make the world a better place.

In Chpt. 1 of my book “Break the ceiling touch the sky: success secrets of the worlds most inspirational leaders” –  I featured Judith McKenna, Chief Development Officer, Walmart USA who besides running one of the largest organizations at the time (ASDA) also  led the Walmart (ASDA) support of TICKLED PINK – the breast cancer program in the UK.   Angie Hallamandaris, President, Co-Founder and President, The Heart Foundation of America whose work ranges from aiding families after the Sept 11 attacks and restoring classrooms and books for thousands of children in disaster struck areas; Dr. Lois Lee, Founder President of Children of the Night, who has personally saved over 11000 young american women from prostitution, andAnne Kershaw, CEO of 2041 whose mission is to save the Antarctic!

All  of these extraordinary people started off as ordinary people. They became SUCCESSFUL by making a difference. 

I wonder how often we think about making a difference? How often we think of our jobs as more than a means of getting that better house, that nice car, that more expensive gift, that more impressive schooling for the kids. How often we all get so wrapped up in our own successes that we forget to give back, even when we can afford to?

For 25 years I worked for the most powerful companies on the planet and the most influential leaders. The most inspirational ones had this special gift – the passion and the commitment to make a difference. You see them engaged and involved in their communities even 10, 20 years after they step out of the corner office.  The ones that thought only of self and kept all that they accumulated were never remembered.  The day they retired they steadily lost power and influence. Today, I am careful to choose carefully the companies we work with. We look for leaders who walk the talk, and Companies of character.

This morning the third kid I was talking about made a small announcement of financial support for 5000 additional tests and treatments for maternal anemia in underprivileged women in Bihar, India via SAVE THE CHILDREN. This was in addition to financial support for  25,000 tests and treatments donated in 2015 with Save the children. Over 20,000 lives are being touched  with this program supported by the three kids.  Elsewhere in Asia, a minor educational grant to a young post grad is touching many lives as the person works with specially gifted children. In 2014 modest support helped support three shelters in Thailand via Habitat for Humanity.  Small actions. Big difference.

That beautiful lady was my mother. And the third kid is me.

As we enter 2016, I am grateful to all the friends who encourage our little endeavor to make a difference. Its a tiny drop in the ocean. But every year that drop will get bigger.    

We  never fully understood when we were kids why our parents did what they did. I guess we do understand now.

Wherever we are, in whatever capacity we are, we should never forget to attempt to make a difference. 

Wishing you all a fabulous 2016.  Stay passionate, compassionate and purposeful. 

Anthony A Rose 

Comments are closed.