John C. Maxwell: Do More Than Accomplish—Achieve

January 20, 2016

Plenty of people accomplish things every day. I’m sure you know them—the folks whose to-do lists are never-ending progressions of check marks. Go to the grocery store? Check. Make copies of the report? Check. Email Fred? Check.

Sure, they are getting stuff done. But are they really achieving anything?

There’s a big difference between achievement and accomplishment, and it boils down to one word: intentionality. “To accomplish” means to bring something to a conclusion. But “to achieve” means bringing about an intended result.

It’s like the old story of the stonemasons. A stranger walks by a construction site and comes upon a stonemason. When the stranger asks what the mason is doing, he replies, “I’m laying stones.” The next day the stranger strolls by again and sees a different mason at work. When the stranger asks him what he’s doing, the mason replies, “I’m building a wall.” On the third day, the man sees yet another mason at work and again asks what the mason is doing. With great joy in his voice, the worker replies, “I’m building a cathedral!”

It’s a corny story, but I love it for so many reasons. First, each mason accomplished something. Day by day and stone by stone, the project progressed because of their efforts. Second, the tale speaks to the power of perspective: For the first mason, the assignment was a menial task; for the second, it was a manageable project; for the third, it was a marvelous goal. That parable, to me, perfectly captures the power of achievement.

The most memorable names in business and leadership aren’t remembered because they simply did things; they are remembered because those things made a difference. I’ve spent 40 years teaching leadership all over the world, and while I’ve accomplished many things, my intentional focus on adding value to others is what has allowed me to achieve so much—for myself and, more important, for others.

People who achieve have the drive, passion and purpose that allow them to take everyday tasks and infuse them with meaning. They go the extra mile in everything. They broker peace, cure diseases or help mankind sail through the stars. This issue of SUCCESS is a celebration of achievement, but let me challenge you not to stop there. As I wrote in my book Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, “Achievement comes to people who are able to do great things for themselves. Success comes when they lead followers to do great things for them. But a legacy is created when we put people into a position to do great things without us.”

Let’s make a legacy of achievement our goal. Let’s live to teach others how to find their passions and live each day with the intention of achieving something great. After all, even the most impactful things we do will be forgotten, but people don’t forget those who helped them achieve greatness in their lives.

Enjoy this issue. Be inspired. Get intentional.

Intentionality is a deliberate manner of thinking. Learn how I designed a life of significance and purpose for myself.

Intentionality is a deliberate manner of thinking
Intentionality is a deliberate manner of thinking

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