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Learn the 12 Ways to Achieve Significance (the Level That Surpasses Success)

Top tips from bestselling author and Hall of Fame speaker Dan Clark.

CREDIT: Getty Images

There are plenty of suggestions and rule books for business success. But according to National Speakers Association Hall of Famer and 34-time best-selling author Dan Clark, the greatest leaders and entrepreneurs go further. They’ve attained significance, the level beyond success. Those who’ve achieved it — Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Gandi, Mother Teresa — have done so not by following the traditional playbooks, but by adhering to a surprising set of rules.

As author of “The Art of Significance: Achieving the Level Beyond Success,” Clark has achieved Hall of Fame status as a speaker, traveled to the edge of space in a U2 jet, written 34 bestsellers and is the most published author in the Chicken Soup books (with 100 million in print), and has written country music hits with the industry’s best. He believes, however, that traditional success is meaningless in the face of the bigger achievement — significance — which he maintains is possible by using the 12 Highest Universal Laws of Life Changing Leadership he describes in his book.

Here they are:

1. Practice obedience over free will agency.

This is the ability to push beyond limits while exercising adherence to the boundaries of law. It also means respecting conscience, which is the highest possible law.

2. Practice perseverance instead of patience.

Those who are patient and willing to wait for the time that “good things will come” are left in the dust by those who are persistently discontented in their efforts to perpetually go higher and achieve more.

3. Proactively stretch instead of change.

As an entrepreneur, many are content to push themselves to the point of being “impressive.” But too few are willing to risk all to delve into a level that doesn’t yet exist or is entirely unknown. Consider Uber. Or the SpaceX program being developed by Elon Musk. This trait is consistent among those who rise above success to significance.

4. Trust predictability instead of hope and faith.

Hope and faith, while they are admirable characteristics, pale quickly in comparison to the trust people and organizations can only gain by reliably delivering on their stated principles again and again. Think of the Mayo Clinic. Or Gandhi. Who are the five people you would trust if your life depended on it? Become one of those people for others. When you live up to your word as an unbreakable bond, you are not just successful, but you are significant as a leader, a family member, and as a friend.

5. Know the whole truth instead of believing what you think.

Particularly in the aftermath of the recent election, we are seeing an avalanche of bias and bad will based on political alignments, ethnicity, gender, and even the personal opinions of those who report in the press. Learn to do deep research. In business, for example, if you are seeking a promotion, no matter how effective your current skills, what are the skills that are most required for the next step forward? Find out for yourself and learn them, rather than assuming that incompetence or discrimination is holding you back.

6. Focus on winning instead of on team.

In every contest, at least one team loses. In many markets, there are multiple losers. Team spirit, while valiant, is not a characteristic that leads to significance (nor in many cases to even success). Significance depends on standout individuals who are focused on winning perhaps not at all costs, but in principled ways, and are willing to motivate a team to the actions that ensure a winning objective is met.

Author Dan Clark flies with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons

7. Do right instead of seeking to be best.

Successful companies focus on being the best in their category. But “best” is only relevant next to what you compare it against. So what if you are the best video store? Remember Blockbuster? People who have the vision to determine what is right instead of best can take success to a new horizon — perhaps in safety, nutrition, or yes, even in delivering entertainment or education to a viewing audience.

8. Experience harmony instead of forcing balance.

As we attempt a work/life balance we juggle the balls of self, family, job and belief, according to Clark. But instead of juggling (which is certainly better than multitasking), strive to find harmonic balance, by being fully present and nourished by every note with no more and no less than its ideal emphasis within an integrated and harmonically beautiful whole. Learn to relish every note within the symphony that only you can create.

9. Accept others instead of judging them.

Instead of rushing to judgment, find the opportunity to listen to the stories of others. Attention is the highest form of motivation, psychologists say. Mentor instead of admonish. Write a note of appreciation to another individual, whether it be a family member, work associate, customer or partner each day.

10. Learn to love and be needed instead of romanced and used.

In a business sense, successful people are eager to “romance” and admire others based on selfish interests and a desire to use. But to love is a genuine and significant motive. Clark’s personal motto: “I like myself better when I’m with you” speaks to the elements you should cultivate in yourself and align with and reward in others.

11. Establish covenants instead of making commitments.

Commitments — “I’ll get this done by tomorrow,” or “Yes, I am with you,” are shallow and meaningless when compared to covenants. Consider Winston Churchill offering up his “blood, sweat, toil and tears” to great Britain “however long and hard the road may be” while Hitler’s armies stormed Europe and Britain’s ultimate fate was unknown. The ability to make and keep covenants is one of the greatest characteristics that sets significant leaders apart.

12. Forgive instead of apologize.

Perhaps the greatest characteristic of all is the ability to forgive unconditionally. Remember that through your lifetime, you, too, have spoken with insensitivity, have disappointed a loved one, and have made mistakes. You should amend these mistakes where you can. But even more importantly, you should forgive unconditionally the people who have offended you, regardless of their willingness to apologize or even to acknowledge their actions or guilt. This effort will attract a higher energy to your endeavors and will propel your results.

In all, you should make the Higher Laws your guiding foundation. Perhaps you can focus on one of the 12 every day as you move toward a life and career that surpasses your current goals for success.

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