The Common Denominator

By Scott Westerman
“There is no greater calling than to serve your fellow men. There is no greater contribution than to help the weak. There is no greater satisfaction than to have done it well.” Walter Reuther

It was amoment I had been waiting for all week. Lunch with Brittany Fox and Jackson Kaguri. Jackson is the inspiring Founder and director the the Nyaka and Kutamba Schools for HIV/AIDS Orphans in Uganda. Brittany is the co-founder of Thai Song Fair Trade, an organization that provides employment for destitute women in the slums of Bangkok. It was a chance to watch two world changers in action.

The two had never met, but it took only moments for them to bond. They share The Common Denominator.

Earlier that morning, I had the honor of speaking to the Michigan Association of Laboratory Science Educators, the people who train the self-described lab rats who carefully perform the thousands of tests that our doctors prescribe each month. These jobs can be monotonous and few laboratories ever make the “best place to work” lists.  But when I asked my opening question, “If you won the lotto tomorrow morning, would you show up for work on Monday?” Every had went up.

They share The Common Denominator, too.

In my lifelong study of high performance individuals, I’ve discovered that the best souls have much in common.

They know what they want – Their dreams are big, their visions are clear, their imaginations are vast.
They generate great energy – Their drive to achieve makes them work longer and harder, and they inspire others to do the same.
They are exceptional communicators and good listeners – Their ability to paint a vivid picture of their dreams attracts time, talent and treasure. They articulate their ideas with precision. Their love language is often Quality Time which they give and receive with total focus.
They express self confident courage – As author Alan Walter might put it, they are able to, “withstand imprisonment, torture, abuse, criticism, even death,” opening closed minds and breaking paradigms.
They are tenacious yet adaptable – always keeping their eyes on the objective but adjusting their vectors to overcome obstacles. Their every action strikes an effective balance between patience and persistence.
They risk – Their comfort zones are uncomfortable. They are constantly pushing the edge of the envelope.
They teach and are teachable – passing on what they have learned, even as they seek new wisdom.
They are Servant Leaders – They attract and create other servant leaders by, “giving priority attention to the needs of their colleagues and those they serve.” Their empathy and compassion are legendary, They place a high value on ethics and personal character .

These eight traits can be found in many successful people. But what separates people like Brittany and Jackson and my wonderful laboratory technicians from most of us is this:

They see their profession as a Calling.

It’s no accident that faith is a foundation for world changers. They attack big problems and experience major setbacks along the way. But like the best pastors and educators, they are called to their tasks by powerful forces that can be hard to describe to those who haven’t experienced them. They live in the zone, experiencing joy in the most disagreeable of environments.

We admire these people. We read their biographies, support their causes and encourage our children to model their behaviors. But few of us believe we can aspire to their heights of happiness, achievement and contribution.

We can.

You can express the eight traits I describe in whatever you currently do. And when you do, your results will ultimately be excellent.

I encourage you to take the one additional step that 95% of the world will never take: Listen for your Calling.

The life you were born to live is out there waiting for you, no matter what your education, environment, age or ability may be. Explore, experience, try and try again. If you’re not living your Calling right now, spend at least 10% of your time seeking it. There’s a reason that “seek and ye shall find” has stood the test of time. It works. “Listen.. and you shall hear.”

To parahprase Werner Erhard, At our core, we want our lives to matter. We want to make a real difference and be of genuine consequence in the world. There is little satisfaction in going through the motions, even if it generates material wealth. The true adventure begins when we find our worthy Calling. We will know the extremities of discomfort and joy that come with it, discovering wisdom in the valleys and experiencing the exuberant view from the peaks.

Discover the Common Denominator. You will ultimately be happier.

And the world will be better, because you have lived.

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