Friday, September 24, 2010

5 Ways to Make a Mark That Matters

Few forces in the world burn brighter than a human being’s inherent hunger to contribute.

However, contrary to what Al Gore says, making your mark in the world doesn’t have to mean leaving carbon footprints.

What it does mean is getting off your ass, getting into the game and cementing your legacy.

That way, you can leave this cosmic campsite better than you found it.

To do so, consider this list (read part one here!) of attitudes, behaviors and action items to help you make a mark that matters:
1. Use persistence as your principle instrument. Speaking of hardship, check out what my friend Chris wrote in a brilliant blog post:

“The difference makers aren’t the people who are indifferent to what the crowd does or thinks – but the people that create the world and mold it regardless of resistance. People that ignore the persistent tether of the mediocre and don’t brag about seventy hour weeks, but brag about how much of their mind, soul and spirit they engaged to solve a problem that counts.”

Keep in mind, however, that success never comes unassisted. Ever. And if you want to make your mark on the world, you better be sure your support system is in tact while you persist.

Because whether it’s friends, family, faith, colleagues, online communities – or a combination thereof – you will need people to turn to. And you will need to get comfortable asking for help. Stick-to-itiveness can get pretty bloody. Do you value spontaneity over itinerary?

2. Stop saying it’s not about you. First of all, doing so invalidates you efforts, according Ayn Rand in The Virtue of Selfishness. Secondly, refusing to admit that you’re (at least a little) self-serving is form of false humility. And people can smell from a mile away.

For example, my readers and audience members often ask me why I write books. And my answer is simple, “For me. Because I want to read them. And because I need to learn this stuff.”

Now, I’m not trying to be a jerk. Obviously, I’m writing the books for them too. I’m nothing without my readers.

But first and foremost, my work is for me. Period. Yes, I’m selfish – and I’m cool with that. Besides, anyone who tries to tell you that they’re completely altruistic in all their efforts is either: Lying, from outer space, or high on paint thinner.

Ultimately, making a mark means stepping into spotlight – even if only for a short while. You need to be willing to do so. Otherwise, if you refuse to take center stage and stand unprotected to the searing headwind of the masses, you’ll never make it out alive. And the mark you’re trying to make will melt like a sandcastle in the surf. Who’s your audience?

3. Profit is an enabler. Emerson once said that in the end, all that matters is cash value. He was right. But he wasn’t talking about the Benjamins. The word “profit” comes from the Latin profectus, which means, “progress.”

Therefore: Making your mark isn’t about making money – it’s about making meaningful change. And your challenge is twofold:

(a) To figure out it which currencies are required to underwrite the fulfillment of your dreams, and
(b) To earn enough of that currency – money, attention, permission, whatever – to enable you to build what you need to build.

Anything above that is just showing off. Remember: Earn a profit – enable a movement. How do you define cash value?

4. Follow your unintentionals. One of the coolest books I’ve ever read is Unintentional Music, by Lane Arye. His philosophy is that the things we normally consider to be garbage can enrich us. And that when we choose to see disturbing or unwanted materials as potentially meaningful to our work, the final recordings of our life’s music is that much more beautiful.

“Rather than ignore or try to get rid of the things we don’t like,” Lane says, “we can transform them into things of beauty or shift our focus and realize that they are what we have been seeking all along.”

The best part is, this isn’t just about music. This is about refusing to overlook the value of the unintentional notes in your life. Accidents, schmaccidents. As you make your mark on the world, listen for the music that wants to be played. Then, accept that whatever note is played, is reality. And embrace it. Even if it sounds off key.

Then, as often as possible, let that baby blast through the speakers until the neighbors come knocking. I’m reminded of what my mentor told me last month:

“The stuff you stumble into will be more of who you are than the stuff you carefully guided your footsteps for.”

Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up making your mark on an unexpected canvas. Are you allowing, embracing and using your accidents?

5. Turn your career into a courtship. It recently occurred to me that I’m not really a writer – I’m a man having a love affair with writing. Huge difference. And I challenge you to rethink the relationship between you and your work.

Because in my experience, loving what you do isn’t enough.

You have to elope with what you do. You have to be pathologically obsessed with what you do. You have to get a tattoo of what you do’s name on your ass. Only then can you make the mark that matters.

What’s more, when you turn your career into a courtship, the work stays with you wherever you go. It gets under your fingernails. It becomes a part of your language, embeds into your actions and threads through your very being.

And the separation between you and the work you do grows narrower and narrower with every passing microsecond. If that’s not a chisel, I don’t know what is. Think your partner is cool with polygamy?

REMEMBER: You’re not too boring to contribute something worthwhile.

If you truly want to make a mark in the world – you, alone, are responsible for movement.

As we wrap things up, let’s turn to Indecision, who sings in the song “To Live and Die in New York City:"

“To make your mark is to die face up on flaming asphalt while your corpse speaks for itself.”

Take that, Al Gore.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Will your mark matter?

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* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

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