We have all heard of the Nobel Prizes, but prior to today, I never thought about how the prizes were started, or by whom. My whole life, they just always existed. In fact, the prizes were started by Arthur Nobel, a Swedish chemist, engineer, innovator, and armaments manufacturer. Mr. Nobel had the unlikely experience of reading his own obituary in 1888. Supposedly, a French newspaper mistakenly reported his death, and in the obituary they condemned him for his invention of dynamite. Arther earned his first patent at age 30, and by 40 had built himself an incredibly successful business. Arthur Nobel was, by all conventional accounts, a very successful and wealthy individual. And yet, he longed for more significance in his life.
In 1895, he signed his will which provided the bulk of his wealth to go towards the creation of 4 Nobel Prizes. He died in 1896, and the first prizes were awarded in 1901. The awards were created to recognize extraordinary human achievement. By all accounts, Nobel was a very successful man who longed for more significance in his life.
I believe that success is much easier to measure than significance. Success is a much safer pursuit. Success is more conventional. To accomplish something significant, or to pursue something significant, requires a letting go of the typical measures of success. Significance requires you to step outside the conventional paradigm of success. You have to walk through a separate door, into a different world, with different measurements and different expectations. And it might be lonely there. But the feeling of satisfaction is potentially more rewarding and more sustaining.
Are you currently achieving success or significance?