The Ultimate Success Metric may not be what we think it is.
Each of us keeps a personal scorecard, with which we judge ourselves and those around us. We measure everything from financial wealth to educational attainment, from athletic achievement to career progression. If I had to pick just one metric to define a life well lived, it would be this:
The most important indicator of a successful human existence is the extent to which we are able to positively impact the lives of others.
Hold this standard against the exploits, good and bad, that are chronicled in our newscasts. How many of them qualify?
How many of the actions of the politicians we have elected to represent us pass the Ultimate Success Metric test?
How much of the time and energy you have invested during this past week was directed toward this ideal?
If positively impacting the lives of others was a daily test, how often would you pass, or fail?
Ralph Waldo Emerson takes issue with my Chasing Happiness directive. “The purpose of life is not to be happy,” he said. “It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
William Arthur Ward wrote some of the 20th century’s most quoted maxims. He puts it this way: “Do more than belong: participate. Do more than care: help. Do more than believe: practice. Do more than be fair: be kind. Do more than dream: work.”
Not everyone is capable of goodness. Evil exists in our world. Neutralizing evil liberates those whom it afflicts. For this reason, we are grateful for the men and women who willingly put their lives on the line to protect us. “You attack to protect, not to avenge. writes Tiana Dalichov in her novel Agenda 46. “You strike to end suffering, not cause it.”
Here’s one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It clearly articulates both the “what” and the “how” of the Ultimate Success Metric.
“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
There is only one tool you need to bring to this task: Model the behaviors you expect, everyday, everywhere. We may not do it well in the beginning. Some days may feel like you’ve taken one step forward and two steps backward. But like all skills, we will improve, with practice.
So dedicate your life to positively impacting the lives of others. In the end, this is the only score that really matters. There is no greater need and no higher calling.