Success is often measured by the scope of accomplishments a person achieves over a lifetime. Amazing people who discovered a new invention, found a cure for disease, broke a world record or dreamed up classical music made truly distinctive accomplishment(s) and earned a place in the hall of fame for the great. In business, chart-topping leaders work their way up the ladder only after demonstrating unique mastery of a skill in high demand. The way he or she delivers a presentation, project manages a multifaceted team, delivers accurate financial forecasts or problem solves earns great respect over time, ultimately paving the way to success.
Maya’s quote invites a different way to think about the meaning of success. One that is not determined by what one does, but rather driven by how one makes “others” feel. Take for example Elvis Presley’s first appearance of “Hound Dog” on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Was it his voice that people remembered the most or his swivel? Likely both. Yet what sparked worldwide interest was the feeling people had after watching him move. They felt inspired and wanted to get up and dance the way he did. To this very day, we still talk about how people felt the very first time they watched Elvis’s hips shake and feet move.
Yes, Maya has it right. People are indeed known to have short term memories. We often say the phrase “how quickly people forget” this or that. It is true. They will forget about the impossible deadlines that were met, how great we managed and the impressive titles that we held. What we can count on most is that people will never forget how we made them feel. How we reached their hearts and pulled them into the conversation. Whether or not we really “listened” instead of only hearing what they shared.
I always try to keep this quote top of mind whenever I am working with others no matter where they fall in the organizational hierarchy. Many years ago I was asked to deliver a very important presentation to the entire company. The material was complex and the pressure was on to do a great job. The day of the presentation I went to the meeting room extra early to test the sound equipment and to make sure everything was in place. Surprisingly, Jim, one of the most Senior Officers showed up early as a show of support. He sat quietly in the back and listened to me rehearse my speech. Jim provided wonderful feedback and great advice on how to improve my delivery. The day was a huge success and I greatly attribute that to his help.
When I think about Jim today, I can’t recall all the business awards he won or positions he held. What I do easily remember is the tremendous gratitude I felt for the support he gave on something that was very important to me. I do my best to do the same for others, seeking not so much to be remembered for what I do, but for how I make people feel when our paths cross. If inspiration, motivation or simple goodness is what people think of, then I know I have succeeded.