Your 2014 Ladder of Success: Reverse It

I had every intention of blowing out the year with a message to you about MORE. How you can achieve more. Become more. Earn more.
What better way to launch into the New Year than a clear strategy to climb the ladder of success?

Well, I heard a story recently that messed all that up. Instead of reading about how you’re going to crush your 2014 goals, you’re going to read about ice cream.

Shane Claiborne is a brave guy. In college, he passed up spring breaks and internships in favor of volunteering alongside Mother Teresa. He scraped together enough money to travel to Calcutta, India where he served in a missionary that “gives wholehearted and free service to the poorest of the poor.”

Calcutta’s poverty is extreme and something I’ve seen firsthand during travels there. Homeless, orphaned children as young as five or six survive as street beggars. One of their few bright spots is an occasional meal at Mother Teresa’s missionary.

One day, Shane learned it was one of the boy’s birthday so he snuck the boy an ice cream cone – a treat so extravagant that the youngster had likely never before tasted it. “Happy Birthday, kid,” whispered Shane. “Now keep this quiet because I don’t have enough money to buy everybody else one.”

At that moment, what do you think Birthday Boy did?
“Hey gang!” he shouted, “We have ice cream!”
The ensuing stampede had Shane running for cover and dreading a sea of disappointed faces. But Birthday Boy’s next announcement turned the tide.
“Now listen up.. We have only one cone, so we all get one lick.”

The kids formed a line, at which point Birthday Boy proceeded to share his cone with the others. Last person to get a lick: Birthday Boy.

That boy’s ice cream cone was equivalent to the most lavish holiday gift you or I can imagine receiving. But when life showers us with blessings, what’s our first reaction as to how to enjoy them?

If we could rekindle just one instinct within ourselves, what better than the good will so purely displayed by one of the world’s neediest children?

I’m not proclaiming we denounce worldly possessions and dash off to Calcutta. But as Mother Teresa told Shane, “There are Calcuttas everywhere.”

Shane Claiborne’s story reminds me that the best things in life happen when we bring the best in life to others. I probably read this somewhere on a bumper sticker but the quote is apropos: The highest calling in life is not to lead but to serve.

Finding opportunities to serve others is easy, and therein lies my holiday wish for us all:
In 2014, let’s focus less on climbing the ladder of success and focus more on descending it. Serving your family, your community, and your customers reaps more rewards than anything that serves you.

Special thanks to Todd Durkin, whose recent blog included some terrific ideas on how you can serve others:

• Surprise your mail carrier/ salon stylist / housekeeper with a $20 Starbucks gift card in a thank you note.

• Write a positive Yelp review about a local business you appreciate.

• Donate blood. Remember: a pint of blood can save up to three lives.

• Get involved with a philanthropic activity your church is sponsoring in the community.

• Write an inspirational note to 10 friends or family members and thank them for what they do on a regular basis.

• Sponsor or “scholarship” a friend, family member, or co-worker for a conference, event, fitness class, certification or workshop this person really wants to participate in but can’t afford.

• Or, host a special class or workshop at your business and donate 100% of the proceeds to a charity of your choice.

• At least once a day compliment someone you know.

• Smile at every stranger you see. A smile can make someone’s day.

• Leave gratitude notes for your family / co-workers / friends to find when they would least expect it – inside a lunch box, taped to their computer screen, on the bathroom mirror, inside their luggage, in the pocket of a jacket, etc.

…and one of my favorites from Corporate Visions CEO and Ironman Triathlete Joe Terry.

Wishing you a Happy Holidays! May your 2014 be filled with opportunities to serve.