I have a lot of conversations with people worried about what they do. Worried they aren’t making an impact. Worried their life isn’t panning out the way they expected.
But I know for a fact that the person you are becoming is far more important than the work you are doing.
This isn’t just my spirituality talking either. I believe good character creates sustainable success.
I’ll avoid trying to define character and say it like this:
You might have the most impressive ideas and work ethic in the world, but I don’t think you’ll be truly successful until you can get a handful of people around your kitchen table to say they trust you. Because regardless of our personal ambition, we need others to help us reach our full potential. No man is an island.
There is a reason why Dumbledore and Gandalf chose the heroes they did to save the world.
Harry and Frodo were brave, humble, and trustworthy, but they also had friends who would follow them to the ends of the earth.
When I was 24, I started These Numbers Have Faces from the couch of my apartment. Back then it was a tiny dream to help a few South African friends attend college. The early success of our work hinged on the fact that people trusted us. They trusted our vision and they trusted us with their money. Not sure where it came from, but it’s the truth.
And as we’ve grown and evolved, one thing has stayed the same. Character counts. My team and I have continued to rally people around our vision because of the work we do, but also because of the people we are.
Seth Godin wrote a great little book called Tribes that aims to inspire new leaders to build tribes of people to accomplish great things. The tagline of the book is, “we need you to lead us.” I love that.
If you have a good idea or vision of any kind, we desperately need you to lead us. But I’m not going to follow unless there is something in you that I trust.
I believe the impact of people who are disingenuous and narcissistic is fleeting. Eventually your demons come out.
Remember: Character is how you treat people who can do nothing for you.
Focus on your character. It’s the foundation for everything we do. Form a tight knit circle of people around you. The good work will flow from there.