We live in a world we inherited. What we inherit starts before birth and continues through our lives. Our physical, emotional and personality characteristics are inherited from our parents.
Our way of life is inherited from our families. Some people inherit great wealth from their parents, while others may inherit thriving businesses. Others inherit good values. Then again, there are people who inherit criminal ways from their parents.
Governments, inherit many things from their predecessors, and countries inherit economic conditions from those who were commercially active before them.
What we inherit shapes who we are, what we do and what we, in turn, leave as an inheritance for those who follow after us. We can choose to use wisely what we inherit or we can squander it on frivolous things. Sadly, some of those who inherit wealth they never had to work for themselves have tended to squander that wealth on material and other things that do not increase their wealth and assets but merely erode them.
A typical example of unearned wealth being squandered is wealth that is won through lotteries. In a way, winning the lottery is a bit like inheriting much wealth. The lottery winner and heir share in common the fact that they are suddenly given great wealth that they never worked to build. That’s why so many lottery winners end up bankrupt within five or so years after winning their wealth.
While there are many things we CAN inherit, there are two things we think we can inherit … but can’t.
The first thing we can’t inherit is success. Think carefully about this. We can inherit the results of someone else’s success – a successful business started and run by grandparents and/or parents. We can inherit great wealth, again from grandparents or parents, but we can’t inherit the success that built that successful business, nor can we inherit the success that created the wealth.
Success is something we have to work for and achieve on our own. No-one passes on their success with the inheritance we receive. And, to the untrained eye, success is deceptive. When something is done well by someone who knows what they’re doing, it looks easy. People look at someone performing some activity, such as skating on ice. The ice skater leaps into the air, spins around, lands on one leg and continues whizzing around on the ice. It looks so easy and the untrained person thinks, “I could do that too.” But let them try. They find the ice is not smooth. It’s actually quite bumpy, and, yes, it’s super slippery, and the skates aren’t very comfortable or stable. And they discovered all of that while skating very slowly. Forget about skating at speed, leaping into the air or spinning on their own axis …
Don’t take another person’s success for granted. By the same token, don’t take your own success for granted. Success requires, focus, determination, sacrifice and effort. And it’s not guaranteed.
The second thing we can’t inherit from someone else is significance. Think about the people who have achieved significance in our own country and you will see that not many of those people have heirs who are equally significant. Again, you can only achieve significance for yourself. You can try to ride on the significance of those who have gone before you but it won’t last for long. You have to find your own significance.
Success is what we achieve by what we do for ourselves. Significance is what we achieve by what we do for others. Self-centred people can achieve success because they have done things for themselves but, when it comes to significance, they fail to make the grade because they don’t understand what it means to do things for others.
So … if you want to achieve success and significance, you’ve got to do it for yourself. Don’t think you’re going to inherit it from a grandparent, parent, uncle, aunt, friend or boss. And while we’re talking about it, don’t stop once you’ve achieved success. If you do, you will never know true fulfilment. Keep going past success until you get to significance. THAT’s when you will find fulfilment!
Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag, and assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery.