The small and the great

Two years ago this fall, I attended a one day leadership event in Indianapolis, IN. The keynote speaker of the day was an influential CEO. He spoke authentically, shared relevant stories, and inspired the group that sat in the audience.

That was all great but the best moment happened off stage—and actually when he wasn’t even around.

A friend of his was telling me how awesome his keynote would be today but more so, he is a person who does the important things in life. I was interested to hear all of the important things he was doing in life, anticipating global projects and large-scale foundation work in philanthropy but I found myself surprised that the first thing his friend commented was, “He was committed to teaching Sunday school every week at his church and loved doing that each week. He has done that for the past 30 years.” That was the first and last thing he said about his buddy and the important things in life.

And I loved that moment.

We frequently hear young professionals talk about how they want to do the important things in their lives, may it be in the professional work they do or on the personal side. That work tends to be associated with a large stage like that CEO stood on that day or a published book or a title with more than 5 words (because we all know the more words you add to your title, it sounds more intense-- Ha!).

Often folks will comment, “Do great with little.” as an encouragement to stick it out (with the little projects, smaller groups of people, smaller budgets) now in hopes that one day you hit the big stage or land the book deal or whatever the public display of success is—to do the great.

But what I loved about that CEO is he certainly did great with the little—as in he took great responsibility for his weekly Sunday school class and had done so for 30 years… but that also was his great. That smaller scale, routine interaction, without a stage discussion was the goal; it was ‘the great’.

What is your great? The great that you will commit 30 years toward the work? And had not his friend shared that with me, that work would never be known in a public way—what is the great?