My daily sunrise routine includes walking 2 miles in my neighborhood while listening to podcasts or book summaries, enjoying the beauty of God’s sky-painting, reflecting on my life and my relationships and praying for others. A recent podcast got my attention.  It was titled “2 Questions to Grow Your Business.”  One of my mentors from afar, Andy Stanley, was interviewing Jeff Henderson about a recent book he authored.  As I listened, I was struck by the fact that these two questions were applicable in pretty much every area of life: personal success, marriage, parenting, leadership in business, non-profits, or churches.  In every area we want to grow and win in, we need to know the answers to these two important questions. 

1.    What Do You Want to be Known For?

2.    What Are You Known For?

A sunrise on a recent morning walk.

The first question is really about your purpose and mission in life. What legacy do you want to leave?  What do you want people to say about you at your memorial service?  How do you want to be remembered?  My written tag line/mission statement is: “To Inspire TransforMissional Living in Others.”  Basically, I want to be known as a person who encourages and inspires people to live a God-transformed life that is intentional and on purpose.

The second question is the harder one of the two.  What am I really known for?  Honestly, how big is the gap between my wish and reality?  If I want to be known as a loving and caring person but many people know me as hateful and harsh, there is a problem.  A huge gap.  If I want to be known as a level-headed emotionally healthy parent, there is a big discrepancy if all my kids and others see is a “fly-off-the-handle” reactionary and explosive dad. In the business world, Henderson says, “When what you want to be known for is what you are actually known for, you create a free sales force through word-of-mouth advertising, which creates the healthiest form of growth.”  In other words, there is a very small gap between what your mission is and how customers see your company.  You don’t have to just talk about how great your product or service is, everyone is already telling others about your superior product or service.

It is necessary to answer the first question before you can accurately answer the second.  Have you slowed down from the fast pace of life to adequately contemplate what you really do want to be known for?  Or are you just so busy doing that you haven’t thought about being?  Don’t forget, we are human beings and not human doings. It is critical to keep the end in mind.  What outcome do you want from your parenting, your career, your marriage, your business, your non-profit, etc.?  If you have no clear picture of what the ending should look like, then you will have no idea what to do to get there.  There’s an old Columbian Proverb that says, “If you don’t know where you are coming from, and you don’t know where you are going, then any bus will do.”  Have you spent time crafting a mission statement for your life?  Have you written down the key characteristics that you want your children to embody when they become adults?  Have you thought about the things you want people to say about you at your retirement party?  Even more sobering, your funeral?  Here’s a link to some further exploration on this topic.

To get good answers to the second question, a couple things come to mind.  Self-Awareness. Fearless Feedback.  Without those two, the answer to “What are you known for?” will be based on wishful thinking.  Most of us go to online to Google, Yelp, Amazon, etc. for reviews before we buy a product or do business with a company.  We won’t buy a 2-star rated product. What if someone could pull up a quick list of personal reviews for me or you?  What would be the tone of those reviews?  While it’s tempting, I really don’t even want to know the first impressions of others.  The best feedback to give me the helpful answers I need for this second question will come from those who’ve known me well for decades.  The coveted answers that will help me measure the gap between what I want to be and what I actually am will come from my spouse, my kids, my co-workers and closest friends.  Most of us are pretty good at impressing people from a distance.  But it’s those who live with us or are around us nearly 24-7 who should be invited to give fearless feedback to raise our level of self-awareness.  It’s not always comfortable to hear from that adjacent group, but they can help us close the gap between the dreams of what we want to be and the reality of who we are. Then real growth and progress is made.  

All of us want to win!  We want to be successful in our careers, our homes and communities.  Start with these two strategic questions above.  Then, seek to discover the answers.  You will be astonished at how this intentionality will pay off in your life now, and in the future.

QUESTION:  If you know the answer to Question #1, do you mind sharing it in the Comment section below?  If not, I would love to hear what your next step is toward getting the answer to questions 1 & 2. 

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